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Gen Y Develops a Depression-Era Mentality

By Hal M. Bundrick

NEW YORK (MainStreet) Gen Y gets it. All this time, maligned Millennials have been taking it on the chin, stereotyped as "lazy" and "entitled" and the truth seems to be quite the opposite. A new UBS report flatly claims that young adults aged 21 to 36 are "the most fiscally conservative generation since the Great Depression."

The report says Millennials believe "saving" was the best financial advice they had received and the generation is largely skeptical about long-term investing and market chasing. UBS says this "Depression Era mentality" has molded young-adult investors into extremely conservative strategies, with an average portfolio comprised of 52% cash, compared to a 23% liquidity allocation for older investors.

Only 12% of Millennials said they would invest "found money" in the market, and just 28% see long-term investing as a pathway to success. Most are focused on meeting their goals, instead of a specific market return.

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"Millennials seem to be permanently-scarred by the 2008 financial crisis," says Emily Pachuta of UBS Wealth Management Americas. "They have a Depression Era mindset largely because they experienced market volatility and job security issues very early in their careers, or watched their parents experience them, and it has had a significant impact on their attitudes and behaviors."

"Scarred" or simply wiser from experience? Perhaps the shift from a borrow-and-spend paradigm to a live-within-your-means mentality is the result of a maturing generation.

The research shatters even more Gen Y stereotypes. A large majority of respondents said the road to success requires hard work (69%), saving and living frugally (45%), and a good education (37%).

Millennials are defining financial freedom as the single most important factor of success (48%) and pin a specific number to that goal: a household income of $220,000.

"Conventional wisdom has categorized Millennials as 'entitled' and 'lazy,' because they have more than their parents and grandparents did, but this study counters that hypothesis," says Pachuta. "Having witnessed both the technology boom and the collapse of global markets, it has made Millennials concerned, but resilient, and optimistic for the future. They're conservative, similar to the WWII generation coming out of the Great Depression, not resting on their laurels, but rather working hard for their wealth and success, making sacrifices, because they believe their goals are achievable."

A majority of both Millennials (57%) and Gen X (56%) investors believe that they have already achieved financial stability, or will in the future. But most older generations (59% of Baby Boomers and 54% of Swing/WWII-era investors) believe their adult children need more help to succeed than they did at their age.

--Written by Hal M. Bundrick for MainStreet

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