3 Big Misconceptions About Millennials – From a Millennial

As the school year starts again and we bid a (temporary) adieu to our Super Intern Extraordinaire, Julie Penwell, we asked her to reflect on her time spent with the Private Ocean team and share her thoughts on what millennials really think about their finances and their future. Julie is currently studying personal financial planning and economics at Central Washington University.

As my summer here at Private Ocean comes to a bittersweet end, I prepare to enter my senior year at Central Washington University. I also am left reflecting on both my experiences here at Private Ocean and my time in school that has led me to this point.

I chose to study both personal financial planning and economics for slightly different reasons. Personal financial planning is a field that centers itself in helping others. Economics on the other hand, is the intersection of business and finance with human behavior and psychology, helping to provide us with a better understanding of both.

Throughout time here at Private Ocean I have realized how their values and guiding principals not only align with these topics – but they are deeply ingrained in all that the team works to accomplish here. It is not hard to see how much PO values client experiences and outcomes. Everything from answering phone calls to presentation materials and client events, is rooted in what provides the best and most successful, client interactions.

I’ve also seen the value placed on learning and understanding. As an intern, it’s basically my job to ask as many questions, and squeeze as much knowledge from the team that I can in one summer. What I have experienced here, is that there is no limit to what one can learn as it relates to this field – but also no limit to what can be taught. Every single team member here is willing (and happy) to share their experiences, knowledge and insight – something that has been invaluable in my time here.

One area of interest that I have spent time learning more about this past summer, has been my generation and our interactions with the working world. After reading dozens of articles and talking with my peers, I’ve developed some of my own thoughts amidst all the noise around the topic of millennials.

What exactly is a millennial? Like all generations before it, the cut-off years vary greatly across sources. Millennials are the generation born after Generation X/Y (1960’s – 1980’s) and before Generation Z (born between late 1990’s – mid 2000’s). While this doesn’t provide a concrete timeline, it does suggest millennials are born between the 1980’s and 1990’s.

The term millennial has been used quite a bit in the last few years. There have been dozens upon dozens of publications covering every topic related to millennials from how we’re changing the world to how we’re ruining it. While some of these articles may seem to have elements of truth to them, there has been some misleading or contradicting opinions and information  that have changed the way the world looks at our generation. Now in no way am I attempting to speak on behalf of the entire millennial population, but I’d like to share some of my experiences and truths as a “millennial”.

Millennial Myth #1: We’re entitled.

The participation trophy has been cited as one of the major pitfalls in the rearing of our generation. Some say that we’ve been praised and rewarded for every minor action that we have taken or every team we’ve been a part of. Thus, we are an army of young adults assuming we should be promoted to director of xyz look what I’ve done.

Fact or Myth? Both.

Yes, our generation was praised for our attempts – could it have been too much so? Possibly, but are we responsible for the actions of those who raised us? It’s not easy to say, nor should we attempt to stake a blame. What is important to recognize is that the praise we received helped to create a generation that some consider to be entitled, but I consider to be empowered.

We have been taught that giving any effort at all is worthy of praise. This has taught us to see the value in trying and helps us to be fearless in our attempts and to be more confident in our abilities.

Millennial Myth #2: We’re narcissistic or self-image obsessed.

Our childhoods came at a time of emerging technology. While we weren’t born with iPhones in hand, we have been impacted by it and the widespread use of both social media and technology as a whole. This constant updating, sharing and commenting has created a generation of selfie-stick holding and like-obsessed young adults.

Fact or Myth? Both, again.

It would be a lie to say that our generation hasn’t become accustomed to the idea of taking daily snaps of ourselves and our lives – heck, we literally INVENTED the term “selfie”. While there is much research that delves into the effects this has had on our self-esteem and narcissism, which I won’t deny nor attempt to – I also see that positive impact this has had.

Our generation has the capability to share our daily lives with an infinitely growing social network. This allows us to foster and maintain friendships from anywhere in the world based on our interactions and interests.

Maybe today I’m feeling stressed about my day – so I share a selfie with an emoji saying “on the grind” to my social network. My best friend (from across the US) replies with a picture of her, deeply analyzing her 15-page thesis with the caption “same girl”. This has allowed us to lean into each other and connect from 3,000 miles away – something generations before us could never do. By sharing what we’re doing, we open the window into our lives and can look out into the lives of those around the world.

Millennial Myth #3: Millennials are fill in the blank

Fact or Myth? Myth.

The biggest myth about millennials seems to be that we are all the same. We have the same habits, same attributes, same thoughts, same everything. This could not be further from the truth.

The greatest differentiator between our generation and all those before and after us, is our intense and innate sense of individualism. We are different from each other, and we embrace this. We see our individual strengths, weaknesses, potential and insights as something all our own – and we live by this.

We are a generation with thoughts, innovations and capabilities unique to us. So, before we’re put into a box, labeled, analyzed and studied – recognize that we are individuals. The actions and attributes of our peers do not apply to all of us nor do they define us.

The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the view of the firm. 


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