As if being young didn’t feel difficult enough already, headlines every other week tell millennials that they will never be as well off as their parents; that they won’t own homes until they are in their 40s; that they will have miserable, penniless retirements because they aren’t saving enough due to their low wages.
I could go on.
But what if somebody said: we see value in you. Your money does make a difference – to your future and the future we will all inhabit.
That was the central theme of this year’s Good Money Week launch event, called Good Money Talks, and it completely changed my thinking.
It shouldn’t seem as radical as it does. Millennials are one of the largest generations in history, according to Goldman Sachs, who defines them as anybody born between 1980 and 2000. In the USA alone, that’s a population of 92 million. Worldwide there are hundreds of millions.
Individually we may have less money to spend, save and invest than our parents or the generation before us did but collectively, we have a whole lot more. And that’s important. Remember, most millennials are still just starting out. While they are saddled with university debt and overdrafts now, in 20 to 30 years they will be an incredibly powerful consumer force. They will also inherit the wealth of the baby boomers; that makes them more powerful still.
Unfortunately, most businesses are solely focussed on the people that have money now. They cannot or will not think far enough ahead to focus on the savers and investors of the future; subsequently, they are not developing products and schemes that can appeal to and grow with the next generation.
Most businesses, but not all.
The Good Money Week event showcased a handful of companies innovating to appeal to a generation that’s confident online, a generation that wants to save and invest but doesn’t have a lot to start with, a generation that, however idealistic it sounds, wants to make the world a better place. The financial services industry is uniquely placed to meet all those criteria and it’s only just beginning to wake up to that fact.
A few of speakers and companies featured demonstrated this particularly well:
- Thomas O’Neill, co-founder of Influence Map, a not-for-profit that assesses and ranks corporations based on how they are influencing civil society policy
- Jon Wright, senior investment advisor at ClearlySo, which puts high-impact businesses, charities and funds looking to raise capital in touch with institutional and individual investors who share their values
- Evita Zanuso of Big Society Capital, which helps charities and social enterprises increase their reach and impact on society by raising repayable finance
Abundance was another example showcased. Our founders didn’t design Abundance for millennials. They designed it around the idea of democratic finance – the idea that it should be possible for anybody to make an investment that will make them money as well as deliver a social or environmental benefit. In a happy accident that’s also exactly what many millennials want. As our co-founder Bruce said at the Good Money Week launch event:
“Sustainable investment came from the wrong end of the spectrum [i.e. aimed at niche groups/high net worths]. Abundance came from asking can you invest from £5? And what we found is that if you can, you will do so along your values.”
We may still be small, but here at Abundance we’re fairly unique as an investment platform because 25% of our investors are millennials. That’s a lot. Contrary to popular opinion, we can show that millennials do want to invest in the long term, as most of our Debentures have terms of up to 20 years. They aren’t here to make a quick buck. They’re here to make some money and make an impact.
There are a growing number of companies making it easier to a) save and b) invest in socially and environmentally positive ways, even if you are just starting out. If you know of any why not take this week to tell somebody else? Or encourage somebody to attend a Good Money Week event? The timetable is here and there are events up and down the UK. If we empower millennials financial markets might just change for the better.
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