Millennials and Money: A Shared Sense of Destiny
Millennials are the proverbial whipping boy of the media. A multitude of tropes, memes and satire exist about unsavory stereotypes of my generation. Some include a dose of truth; others appear completely fabricated as part of some generational rite of passage. It’s not surprising that the world continues to be fascinated by Millennials and our impact on the world. We comprise the largest portion of the U.S. workforce. Millennials’ inability to reach traditional financial milestones in part contributes to the tongue-lashing they receive in the media and often in the workplace.
We are indeed a product of a different world. Millennials have grown up in a time of immense change: the (first) Gulf War as children, the rise of the Internet, the bursting of the dot-com bubble, the falling of the Twin Towers, the beginning of the global war on terrorism and the Iraq War. Many of us also began our careers just as the great financial crisis was getting underway. Meanwhile, the generation has experienced a rapid rise in educational costs only to face wage stagnation and a shrinking path to home ownership and family creation.
Despite these challenges, the shared experiences of Millennials have created an increased sense of shared destiny. No previous generation has been able to establish connection more easily, thanks to the rise of social media and the Internet. Seeing firsthand (via the web) the effects of market events and being able to share our responses to them has made risk very real for Millennials when making financial decisions. It has created a unique set of values with how we interact with money and our investments.
Consequences for One Means Consequences for All
While I have a lot of shared financial experiences with my Millennial cohorts, one area where my journey is dissimilar is a lack of student loan debt. Along with many compatriots of my generation, I paid for college via the GI Bill. So, while I don’t personally experience the student loan debt hangover shared by some of my Millennial peers, the tradeoff was not without personal risk.
I joined the U.S. Army straight out of high school, shortly after the 9/11 attacks. While serving, I naturally learned a few hard lessons about risk, but what I truly took away from my service was a broader sense of purpose and my inter-connectivity with others. I saw how decisions made above and below my rank would not only have implications for me, but for those outside our initial decision-making framework. The decisions I made at any point in time could have broad consequences for my brothers and sisters in arms, their families at home, and in the communities we operated in—for years to come.
After the military, I had more experience with the destiny I share with my generation as a federal regulator with the FDIC, learning that what seems like an individual decision can impact the lives of everyone when taken in aggregate. Just some loans a banker makes couldn’t possibly collapse the whole system, right? Processing FDIC claims for people who held accounts at collapsed banks instilled in me the importance of building sustainable systems to support one of the largest parts of people’s lives—their finances.
Sharing a Broader Understanding of Risk
Following my time as a regulator, I made my way into financial services in an investment capacity, with an intention to help people navigate their financial challenges. I wanted to help build a better outcome for their financial goals. Part of that was development of a process around investing in companies that support a more sustainable world as a whole, and not just companies that are financially sound.
Including sustainability – ESG – criteria means expanding one’s investment lens when evaluating a potential investment and determining how companies are serving not only the needs of their shareholders, but the other stakeholders of that company: employees, the community and the environment. Given Millennials’ experiences, it is no surprise that they demand ESG analysis be done when evaluating investments.
Today, at Thornburg, I work extensively on the integration of ESG throughout our investment process. I focus on detangling the complexities of sustainability issues from an investment angle in order to deepen our understanding of the companies in which we invest. The goal for our organization always has been to serve our clients by helping them build a sustainable financial future for themselves. The work we are doing on ESG integration, along with policy related efforts with the US SIF, are key to helping Millennial investors build a better financial future.
The Ripple Effect
While my experience certainly isn’t every Millennial’s experience, I can say my career path led me to understand that Millennials have a broader sense of a shared destiny. My generation isn’t just “interested” in sustainability, we are the vanguard of building the systems, processes and policy around a sustainable financial system, which means ESG incorporation, not just longevity. Millennials aren’t junior folks in the office anymore, and as we move forward in our lives, we are cognizant that the ripples we make today will quickly become the waves that we feel tomorrow.
Article by Danan Kirby, client portfolio manager for Thornburg Investment Management. He works with Thornburg’s investment team and serves as a liaison for the team and key investment decision makers, communicating process and results of the firm’s investment strategies. He also works on ESG integration efforts across strategies and represents the firm at the US Forum for Sustainable Investments (US SIF) and The Principles for Responsible Investment (PRI). Danan joined Thornburg in 2016.
Prior to Thornburg, Danan served as portfolio manager for the Strategic Growth Bancorp family of banks, managing various strategies for institutions and individual investors. Before that, he was a financial institution specialist with the FDIC. He is also a veteran of the U.S. Army. Danan graduated summa cum laude from the University of New Mexico’s Anderson School of Management with a BBA, concentrating in finance. He is a CFA charterholder.
The views expressed are subject to change and do not necessarily reflect the views of Thornburg Investment Management, Inc. This information should not be relied upon as a recommendation or investment advice and is not intended to predict the performance of any investment or market.
Thornburg mutual funds are distributed by Thornburg Securities Corporation.
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