A good friend of mine worked in the pharmaceutical sales industry throughout the ‘80s and ‘90s. Through those years, he hired hundreds of college graduates to their first real professional jobs. Suddenly these kids used to making $7 an hour waiting tables were making $50K annually.
My friend gave every single one of those kids the same solid financial advice: Since you aren’t used to making this much money, and you’ll never really know what you’re missing if you never spend up to your new salary, put aside a large chunk of your newfound earnings for investment and retirement purposes.
Not surprisingly, he reports that about 1 in 100 would follow his sage advice.
If my friend were still working today, he would very much like the millennials he would be hiring to fill his open positions. That’s because chances are good that the percentages of new employees heeding his advice would be much, much higher.
A 2014 study by the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies, a nonprofit, private foundation dedicated to educating the public on emerging trends surrounding retirement security in the United States, described millennials as “an emerging generation of super savers.”
To understand why this is the case, one must consider the circumstances these millennials grew up in.
Older millennials witnessed the dot-com bubble, September 11, dire forecasts for the sustainability of our social security system, the growing unlikelihood of retiring at the ages their grandparents did, and the reality that quite unlike their great grandparents they would most certainly not be spending their entire career working for one company.
Younger millennials witnessed the real estate market collapse and recession of 2007-09, the subsequent and continuing high unemployment rate among workers age 25 to 34, and the rising cost of student debt to their generation.
No wonder this generation has emphasized getting a head start on saving and planning for their future retirement. To them, they are their own safety net.
The shaky at best economic landscape that millennials were born into, though, does more than just shape their investment/retirement behaviors; it also shapes their attitudes and perspectives on work and employment in general.
Born and bred to distrust the companies they work for from a job security standpoint, to distrust their government’s ability to monitor free markets from an accountability standpoint, and to distrust any economic paradigm given its vulnerability to chaos erupting around the globe, millennials have developed what I call a “millennial mindset,” characterized by a free-agent approach to work and employment teamed with an opportunist’s eye toward innovation that can provide individual control over professional outcomes.
In a nutshell, they think like entrepreneurs. And to my way of thinking, that’s not a bad thing for America.
The documentary film “Rise of the Entrepreneur” by Eric Worre asserts that our changing economy has mandated the rise of the entrepreneur (not just among millennials, but across generations).
In the film, expert after expert argues that because of the way technology is accelerating, job security is declining, and income inequality is increasing, (leading to a situation where people are overworked and underpaid, with less time and freedom), people are searching for a better way to sustain a living and build a life.
It concludes that the fastest, most dependable and controllable way to become wealthy is to own your own business, a realization that is changing how many people of all ages view work and wealth.
Many people of my generation (and people older than us) are working hard to break free of old notions and old norms about work and wealth. It’s hard for many of them/us, but they are digging deep to take the leap that Worre defends as necessary and to become entrepreneurs no longer dependent on the systems of old (which the documentary argues don’t exist anymore anyway!
By comparison, given their history and experience, this is the mindset that millennials start with.
Not only is that an incredible head start down a road highlighted by self-reliance and limitless possibilities; it also bodes well for our society as a whole from a creative standpoint.
This realization isn’t the only sentiment millennials share in common with entrepreneurs. In addition, from the get-go, millennials don’t see a difference between a job and their life. Their lives are not compartmentalized. Interestingly, the same things that drive entrepreneurs – lifestyle and freedom – are what drive millennials.
As icing on the cake, amidst the ruins of the old economic models, this generation has witnessed and enjoyed a tremendous amount of entrepreneurial prosperity (think companies like Google and uber), made possible by people who said ‘here’s aproblem, how can we solve it in a way no one has thought of before.’
As such, millennials don’t have to force themselves to believe in the dream of entrepreneurialism – they see it as a fact of life.That’s the value of this generation! And it stands to benefit every one of us! And, indeed, it already has!
The proof is in the pudding. A 2016 BNP Paribas Global Entrepreneur Report recently highlighted by Fortune found that millennials are discovering entrepreneurship significantly earlier than boomers did. “While the older generation launched their first businesses at roughly 35 years old, so-called ‘millennipreneurs”’ are setting out around 27—which means some of them already have almost a decade of experience.”
Now, I believe that too often, millennials get pigeonholed as lazy and unwilling to put in the work. As a professor who deals with millennials every day, I would make an opposite argument. In my estimation, because of their entrepreneurial mindset, I believe this is the most capitalistic generation in the history of mankind. And what’s more American than that?!?!? You can question their work ethic if you like, but you certainly cannot question the ability of the millennial to take something and turn it in to money. They are ever-looking to engineer the simplest path to money and results. And they don’t need you to create things that constrain their opportunities. It’s called the rise of the entrepreneur.
Yet another 2016 report, this one by global data analytics and polling company Gallup, meticulously analyzed how millennials want to work and live, exploring what defines the millennial generation as employees, people, and consumers along the way.
The report discovered six novel findings about millennials. I believe every single one of them.
- Millennials don’t just work for a paycheck — they want a purpose.
- Millennials are not pursuing job satisfaction — they are pursuing
- Millennials don’t want bosses — they want coaches.
- Millennials don’t want annual reviews — they want ongoing
- Millennials don’t want to fix their weaknesses — they want to
develop their strengths.
- For millennials, a job is no longer just a job — it’s their life as well.
Now, if you were to read those six characteristics of a millennial out of context and then asked me what type of person or worker I am describing, I would have thought it sounded like a Forbes or Fortune magazine article describing the entrepreneurial mindset, not the millennial mindset.
Take heart, bosses. That hard-to-understand millennial leaving your office right now to attend his or her daily yoga class may perplex you when you compare them to your diligent (though, perhaps unremarkable) 9-to-5’er from a previous generation busily typing and monitoring email in their cubicle. But chances are the somewhat-vexing employee who just walked out your door is the employee with the entrepreneurial mindset most capable of fueling your company’s next relevant idea. Feed him.