In the Face of Financial Odds, Millennials Lean Into Their Network


Much has been written about millennials and their financial woes. Be it a consequence of financial naiveté or merely a brush with growing pains, one thing is for sure: millennials are a generation at odds with their financial futures.

According to a new study conducted by Bank of America and USA Today, 41 percent of millennials say they feel "chronically stressed" about their finances. Another 82 percent report they worry about finances at least once a month.

Millennials are certainly justified in feeling this way. Still living in the shadow of the Great Recession and amidst the lowest levels of trust towards finance and traditional banking institutions in modern history, millennials find themselves facing longer financial odds than previous generations.

There is one saving grace, however: they don't need to go at it alone. For millennials, the path towards financial security starts with their personal networks.

Beyond the financial hardships, the Bank of America/USA Today study findings also show that millennials have a unique edge over the generations that came before them. In stark contrast to their parents and grandparents, millennials appear quite comfortable sharing personal information and resources with family, community, and the networks around them. When asked which factors influence where they choose to live, four of the top seven were directly related to their personal social networks.

Since the end of WWII, Americans have held a "rugged individualist" view of personal finance. Financial matters have not been a topic of polite dinner conversation for decades. But societal norms around finances are shifting and millennials are leading the charge towards a more open approach. Today, mixing money, family and friends is not quite so taboo.

It is well known millennials are great at leveraging their personal networks for financial matters from finding a job to finding an apartment. Do not be surprised to see this generation apply this same attitude of open-sharing across other financial services as well. For example:

  • Payments are "like-"able - Beloved millennial payment service Venmo allows users to easily transfer funds via linked bank accounts or debit and credit cards. Notably, all transactions are published to a news feed where users can "like" and comment on their friends' spending habits.

  • Purchases are micro social movements - Crowdfunding startup Tilt helps users to pool money for their own individual causes. Friends can raise money for trips or events at no additional cost and are only charged if the goal is reached.
  • Creditworthiness is more than an algorithm - Online lender Vouch provides its customers with affordable personal loans thanks to information gathered from a borrower's social network. Potential borrowers build a personal financial network in which others lend their support lowering the overall cost of loans and interest rates dramatically.
  • Investing is best done in groups - AngelList allows anyone to invest and fund startups around the world. The site allows users to create and join investment syndicates and social circles -- some of which are led by savvy investors.
  • Insurance gets social for the greater good - The German fintech startup, Friendsurance, is taking a novel approach to insurance by allowing groups of people to pay into claims pools. Then, if no claim is made by the group in a year, Friendsurance pays back a percentage of the total premiums collected. As a result, customers are encouraged to only enter insurance groups with individuals with similar appetites for risk.
  • Social networking has fundamentally changed the way we interact with our peers and the world around us. Finance in particular is undergoing a dramatic revolution. Every aspect of our financial lives -- payments, purchases, savings, credit, brokerage, insurance -- has the potential to benefit from social sharing between family and friends networks. As businesses begin to recognize the rich connections that exist between people's personal networks and their finances, consumers will reap the rewards of an entirely new world of services in personal finance and beyond.

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