NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Millennials whose parents lost their savings during the financial crisis, then lost their jobs as businesses slashed workforces to survive, lost faith in both Wall Street and Corporate America. Their distrust can now be measured, to a degree, in the way they invest both their money and their time.
About 66% of the generation born between 1980 and 2000 see starting their own business as a more reliable path to financial security than buying stocks and climbing the corporate ladder, according to an October 2014 survey from Bentley University.
Indeed, just 13% of Millennials have their sights set on becoming a CEO, Bentley's study found. That's roughly in line with the 14% who say they trust Wall Street, according to an April survey from Harvard University's Institute of Politics. As far as voting with their wallets, only 26% of 18- to 34-year-olds are investing in stocks, according to a March survey from Bankrate.
"I've been investing in myself and in whatever companies or projects I have on the side that could someday become something big," said New York City millennial Shaun Salzberg, 29, a software and app developer. "That seems like something much more worth my time and money than the stock market."
Salzberg's attitude is common among Millennials, and Tuffile attributes it to their experiences during the financial crisis, which began with high-risk borrowers defaulting on high-interest mortgages in 2006 and came to a head with the collapse of the Lehman Brothers investment bank in September 2008.
From October 2008 to March 2009, about 712,000 jobs were lost on average each month. That's the worst six-month stretch of job losses since 1945, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. During that time, the S&P 500 plummeted 31%, causing 401(k) balances to crumble: Some $34.4 trillion of wealth worldwide was lost from October 2007 to March 2009, according to the Roosevelt Institute.
"Millennials watched their parents lose their jobs back in 2008," said Fred Tuffile, director of entrepreneurial studies at Bentley University. "There's no sense of corporate commitment to anybody."
Another driver of the shift to entrepreneurship is that technological advancements have made it much easier and cheaper to start a business than even 10 years ago.
"Millennials also have role models," Tuffile explained. "It doesn't have to be Mark Zuckerberg [the founder of Facebook]. They're watching their peers down the hall in their dorm start businesses and have a great time doing it -- while they watch Corporate America worry about their jobs."
Even though seven years have passed since the financial crisis, and the S&P 500 has eclipsed its pre-crisis high, about 59% of millennials ages 18 to 34 say their distrust of the markets has made them less confident about investing, according to a 2015 Capital One ShareBuilder survey.
Instead, 26-year-old Bill Connolly who resides in Brooklyn, N.Y., says he invests in his own personal brand through tactics such as self-publishing. His recent book, Funny Business, teaches Millennials how to use comedy to get ahead in the workforce.
The book ''cost a decent amount of money," said Connolly, who works in marketing and is also willing to invest to strengthen his Rolodex.
"I'll fly on my own dollar to meet different people around the country to engage with them and build up that experience base, which helps me build a network that I think might have value down the line," he said.