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Why Millennials Don’t Trust the Rest of Us

Ara Trembly
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 1, 2009

Much as it pains me to do so, let me share some background information that will perhaps convince younger readers that I am, after all, just a “crabby old guy.” I only bring up that possibility because, well, it really addresses the point of this particular column.  

When I was growing up in the 1960s, it became quite fashionable among us young “hippie-commie” types to embrace the notion that we should never trust anyone over the age of 30. After all, those people were the ones who had gotten us into that seemingly useless war in Vietnam, and were doing everything they could to silence our righteous voices—not to mention trying to take away our recreational drugs and rain on our “free love” parade. We saw these “adults” as narrow-minded bigots who were intent on spoiling our fun.  

Looking back, I would have to say that while we may have had a point about the war, as individuals, we often lacked the personal maturity that would perhaps have made our discourse more civil and constructive. What many of us lacked more than anything, however, was a basic trust in the people who had raised us, and the world they had created. Thus, the late Dr. Leary’s advice to “turn on, tune in and drop out” (of society) was music to our youthfully rebellious ears.  

Fast-forward to the first decade of the 21st Century, and we of that mistrustful generation are beginning to find out that we are now on the other end of that continuum. To wit, Microsoft recently released survey results showing that of the estimated 80 million people that make up the “millennial generation,” only half report they are currently planning to invest in the stock market, savings accounts or 401(k)s.  

The Microsoft “Millennials in Financial Services” survey, conducted by KRC Research, found that “millennials born between 1981 and 2000 have less trust in banking and investment firms since the bailouts of AIG and global banks a year ago.” Further, the survey found that millennials believe that the U.S. financial industry is out of touch with the way they would like to communicate with their financial institutions. Millennials, says Microsoft, want to communicate with financial institutions through new channels, including live online chats, personalized Web portals and financial applications for smartphones.  

In short, millennials don’t like or trust the world their forebears have created for them, and they insist that it must change. They even have a major event—the current financial crisis—on which to hang their disdain and rejection of those who have come before. And don’t believe for a second that insurance is not lumped in with other financial services, especially since the lines between the two have become increasingly blurry. Any way you look at it, this is a seriously negative situation.  

So what can we old hippie-types learn from our own experience that might help address this generational gap and, perhaps, reduce the size of the span? First, we need to remember that despite all our own youthful angst, the world continued on its course, and many of us found a place in it with which we were satisfied overall. Thus, when we begin to wonder what will become of this rebellious generation, we can point to evidence that it doesn’t necessarily mean we are all doomed. In short, we need to chill out and listen to the valid points being raised by younger workers.  

And what can you millennials learn from we, the long-in-the-tooth? Perhaps you can see from our experience that while some things seem vitally important now, they may not mean all that much in the grand scheme of your life. Sure, it’s important that technology be brought to bear on our financial and other industries to increase efficiency and help ensure integrity, but it is equally important to realize that your generation’s needs are not the only ones that the market must meet.  

Obviously, those of us who have helped create the world as it now exists haven’t solved many of its major problems. But that doesn’t mean we can’t be trusted.  Instead, it means that we all need to find reasons to pull together in the same direction, instead of perpetuating a generational tug-of-war that I suspect has been around since Adam and Eve bore offspring.  

We’re really not all that crabby once you get to know us.

Ara C. Trembly (www.aratremblytechnology.com) is the founder of Ara Trembly, The Tech Consultant and a longtime observer of technology in insurance and financial services. He can be reached at ara@aratremblytechnology.com.

The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

Comments (1)

Tony V. of Verreos Insurance offers the following comments:


I thought that was sort of funny.

The human spirit of rebellious youth is, I think, a constant, though it's limits of expression change depending on
the specifics and time. The gross generalizations that may cause people to think, feel, or act as though "we
all shared the same experiences" are rarely accurate. I would generalize that it's hard to ever get truthful stats
to answer certain personal questions, because even if it's safe to answer embarassing questions, many people
would prefer to lie.

The tensions between the young and old aren't new as you noted. What has really changed? The young are
growing up with technology that they pretty much take for granted. They have quicker access to more
information than we did, but that doesn't mean they know what to do with it, are any better educated, or are
any smarter than their parents.

I thought the line about them not trusting banks and financial institutions was funny: why should anyone trust them is my answer? I use them out of necessity, I don't trust them. Ditto insurance companies. If that hurts someones feelings, it shouldn't.

As for the stock market, first they need to get some money, then they'd learn that the stock market requires a set of skills like running any other business: if you don't manage it correctly, you end up losing your money.

Posted by: Ara T | October 5, 2009 10:01 AM

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