Gen Y Don't U Use That Cell Phone 2 Talk 2 Someone

I came across a blog post recently that contained the following:

“My boss Gordon told me an interesting story. His 22-year-old son was having an issue with his bank, and didn’t know how to solve the problem. Gordon said, “Well, if you’re not getting an answer online, why don’t you drive over to the bank branch and talk to someone in person?” His son didn’t know where his bank was located—and didn’t even realize the bank even had physical locations. This response is very representative of Gen Y.”

My take: God help us. If Gen Yers really don’t know that their bank has branches, let alone where those branches are located, we’re doomed as a society.

I also can’t help but wonder if Gordon’s son knew that he could use his smartphone — which is what he might have been using to access his bank account online — to actually CALL the bank and talk to someone. It’s a real shame that some Gen Yers are using so little of the capabilities that their smartphones offer.

Debunking The Myths About Gen Yers' Financial Lives

I collaborated with Oracle recently to do a webinar on the impact that Gen Yers will have on financial institutions’ marketing and technology capabilities. Part of my presentation debunked some commonly held myths about Gen Yers.

Myth #1: Gen Yers aren’t motivated by money.

As evidence of this myth, there’s an article from Insight Magazine which claims that “for Gen Y, money isn’t the be-all and end-all,” the Brazen Careerist has written that “Gen Y is not motivated by money…unless they’re in Sales,” and for good measure I found another blogger who reports that “in my experience, Gen Y is not motivated by money.”

Reality: Gen Yers no less motivated by money that anybody else. First off, every generation has its share of people who are highly motivated by money, and those who are less motivated by money. The views stated above — as I read them — are trying to imply that on the whole (i.e., a higher percentage of), Gen Yers are less motivated by money than members of other generations.

Hogwash. In research conducted by Aite Group, six in ten Gen Yers said that money is as important to them as it to their parents, and a quarter of respondents said it’s more important. Now it’s possible, of course, that someone could have said that money is more important to them than it is to their parents — and still not be motivated by money, if their parents are really not motivated by money. But the myth being propagated here is about the relative view of money on the part of Gen Yers — and the data simply doesn’t support the myth.

And as for the 15% who said money isn’t as important to them as it is to their parents: Just wait a couple of years until they get married, have kids, want to buy a house, a new car, need to save for kids’ college education, etc. Then let’s see how important money is to them.

Myth #2: Gen Yers don’t trust banks.

The San Francisco Business Times ran an article titled “Young adults don’t trust banks” (citing a study of Gen Yers commissioned by Microsoft) while Wallet Pop went beyond that to state that Gen Yers “don’t trust banks, don’t plan to invest in the stock market, and don’t even want to get insurance.”

Reality: Well, first of all, few people trust banks these days. Actually, to be more specific, a minority of people trust “banks in general.” This is an important nuance. In the consumer research that Aite Group has conducted on trust — we partnered with a French consulting firm that specializes in the practice of building business-to-consumer trust, and conducted the study in the U.S., U.K., and France — we found that while few consumers in the regions we surveyed said they trust “banks (in general)”, the percentage that trust their own primary bank is much higher.

And this is particularly true for Gen Yers. In fact, 45% of the Gen Yers surveyed said they trust banks (in general), in contrast to just 33% of older consumers. So myth debunked right there. This shouldn’t be surprising — older consumers have years and years of bad experiences with a lot of the different banks they’ve done business with. They’ve earned the right to be mistrustful. How much experience has a 23 year old had with banks in order to be so mistrustful?

But more importantly, about seven in ten Gen Yers said they trust their primary bank, compared to 73% of the older consumers who said the same. Not a big gap there. And that’s the type of trust that matters most — trust in the bank they do business with, not trust with some amorphous definition of banks in general.

Myth #3: Gen Yers don’t want credit cards.

At a conference I spoke at recently, a competitor of mine said “credit cards will become obsolete – Gen Yers will never adopt them.” US News and World Report, reporting on a book called Not Quite Adults, says the authors of the book found that Gen Yers “meticulously avoid credit card debt.”

Reality: In a study Aite Group conducted at the end of Q4 2010, we found that, indeed, Gen Yers are less likely to use credit cards than older consumers. Only about four in ten Gen Yers used a credit card to make a purchase in Q4 2010, compared to 50% of Gen Xers, and 60% of Boomers and Seniors. But four in ten is still a pretty significant percentage.

And furthermore, “meticulously avoiding credit card debt” is not the same as not wanting/needing credit cards. Personally, I avoid credit card debt as well (hey! I must be a Gen Yer! NOT). And I use a credit card for everything. The reason Gen Yers are less likely to use credit cards has nothing to do with some innate attitudinal difference. The answer is much simpler: They simply haven’t got to the point in their lives when they need a credit card.

When we asked Gen Yers who don’t have a credit card why they don’t have one, the most popular answer was “never had the need, but I anticipate applying for one in the future.” The second most popular answer was “no reason.”

—–

There seems to be a desire among a number of folks — perhaps some Gen Yers themselves — to paint Gen Y as a generation not motivated by that evil evil thing called money, mistrustful of those evil evil people called bankers, and not enticed by that evil evil product called a credit card.

A romanticized view, but not a realistic one.

Here’s the reality about Gen Yers’ financial lives: 1) Money is important to all of this. More important to some than others, for sure, but that difference is not generational-based. Money is always going to be more important to someone starting/supporting a family than someone who isn’t.  2) Trust is tricky thing to measure. For the past few years, banks have been our whipping boys for the sorry state of the economy and financial crisis. It isn’t a generational thing. 3) As Gen Yers get older and their financial needs evolve and their credit scores improve, demand for credit cards will rise. That doesn’t mean credit card debt will rise to the level that previous generations took it to.

