Debt Weighs Heavily on Millennials

They may be grappling with debt for decades to come, according to Nationwide Advisory Solutions.

Managing debt is the No. 2 financial concern of Millennials with investable assets of $100,000 or more, cited by 31%, according to the Advisor Authority Study commissioned by Nationwide Advisory Solutions.

By comparison, managing debt is rated fourth by Gen Xers (25%) and does not break the top five for Baby Boomers (13%) or Matures (4%). In fact, Millennials may be grappling with debt for decades to come, Nationwide Advisory Solutions says. While taxes are among the top three financial concerns for every generation, they are the No. 1 concern for Millennials (33% versus 29% of Gen Xers, 31% of Boomers and 30% of Matures). Millennials also say help with managing their taxes is the fourth reason why they would hire an adviser. Additionally, 46% of Millennials say tax reform will increase the likelihood of their working with an adviser within the next 12 months. By comparison, only 38% of Gen Xers, 18% of Boomers and 8% of Matures say the same.

The Financial Crisis of 2008 and the following Great Recession have made Millennials risk averse and reluctant to invest in the stock market. In fact, they favor cash over stocks, bonds and other asset classes. Furthermore, they are likely to hold twice as much cash in their investment portfolios than any other generation. Nationwide Advisory Solutions says this presents an opportunity for advisers.

Given their younger age, the investment firm says it is somewhat surprising that Millennials are already saving for retirement, which ranked as their fourth-highest financial concern. Their third-highest financial concern is saving enough for retirement, and in both cases, Millennials say these are reasons to hire an adviser.

Seventy-six percent of Millennials say they have a strategy to help protect themselves against outliving their savings, compared to 68% of Gen Xers, 75% of Boomers and 77% of Matures who say the same.

Fifty-three percent of Millennials have a strategy to protect their portfolio against market risk. Among those with such a strategy, they are more likely than other generations to rely on liquid alternatives as their top solution (50% versus 27% of Gen Xers, 33% of Boomers and 22% of Matures). Only 43% of Millennials say they are likely to rely on traditional diversification for risk management, compared to 77% of Gen Xers, 76% of Boomers and 58% of Matures.

Millennials are also generally somewhat more likely to use fixed index annuities (47%), fixed annuities (40%) and market-linked certificates of deposit (39%), and somewhat more likely to rely on sophisticated instruments such as put options (20%) and smart beta exchange-traded funds (ETFs) (16%).

Asked what factors they consider when hiring an adviser, Millennials say experience (35%), followed by offering socially responsible investing (26%) and reducing fees for younger clients (25%).