NEW YORK (MainStreet) - There are exactly two sources of financial advice Millennials trust with any regularity: mom and dad.
Fidelity Investments, with help from GfK Public Affairs and Corporate Communication, figured this out a couple of months ago by surveying just 152 adults age 25 to 34 with at least one living parent. Their sample pool had an average age of 30, 43% of whom have a 401(k) and 23% have an IRA. A full 76% were working, half had children, 32% had retired parents (average parent age was 59 for dad and 55 for mom) and 40% had kids of their own.
They found that 39% of Millennials admit worrying at least once a week or more often about money, but 33% of Millennials trust their parents to ease those worries and provide sound financial advice. A whopping 59% considered their parents good financial role models, while a somewhat smaller contingent saw the merits of having family involved in financial conversations.
Whom do millennials approach for financial advice?
"I think my simplest answer would be people I trust," says Elizabeth McMahon, 30, Bloomfield, N.J. "My father, my mother and any family member who is extremely successful."
Beyond family, Millennials are fairly cautious. That isn't incredibly surprising, considering their generation was disproportionately affected by the economic downturn and ensuring recession. For a generation that doesn't trust banks and is completely averse to investment risk, parents are the closest thing to a financial advisor they may ever have.
But even parents don't always provide much reassurance. Of those surveyed by Fidelity, 27% say they'd never discuss finances with their parents, while 23% admitted they trusted "no one" with their financial well being. Even those who take their parents' advice can be especially cautious. Jessica Nixon, 29, of Philadelphia, says she has no problem going to her mother — a former bank employee — with questions about loan types, interest rates and other minutiae. But when it comes to staying on top of investments such as equities, mutual funds and retirement accounts, she finds herself sifting through not only information provided by her employer, but through various news sources and market reports. She's also dedicated herself to a generous 401(k) contribution that is helped by the three-quarter match by her employer. In short, she's largely on her own.
"I'm kind of glad that everything crashed and burned within 12 months of me graduating college," Nixon says. "That more than anything have me a lesson about how the economy works and what I need to do to ensure that I can live and retire."
Even when millennials ask for their parents' advice, they're typically doing so without a hand out for support. The stereotype of the dependent, basement-dwelling Millennial that surfaced during the recession largely faded by the time Fidelity conducted its survey. While 32% of respondents said they were more financially dependent on their parents than their parents were at the same age — with 34% saying they'd had to move back to their parents' house after living on their own — a full 80% were living independently.
They're trying to build up more savings for retirement (52%) and pay off credit card debt (41%) and student loans (28%). Like Nixon, nearly 47% have started to save for retirement, with 43% indicating they have a 401(k) and 23% indicating they have an IRA. No, 53% haven't started saving for retirement, but they also had to contend with a lethargic to nonexistent job market and crushing student debt.
In fact, when asked to describe what money means to them from a list of five words, 42% of millennials chose "security," 22% chose "stress" and 21% chose "comfort." That's a complicated relationship with personal finance, but as the economy improves and more millennials find stable financial footing, even those words of wisdom from the parents are leading to more sound financial solutions.
"My dad is the first person I'll go to for financial advice," says Laura Flint, 30, of Hillsboro, Ore. "I also trust the financial adviser in charge of my retirement fund ... who was recommended by my dad."
— By Jason Notte for MainStreet
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