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Millennials and gen X: Is anyone investing in their future at the moment?

For every social post giving us permission to invest in ourselves, do some yoga (mixed with some home HIIT obviously), make the most of being at home, and reassure us that it’s ok to not be ok – is anyone actually investing, investing – you know, financially? We did some forum research to find out.

We were interested to see what two demographic sets – millennials and gen X’s are doing during coronavirus. How is lockdown affecting their investment and financial habits? Are they looking to invest? Are they spending? In order to make some discoveries, we analysed conversations in forums where these two groups are discussing investing and compared it over time (from January to April 2020) to see what’s changed. We also compared forum conversations in each demographic set to find out what’s unique to each.


Before life changed:
During life as we knew it, the main financial topics being discussed by generation X centred around loans and borrowing money for big investments, but younger millennials are thinking even bigger and aiming high. This set have involved conversations about the type of big fin-tech company they would like to invest in – and there is an expectation that anything at this point, is possible


Whilst the world speculates, this lot are getting serious:
Cast your mind back to February, before global lockdown and when for the majority of us, coronavirus was something that was happening ‘somewhere else’, and wouldn’t touch us. But for the millennial and gen X audiences talking on money forums, COVID-19 presented a clear and present danger. Our forum research revealed that Gen X are pragmatic in their speculatory conversations about future impacts that the pandemic might have, both from an economic and human life perspective. However, millennials are emotional – using words such as sadness, fear and shock 1.4 x more often.


Life changes but is it business as usual?
In March, life for most people around the world changed dramatically as we adjusted to new ways of living and working. It’s a lazy, but commonly used stereotype to brand generation X as bleak, cynical, and disaffected but we can see that our segment of cynics are having practical and expedient conversations on what to do next. They begin to discuss specific investments that they would make, switch or change in response to coronavirus – and notable mentions were Vanguard, Oil Futures, PSLDX and IRAs.

Another overused stereotype paints millennials as entitled snowflakes prone to catastrophising, but perhaps this is shorthand for ‘caring’? From looking at how millennials talk on financial forums, it is clear that their focus goes beyond financial considerations as the conversation shifts from the economic to the human impact of the virus.

However, the pangolin on the plate very clearly shows that whilst ‘snowflakes’ talk about the future of humanity, the ‘cynics’ talk about the future of oil.


Speculating to accumulate
At the start of the year, the gen X’s were making huge plans about what they were going to do with their money, now they begin to increase their discussion around Index funds, rather than talking about specific commodities to invest in. Despite a global pandemic, the appetite to invest hasn’t gone away, but emphasis has changed to looking at smaller, low risk enterprises.

Millennials attempt to look past the current situation – they are still deeply concerned about the effects of coronavirus, and talk about the possibility of a second wave coming in May, but they also start speculating more on the state of the financial markets and begin planning for the future.

To summarise this forum research:
When we compared all conversations that took place between gen X and millennials we saw how the gen X set frequently discussed savings and their retirement plans, and the impacts that coronavirus has had on them personally. They often talked about how to protect savings and how the value of their retirement funds have suffered due to the pandemic.

Millennials on the other hand, appeared more likely to politicise events surrounding trading and the market in general, and talked about how much government’s should intervene and China’s role in the crisis.

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