The reports by Fidelity, U.S. Trust and Pershing show how the younger generations want to set themselves apart from the baby boomers. The reports yielded tips from which any generation could benefit but also contained some red flags indicating where the younger generations could stumble in the future from the same traits that seem like strengths today.
“When I was 25 years old, I wanted to emulate my parents,” said Craig D. Pfeiffer, a former vice chairman of Morgan Stanley and the founder and chief executive of Advisors Ahead, which trains advisers to work with younger clients. “I can remember proudly telling my father that I opened an account at a national financial services firm. When we wanted to buy our first home, we sought out our parents’ real estate agent. Today there is great pride in saying ‘I don’t have an account where you have one, and I’m proud that I’m not doing what you did.’ ”
That’s all well and good — and youthful rebellion is to be expected — but the decisions chronicled in these reports will affect the financial success of these generations for years. While some choices seem to be positive, others are going to take more time to play out. Here’s a look at some of the more interesting findings.
HAVING A SAY Fidelity’s Millionaire Outlook found that Gen X and Gen Y were deeply engaged in managing their money, though that engagement was not necessarily paired with a deep knowledge of investing.
The report said that nearly three-quarters of the young millionaires surveyed said they felt knowledgeable about investing, found it enjoyable and were actively involved in it. Yet that group also reported making 30 trades a month on average, meaning they may be less aware of fees and the risks of short-term speculation.
“Thirty a month is a big number,” said Bob Oros, executive vice president of Fidelity Institutional Wealth Services. “But I would look at it less as an absolute number. They’re actively engaged in how their assets are managed.”
Mr. Pfeiffer, who participated in the introduction of the Pershing report on the need to bring younger financial advisers into the advisory business, equated the heightened interest to the do-it-yourself movement in home repair. “They go to Home Depot and Lowe’s and try to fix it themselves,” he said. “Then they call the plumber to fix what they did. There is absolutely great risk around do-it-yourself.”
Rahul Shah, a founder of Peninsula Wealth in San Francisco said his clients broke down along generational lines and by wealth level. He said that Facebook employees with wealth exceeding $20 million had found advisers to help them manage the complexity, while those with a couple of million dollars were trying to figure it out themselves.
“There are a few who say, ‘Is there an app for this that can do this for me?’ ” he said. “Whether there is an app for that or not, everyone is going to behave emotionally when they’re managing their own money.” He said he would manage his client’s money better than his father’s money because he had an emotional attachment to his father’s money.
He added that many Google millionaires discovered this the hard way in 2008, when the financial markets collapsed four years after the company’s public offering.
SEEKING VALIDATION When Gen X and Gen Y investors ask for help, they want an adviser to collaborate with them and, in some cases, validate their decisions. The Fidelity report found that nearly all millionaires in this cohort worked with advisers — compared with just two-thirds of millionaire baby boomers — but that six in 10 said they used their adviser for a second opinion on investment decisions.
This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:
Correction: September 20, 2013
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An earlier version of this article contained an incorrect photo credit. The photo is by Wendy Carlson, not Andrea Bruce.