Getting the Conversation Started with Millennials!

This year it seems that many of the events in the last decade have generated, not only a national discussion, but also more community discussions about the importance and impact of financial literacy, personal finance, and financial responsibility. Many times these terms are used interchangeably, and that tends to make things a little muddled for everyone—particularly for millennials.

Millennials also referred to as Gen Y or Echo Boomers were born between 1981 and 2000. Generation traits of this group include being optimistic, realistic, social, and fun.  Many experience merged families and deal with significant college debt (Scheresberg &Lusardi, 2014 p. 11).

Their preferred mode of communication is email, text, and phone apps.  The realism noted earlier makes millennials cautious as a group, which is evident as they exhibit some positive personal financial behaviors such as commitment to paying down debt, dedication to savings, and monitoring their credit card debt. However, they want to do more with their money, but “don’t know what to do” (Facebook insights, 2016, p. 1).

Furthermore, millennials have few who they trust for financial guidance, and as such especially individuals who are currently attending college, or may have just graduated from college could become an important part of building a financial advisor’s client base. Millennials as a generation are on the cusp of major milestone moments such as completing college, getting married, buying a home, or entering their peak earning years.  What millennials need and want are clear roadmaps, and they need partners to turn to for financial guidance (Facebook insights, 2016, p. 1). However before they can understand the roadmap to financial success, millennials need to understand the legend of the basic financial literacy terms. Therefore, it’s important to focus on helping millennials understand these terms as they represent the roadmap to success.

First, financial literacy is the foundation, and it provides key concepts, principles, and technological tools that are fundamental to being smart about money. It is important to note that individuals more easily digest these key concepts when they relate to events that have an impact in their lives.

  • If there’s no immediate connection, the information doesn’t seem to stick and it will not result in a potential or desired behavior change.  
  • People in general will pay attention when their world changes. So what’s important in these initial stages is to identify truly teachable moments via important milestones.
  • Once students have that basic financial knowledge, the next step is to understand how those financial concepts and skills continue to relate to their ongoing personal and family resources.

One example, as it relates to the millennial experience of students, many financial aid administrators can attest that students aren’t interested in their student loan repayment options at the start of their college experience—but these same students perk up significantly upon graduation. Therefore, as you consider the needs of millennials as clients, you may want to figure out which financial skills are essential in an individual’s life.

The next big milestone for millennials after graduation is to achieve their financial goals. Again, even for an optimistic individual, this process is easier said than done. Individuals who’ve been subsisting on a variety of Top Ramen delicacies soon realize that “real life” takes much more of their income than first suspected. For example, going back to millennials as students and clients—here you want to consider what financial knowledge or skills individuals should have at the beginning of their work experience.

  • Help them understand the paycheck deductions: taxes, insurances, student loan repayment,
  • Budget for living expenses and personal goals

Financial advisors might consider partnering with colleges and universities. Often these institutions are in search of subject matter experts to provide workshops or enrichment in support of student financial success, in part because alumni’s emotional connection and personal finances impact institutions; connected and financially successful alumni are much more likely to give back to their alma maters than those who aren’t (Gallup, 2016, p.16). Again, this is a perfect opportunity for financial advisors to identify ways to help support and create financial success for millennials after graduation.

The last piece of the puzzle and the opportunity to engage millennials in an honest discussion about finances includes the topics of spending, saving, protecting, and investing their resources in an effort to achieve financial success. Typically most people tend to equate financial success with wealth and don’t realize until later in life that that’s not necessarily the case. Financial success should be defined as achieving one’s financial goals, and this is where individuals move from knowledge and understanding to action and changing behaviors.

It is important to help millenials understand options for their money:

  • Emergency funds
  • Finances and short and long-term goals
  • Saving versus investment

What it really comes down to is that this generation is really looking for significance, experience, change, independence and service – in all areas of their lives. And, what they really need are good leaders and listeners to help provide mentoring experiences, and the ladders to connect with necessary resources. Here are some dos and don’ts to keep in mind as you are working with millennials:


  • Do be genuine
  • Do provide supporting information
  • Do be transparent
  • Do focus on outcomes
  • Do leverage peer interaction


  • Don’t forget about the influence of parents
  • Don’t underestimate peer influence
  • Don’t think one size fits all

Ultimately, personal finance provides the foundation for financial responsibility. Financial responsibility is the action that puts people and organizations on the path to financial success. Such responsibility also implies that individuals have accountability for their financial well being, now and in the future—a long-term commitment. And there’s no better time than the present to help millennials understand not only these basic terms, but to become their partner and build first steps to financial success.


Gallup Group & Access Group. (2016). Life after law school. Washington, DC.: Gallup.  

Scheresberg,C., &  Lusardi, A. (2014). Gen Y personal finances: A crisis of confidence and capability. Madison, WI: Filene Research Institute.

Facebook Insights. (2016, January). Millennials + money: The unfiltered journey. Facebook IQ: Retrieved from https://insights.fb.com/2016/01/25/millennials-money-the-unfiltered-journey.

Dr. Carroll has consulted in faculty training & development focusing on student engagement, and served as new faculty mentor at several institutions. She partnered with the State of Nevada Development Program by creating and delivering a professional development course K-12 ESL teachers: The Right Tools: Academic Success for ESL Students in the General Education Classroom. She has published several articles in Magna Publications, Merlot Journal of Online Teaching and Learning, and the Consortium for Student Retention Data Exchange. She presented a pre-conference workshop: Retention Pedagogy: Teaching Strategies with Purpose at the CSRDE 2013 & 2015 Conference and was invited to present at African American Male Initiative Conference 2014 hosted by the University of Arkansas Little Rock. Dr. Carroll received a bachelor’s degree (BA) from California State University Chico, a master’s degree (M.Ed.) in TESL & multicultural education from Goddard College, and a doctorate (Ed.D), in higher education leadership from Nova Southeastern University.  She completed AFCPE certification, 2013 and earned a Non-profit Management Certificate for Harvard University in 2015.

The Standard

4th Quarter 2016

Thank you to this issue's contributors:

Jacqueline A.F.I. Carroll, Ed.D., AFC®

Kate Griffin

Jinhee Kim, Ph.D.

Ted Klontz, Ph.D.

Michelle Pimentel, AFC®

Corinne McKenna

Rebecca Wiggins

Back to Top