Millennials and Gen Z are skeptical of traditional financial advice. Here’s how to reach them


When it comes to traditional financial advice and markers of success, millennials and Gen Z are a skeptical bunch. But that should help them in the long run, according to one financial executive.

Despite the economic headwinds facing young people today, David Nason, senior executive vice president and COO of TIAA, gave two reasons why he doesn’t necessarily worry about the financial futures of millennials and Gen Zers at Fortune‘s Future of Finance conference Thursday.

“One, they have time. And time is your best friend for these types of thing,” Nason said. “And two, I like the fact that they are skeptical and they push back. I like the fact that they went through a very tumultuous period in COVID, understand what risk looks like, understand what it’s like to come back from risk.”

COVID was a tough time for many workers, but, to Nason’s point, the finances of younger generations have improved by leaps and bounds since then. In fact, recent research from the New York Federal Reserve found the inflation-adjusted wealth for Americans under 40 grew by an astounding 80% between Q1 2019 and Q3 2023—significantly more than the wealth of older generations grew.

Not only that, but Gen Z workers are earning healthy salaries, and even getting into the housing market earlier. They are also, broadly speaking, saving for retirement years sooner than did older generations. That healthy baseline speaks well to the potential for younger generations to meet their financial goals.

“I have a lot of faith that this…population is going to do well,” Nason said.

Still, there are plenty of ways to improve. Fellow panelists Tom Davidson, founder and CEO of EVERFI from Blackbaud, and Vanessa Okwuraiwe, principal at Edward Jones, noted that both employers and parents have key roles to play in helping the youngest generations understand their finances.

On the employer front, offering things like auto-enrollment and auto-escalation for retirement savings, for example, is one of the best ways to help employees’ financial wellness, Nason said.

Also crucial, according to Okwuraiwe, is meeting people where they are. For younger generations, that means offering digital-first advice and products that can help them take control of their finances. It could also mean offering Spanish-language advisory sessions to reach more employees.

But, the panelists agreed, parents play an even more critical role because they spend so much time with their children long before they get their first jobs. That’s something millennials and Gen Z should remember with their kids.

“We can’t underestimate the importance of our parents and guardians, in terms of immersion,” Okwuraiwe said. “Children learn their first languages at home, and financial education should be treated as a language.”

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