WILL GEN Y “FEED THE PIG”?
A new national online survey sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and the Ad Council confirmed some widespread and potentially troubling characteristics of young workers (age 25-34 now), the major segment of the Gen Y/Millennial workforce. The survey provides a foundation for the “Feed the Pig” financial literacy campaign, a series of Public Service Announcements (PSAs) urging that generation to build long-term financial security by thinking independently and foregoing short-term gratification through living beyond their means.
Here are some of the findings, which confirm (or reinforce) and quantify the extent Gen Yers are led by peer pressure, fear of not belonging, and the attitude that in an uncertain and volatile world, grab what you can now. (As the saying goes, “Life is short; start with dessert.”)
- 78% model their financial habits on their friends’ habits.
- 66% want to keep pace with where friends live.
- 64% want to be in sync with what friends wear.
- Similar percentages feel pressure to go to the types of places their friends eat at and use the types of gadgets they carry.
- 61% still get financial help from their families.
As a consequences a large portion of that age groups miss bill payments and rack up substantial credit card debt paying for necessities. Financial stability means paying all their bills each month for 70%. This is a short-term view, the desire for immediate gratification.
The fact that Gen Y/Millennials are strongly influenced by peers’ lifestyle purchases indicates the depth of their need to “belong.” Also they expect to be able to rely on their families. These attributes are portrayed humorously in the ad campaign developed pro bono by kirshenbaum, bond, senecal + partners (kbs+).
But there is a very serious side emotionally, beyond financial literacy. In his essay, Looking for “Likes” in the New York Times Education Life section (11/3/13). Andrew Reiner, who teaches at Towson University in the Honors College and English Department, comments on the self-pressure he observes in his students’ generation: “ A small but growing body of evidence suggests that excessive social media use can lead to an unhealthy fixation on how one is perceived and an obsessive competitiveness. Perhaps not surprisingly, this angsting can also lead to an unhealthy quest for perfection, a social perfection, which breeds an aperture-narrowing conformity.”
A few brave souls, wrote Reiner, admitted to fearing peers’ judgments for writing something stupid, or worse, something that “set them apart.” They feared expressing a different opinion would make others dislike them. “The ultimate goal? Racking up ‘Likes.’”
Yes,of course there has been some degree of fear, peer pressure and conformity in every (young) generation. But the level of parental protection and social media exposure the youngest generations have experienced does magnify the problem.
One hopes the Feed the Pig campaign makes many converts. The independent thinking habits regarding financial security can result in growth and self-actualization in other aspects of life and work.
Phyllis Weiss Haserot www.pdcounsel.com