Why Professional Service Brands Need to Understand the Financial Burden of Millennials

Posted by: Stacie Haas

Recent college graduates have much to consider as they nestle into adulthood this summer. Beyond the job search, apartment hunting and the reality that life is about to get real, comes another eye-opening revelation: they now owe tens of thousands of dollars in student loan debt. Along with the diplomas and departing speeches also come the details on loan repayment schedules.

These recent grads are not alone. U.S. consumer debt is approaching a record 20 percent of GDP, and Millennials owe most of it. Of the country’s $3.6 trillion of consumer debt, more than $1 trillion of it can be attributed to student loan debt and that number is rising. According to the national student loan debt clock, it’s growing $2,726 every second.

Are these Millennial really prepared to take on the debt they’ve acquired?

In short, no. According to a recent YouGov study, commissioned by Fifth Third Bank, 59 percent of 18- to 34-year-olds are “not very” or “not all” comfortable with acquiring student loan debt. Yet, 70 percent of college students (equating to 44 million individuals) are loan borrowers. They also have had very little guidance on what it means to take out a student loan. In fact, according the study, most have been left in the dark when it comes to the process of repaying a loan (53 percent had very little to no guidance) or even selecting a payment plan (52 percent had very little to no guidance).

Lack of education around student loans isn’t the only hurdle this generation faces. It appears that many college graduates have not been taught even basic financial concepts like balancing a checking account and budgeting – skills that are needed to successfully transition into adulthood after graduation and beyond. In fact, a 2014 assessment of high school students from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) found that American students scored below average in financial literacy.

Millennials need resources and they need a plan to secure their financial futures. Here are three things to keep in mind when marketing to this digital-savvy, always-on, multi-tasking generation:

  • Understand their financial barriers. As you seek to earn a Millennial’s loyalty, you must understand the financial hurdles this generation faces. Respect who they are, where they are and, realistically, where they’re willing to spend their discretionary income.
  • Give them guidance. If your organization has the tools and resources to help educate Millennials, use them. This generation craves learning and would prefer to be in the driver’s seat when it comes to understanding their finances.
  • Think about their futures. Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies described Millennials as “an emerging generation of super savers” who focus on creating their own safety net. And even though they’re digital natives, 87 percent of Millennials said they want a financial advisor’s mentoring, but would prefer to meet face-to-face. You may reach them digitally, but don’t assume the relationship stops there.

The Millennial generation has already surpassed Baby Boomers as the nation’s largest living generation and is arguably the most impactful. They will undoubtedly shape the economy for years to come, and if brands hope to be a part of this, they will need to understand, relate, educate and work to connect with this consumer group.

About Stacie Haas

Stacie Haas is a professional and creative writer with a background in business communications, public relations, marketing and reputation management. She has won numerous national MarCom Platinum and Gold awards in her role as senior...See Stacie's full bio.