Millennials and money: Tips for CPAs

November is financial literacy month in Canada. Help your millennial clients make the most of their money with a fresh take on financial planning.

Making generalizations about millennials is a popular pastime in the media these days, but it doesn’t make much sense. Like any other generational cohort, millennials are both similar and different to those who came before them. Their relationship with money and financial planning are no exception.

The term “millennials” broadly applies to adults anywhere from their early 20s to late 30s. So what do we really know about them?

Millennial finances

Well, they’re the largest generation in the workforce at 35 per cent. They’re grappling with the same issues that many people do in that stage of life, from career stability and paying off student debt to high housing costs. They stick to budgets and save more than the national average. And yes, they do tend to be more interested than other cohorts in experimenting with sustainable investments or emerging markets like cannabis, cryptocurrencies and e-gaming.

But essentially, they’re just like everyone else: potential clients you have the opportunity to educate, inspire and help as a trusted financial advisor.

“If millennials want to keep their finances in check, it’s important to live within their means, be vigilant about expenses and stay as financially flexible as possible,” says Shannon Lee Simmons, a financial planner and educator in Toronto who caters to millennials. Suze Orman agrees, adding, “Trustworthy financial advice is worth its weight in gold.”

Everyone needs a solid understanding of how to manage money well and how to make the best use of capital. Being financially literate is empowering, and as a CPA you have an important role to play on the frontlines with your clients. Fresh and innovative approaches to financial planning begin with the tone you set as an active partner in helping them achieve their goals.

It’s also worthwhile to rethink the “threat” of new tech and the rise of auto-investment options. In fact, integrating new elements of tech can actually complement the more traditional model.

Advice for planners

What you bring to the table is what makes you stand out, and that includes the ability to make financial planning more human by reducing common fears and barriers to investing. Positive changes can often be as simple as using plain language instead of jargon or eliminating high upfront costs to start.

With that in mind, here are some of the top trends about millennials and money to keep in mind when updating your best practices:

  • They have tech-savvy expectations: easy online accessibility with less face-to-face time and more digital meetings or check-ins is key

  • They’re keen to learn: tap into their desire to be educated and informed by building a genuine rapport that goes beyond the transactional

  • They want to see receipts: be prepared to share evidence and proof about financial planning; they’re less likely than Gen X or Boomers to trust authority figures

  • They’re thinking long-term: they’re investing later and care about ESG criteria; help balance that risk tolerance with insights on diversified portfolio growth

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Learn more about how to expand your business in the Advanced Personal Financial Planning track at AICPA Engage. CPA members receive $300 off registration using coupon code CPACANADA. And don’t forget to grab a digital subscription to the Personal Financial Planner’s Manual – it’s valid for one year and includes quarterly updates.