Millennials are changing the face of wealth

05.15.18

Recently, there’s been a shift in what wealth looks like—one that conforms almost perfectly to generational expectations. Sumner Redstone—always immaculate in his suit and tie—embodied the platonic ideal of a Traditionalist CEO, but mention his name to Millennials, and you’ll likely be met with a blank stare. Mark Zuckerberg, on the other hand, clad in his infamous gray t-shirt and jeans is immediately recognizable as the CEO of Facebook. Younger high-net-worth individuals are making money and representing wealth, in new and unique ways from past generations.

The new millionaire next door

Ask a Traditionalist or Baby Boomer to describe a wealthy person, and you’d probably hear about a man in a well-pressed suit, with a luxury car and corner office. But for today’s wealthy? Jeans, a t-shirt and sneakers make up the daily wardrobe. Instead of driving around in a Bentley, the Millennial wealthy are opting for more environmentally conscious options, like a Tesla or Prius. The giant, gilded mansion isn’t necessarily a dream home for Millennial millionaires. Instead, it’s possible your next-door neighbor could be a multi-millionaire, but you know her simply as Liz, the software engineer. Looks can be deceiving—and that’s the point. For Millennials who are looking for meaning in their work and home lives, worth is not measured by how many luxury goods they acquire, but the experiences they have along the way. Worth can mean financial comfort as well as having a healthy family life, a job they enjoy and fulfilling memories. Seventy-eight percent of Millennials would rather spend money on an experience than a thing.1 And you’d better believe they think that “travel is the only thing you buy that makes you richer.”

What can you do as an advisor?

Outward appearances are no longer indicators of wealth: Don’t jump to assumptions when a prospect joins a meeting. Just because they’re wearing Converse sneakers, doesn’t mean they can’t be one of your top clients.

Authentic personal brands

Millennials have become masters of personal branding. They watched celebrities who are famous for more than their talents create brands that promote their values, beliefs and ideas they represent. Lady Gaga, Taylor Swift and LeBron James have seamlessly integrated their personal brand with their professional one.

What’s the point of curating a personal brand if you’re already a successful, wealthy individual? For Millennials, carefully crafting an online personal brand is essential for success. It shows one’s authenticity, transparency and reachability to the masses. Nowadays, if a company isn’t accessible and transparent online, questions might arise about how genuine and trustworthy the person is, and by proxy, the same questions can be raised about their company. By having a presence on social media, you can demonstrate your expertise, show what you stand for and differentiate yourself from others in your field. Millennial leaders and members of the wealthy elite know their public persona is more than just frivolity…it is an important strategy.

What can you do as an advisor?

Err on the side of authentic: Millennials haven’t chosen to embody the inaccessible, mysterious air of the wealthy elite of the past. They’re leading with an authentic edge and will connect best with advisors who also embrace an air of transparency and authenticity.

Women’s movement 2.0

Believe it or not, women in leadership or high-earning positions are still an unfurling concept. Just 20 years ago, there were no female CEOs of Fortune 500 companies. In 2017, 32 women are filling those seats, making up 6.4%.2 There is still work to be done, but women have made strides in high-earning positions and they’ve taken entrepreneurship into their own hands.

Millennials were told they could be anything when they grew up, so when they entered the workforce only to be met with still-abundant gender inequality, they got involved. The numbers of high-earning women are growing, and what’s more, they’re disrupting “traditionally female” industries such as beauty, fashion and blogging, as exemplified by Whitney Wolfe of the Bumble app, cosmetics queen Kylie Jenner and Birchbox founder Katia Beauchamp. Powerful women are using their status as a platform for empowering others and taking a stand on issues such as equal pay and the confidence gap. Nearly a third of female millionaire Millennials who are part of a dual-career couple are the primary breadwinners and the primary decision-makers regarding finances.3 Millennials aren’t wondering who the face of wealth is; they’re asking, why can’t the face of wealth be a woman?

What can you do as an advisor?

Avoid making gender-based assumptions. It’s no longer a “my client and his wife” kind of world. Make sure to position women at the center of the conversation to empower them to take charge of their financial future.

Diversity on the rise

As the U.S. becomes more racially and ethnically diverse,4 the traditional image of a millionaire as a white male is changing. A recent study shows younger millionaires (Generation X and Millennials) look different than the millionaires of previous generations. Forty-four percent of younger millionaires are females compared to just 32% of Baby Boomers, and 17% of younger millionaires are non-Caucasian compared to 5% of Baby Boomers.5 In addition, minority Millennials were prominently featured in Forbes’ 2017 “30 Under 30” with a section devoted to highlighting immigrant millionaires. And for the social entrepreneur category, defined as those “leveraging business tools to save the world,” more than a third were racially and ethnically diverse. These wealthy Millennials are motivated to enhance not only their bank accounts but their communities as well.6

What can you do as an advisor?

Increase diversity in the workplace. To better connect with an array of clients, make sure your team reflects the diverse clients you serve. Diversity experts recommend companies analyze their candidate data to assess if and where gaps exist.7 One question you may want to ask: Does the diversity of our advisors match our client base?

Around a quarter of millionaires are Millennials, making this generation one that’s worth getting to know.8 Additionally, 44% of Millennials9 say they are extremely interested in learning about investing, which is more than Boomers or Xers. While Millennials aren’t the only generation to enact change and transition, they are disrupting the way wealth looks, feels and acts. They are shifting the face of wealth to fit within their generation’s traits, values and lifestyles. It’s time to throw away the stereotypical, stale image of millionaires and embrace the next generation of moneymakers.

1Eventbrite. (2016). Millennials: Fueling the Experience Economy.

2Fortune. (2017, June 7). These are the Women CEOs Leading Fortune 500 Companies.

3U.S. Trust. (2015). Insights on Wealth and Worth.

4Cohn, D; Caumont, A. (2016, March 31). 10 Demographic Trends that are Shaping the U.S. and the World

5Fidelity Investments. (2017). The Tipping Point: Will the Coming Wave of Wealth Value Advice?

6Tindera, M. et al. (2017). Forbes 30 Under 30 Social Entrepreneurs.

7Monster. (2015). What Workforce Diversity Means for Millennials.

8The Shullman Research Center. (2014). Millionaires Have Their Own Generation Gap.

9FIS Global. (2015, November). Millennials to Millionaires.

This information is prepared by an unrelated independent third party, BridgeWorks, and is provided for informational purposes only. Ivy Distributors, Inc., believes the information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.