Alex Oliver writes: At the Marketforce conference I spoke at last week, I may have unwittingly cast a further cloud over my audience on a gloomy Wimbledon June day. The conference was on Operational Efficiency in Financial Services, and my topic was Customers of the Future. I chose to focus on the behaviours and attitudes of two distinct generation cohorts – the 45-54 younger boomers and their 16-24 year old children. Both groups are facing significant challenges in terms of personal finance and long term financial security. But their responses are very different.
The older cohort is savvy and technologically competent, easily able to navigate their way through a range of online tools to find the best products and deals. But they face an uncertain future with huge financial pressures resulting from changing family structures as well as the economic context. The prospect of higher tuition fees and levels of youth unemployment at 20% mean that their children will struggle to repay debts and start to buy housing, often enforcing a longer term dependency which neither they nor their children want. And with the spending cuts only just starting to bite, they are well aware that they cannot rely on the state to support their own future pension, health and social care needs – nor those of their aging parents.
So, what of the kids? Interestingly, our research shows that the 16-24 cohort is one of the last still to be financially optimistic, even insouciant, which may be more driven by ignorance and naivety than realism. Despite some anxiety about finding a job (half of them say they are worried), a staggering 62% of them believe things are going well or fairly well with their financial situation. And unlike other groups across the population who are actively seeking out ways to save money, this group still wants to spend, with almost half of them saying they like to ‘splash out’. But when it comes to financial management, their interest is very low indeed. They prefer to delegate decision making and reveal a worrying confidence in their friends and family to provide answers.
The conversations I later had with the conference delegates revealed the extent to which these findings rang true from personal experience. Could it be that we are raising a generation of young people which assumes that we can ‘bail them out’? If so, with their parents under financial pressure, we could be staring at an inter-generational flashpoint.