But here’s the reality for banks and credit unions looking to profitably acquire and keep Gen Yers as customers: New marketing and technology capabilities are needed. For that part of my presentation, you’ll have to get the deck from Oracle or check out the webinar when it’s posted on BAI’s site.

The Twitter Generation's Delusions Of Productivity

One of my Twitter buddies tweeted a link to an article on Social Media Today titled How Social Media Actually Improves Your Productivity At Work. My bullshit detector immediately went into the red. The author of the article writes:

“Without a doubt, the “Twitter Generation” has excellent practice at the art of multitasking. While adults in their 40′s or 50′s can easily manage three to five tasks at once, the teens and twenty-somethings are effectively managing between ten and twenty tasks and interactions at any given moment. Young adults’ involvement with social media has required them to develop astounding multitasking abilities. Monitoring Twitter updates, replying quickly to a Facebook message, checking blogs, and sending email is all managed simultaneously. The young adult is able to compartmentalize these different outlets, managing several tasks at once – an ability translates well to the workplace. Younger adults can handle a variety of tasks and a greater workload, increasing productivity.”

My take: What a load of bullshit. And by the way, if the author was really that good at compartmentalizing and managing several tasks at once, he might have noticed that the second to last sentence should have said “…an ability that translates well to the workplace.”

What utterly ticks me off about these claims is that they’re based on absolutely no research, theory, or facts. What in the world makes the author think that teens and twenty-somethings are “effectively” managing 10 to 20 tasks and interactions at any given moment?

I’ve seen absolutely no evidence in the workplace that 20-somethings are producing four to five times the level of sales or output than their older colleagues. That is the definition of “productivity.”

If teens and 20-somethings are tweeting, updating their FB status, talking on their phone to their friends, surfing the Web, and watching TV while working or doing their homework, then they’re hardly being “more productive.” They’re simply not prioritizing their time and efforts very well.

In fact, that I’m actually writing this during my lunch hour means I’m not writing another section of the report I’m working on, or writing that proposal to the prospect I talked to this morning (this is not some hypothetical example).

I imagine that if you side with the author of the SMT post, you’d dismiss any research that I might offer up as evidence that he’s wrong. So you probably wouldn’t be interested in a study from Stanford University:

“A series of experiments addressed whether there are systematic differences in information processing styles between chronically heavy and light media multitaskers. Results showed that heavy media multitaskers are more susceptible to interference from irrelevant environmental stimuli and from irrelevant representations in memory. This led to the surprising result that heavy media multitaskers performed worse on a test of task-switching ability, likely due to reduced ability to filter out interference from the irrelevant task set. These results demonstrate that media multitasking, a rapidly growing societal trend, is associated with a distinct approach to fundamental information processing.”

Another study, reported in the Journal Of Experimental Psychology, found that it took students far longer to solve complicated maths problems when they had to switch to other tasks – in fact, they were up to 40% slower. And as report by the Daily Mail,  “studies by Gloria Mark, an ‘interruption scientist’ at the University of California, show that when people are frequently diverted from one task to another, they work faster, but produce less. After 20 minutes of interrupted performance, people report significantly higher stress levels, frustration, workload, effort and pressure.”

I could cite more studies that counter and disprove the claims of “more effective multi-tasking” on the part of the “Twitter generation.” But you’re probably too busy multi-tasking to read those studies, or retain the key findings from them.

Bottom line: The next time you’re inclined to claim that you’re more “productive” because you’re a teen or 20-something who can multi-task because of your age, shut the hell up and get back to work. That’s what I’m going to do.

Gen Y's Financial Euphoria

I’m not looking to get The Financial Brand mad at me. Honest. I’m simply trying to show how statistics can be interpreted in different ways.

The Financial Brand posted an article recently on Gen Y’s Money Woes. An excellent compilation of market research statistics about Gen Yers’ financial situation, presented in The Financial Brand’s always-excellent graphical style.

Looking at the data, however, I might interpret some of the findings to be more euphoric than woeful:

  • Fully half of all Gen Yers feel no increased financial stress these days.

  • A majority of Gen Yers don’t consider their financial situation to be bad.

  • Furthermore, two-thirds of Gen Yers’ finances have not worsened.

  • Seven in ten Gen Yers don’t have difficulty managing their spending.

  • Nearly three-quarters of Gen Yers have never been turned down for a loan.

  • 40% of Gen Yers will graduate with no debt.

  • A whopping 89% of Gen Yers don’t expect to be worse off than their parents.

Not so bad, eh? I’ll tell you, I’m no Gen Yer, but man, I feel plenty of financial stress these days with a kid in college that I’m trying to help pay for, and two more that will get there in a few years. And to the 40% of Gen Yers who will graduate without debt I say “congratulations.” I’m no Gen Yer, but man, I sure graduated with a bunch of student loans.

I, too, didn’t expect to be worse off than my parents. And I’m not. Kind of. But they’ve managed to retire, and me….well, I’m not sure I’ll be able to retire as comfortably as they have.

My point here is two-fold: First, that market research statistics are not “truth”, but very open to interpretation.

And second, everybody’s got it bad financially right now.

Personally, I feel a lot more sympathy for Gen Xers who are supposed to be reaching the peak of their earning potential, and the ones most likely to have kids’ college funds they’re trying to saving for, and paying mortgages, etc. If you’re 24, single, and have no kids — you’ve got plenty of time to ride out the bottom of the economic cycle.

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