Debunking millennial misconceptions
By Theresa Evans
The millennial generation, defined by the Pew Research Center as people born from 1981 to 1997, are used to the stereotypes that they are lazy, shallow and the worst generation yet. However, Stacey Tisdale, an author, journalist and financial expert, spoke against that harsh image in Sweigart Auditorium on Oct. 19.
The host of the event, Jack Sullivan, director of the American studies program, helped coordinate the discussion that enabled Tisdale to interact with Rider students. Tisdale made it evident that she has a passion for speaking to millennials about their distinct differences from prior generations regarding financial choices.
“Millennials are the most educated generation in history,” she said. “However, you’re the first generation in history to be less financially well-off than your parents, so I think this is where people misunderstand the group. You inherited such a challenging economy that you became innovative and you weren’t doing some of the things that we’ve seen other groups do.”
When asked to describe the beliefs they had about money versus other generations, students in the audience immediately mentioned student loan debt. The assumption that debt is a part of this generation makes millennials cautious abour their finances.
“Other generations definitely had it easier when paying for school because it wasn’t as expensive back then,” said freshman elementary education major Heather Lesinski. “Whereas we have to pay a ridiculous amount of debt and it’s really overwhelming.”
Tisdale pointed out that the saving habits of millennials are similar to those raised during the Great Depression. The students in the audience agreed that they are prominent savers, but hesitant investors.
“You guys are going to have to be more financially literate,” said Tisdale. “It doesn’t necessarily mean understanding numbers. There’s a lot more to money than dollars and cents. You need to have a really good sense of what to use your money for. You need a very clear awareness of what distracts us from our goals and a clear sense of how the world sees you. Reinvest in what you invest in. Your greatest gift is your age. You should be investing aggressively.”
Tisdale emphasized the importance of financial literacy in relation to the distractions from understanding it. “Money scripts” are described by Tisdale to be “the attitudes and behaviors that we learn about money through experiences and observations.”
The recession and student loan debt have forced hesitant financial habits on millennials, according to Tisdale. They have been conditioned to follow certain scripts and play their roles blindly. She offered a way to step away from conditioning.
“Your mindset about money is everything; money is simple,” she said. “What will keep you away from conditioning is to have a clear sense of what your goals and values are. Goals come in three forms: personal goals, material goals and giving back goals.”
The goals of millennials are what differentiate them from other generations, meaning that they are more financially anxious about money than their parents were, Tisdale said. Financial planning will be significant if millennials center themselves around their goals and morals.
“It was truly a learning experience for me,” said Lesinski. “She was a very compelling speaker. I feel better about my financial future because I now realize that I have control over how I portray my student loans. I’m definitely going to think about my goals in life in relation to my money choices.”