Millennials’ Outlook Slumps, Offers an Opening for Credit Unions
A new survey from financial services company Country Financial shows millennials aren’t very optimistic about the U.S. economy or even their own financial futures, but some industry pros say that translates into huge opportunities for credit unions.
The survey, conducted just after the election and released after the New Year, found that Americans as a whole haven’t changed much since December 2015 regarding how they feel about their overall personal financial security. But more than any other generation alive today, millennials report less financial security and expect the U.S. economy to decline in 2017, according to the survey.
“When polled about their view on the U.S. economic outlook for 2017 after the outcome of the recent presidential elections, 41% of millennials felt that they would be 'worse off' than 2016, with close to a third (30%) predicting the economy would be 'a lot worse off.' In stark contrast, all other generations felt more optimistic with each generation feeling 'better off' than they do 'worse off,’” the survey said.
The survey also asked respondents to rate their personal financial security on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 indicating the highest level of financial security.
Though the overall index score stayed essentially flat for the year, moving from 66.6 to 66.8 between 2015 and 2016, the score among millennials was just 60.9 — the lowest among all the age groups polled. Older respondents were significantly more optimistic: the score was 66.6 for Gen X respondents (ages 35-49), 69.2 for Baby Boomers (ages 50-64), and 71.2 for the Silent Generation (ages 65+). Excluding millennials, the average index score rose from 68.0 last year to 68.7, Country Financial reported.
The survey also found that 59% of millennials said their overall level of financial security was fair or poor compared to 37% reporting “excellent” or “good.” About half of millennials (48%) said they couldn’t afford to save or invest and 29% weren’t sure whether they would be able to repay their debts on time.
Cooperative Credit Union Association President/CEO Paul Gentile said much of the downtrodden outlook among millennials stems from their distrust of big banks and Wall Street. Credit unions have an opportunity to capitalize on the disparity, he said.
“Credit unions are in the financial services industry, but our story, our value proposition and our goals are much different. We have an opportunity to explain our value proposition — not only structurally with our not-for-profit status and cooperative nature — but also that we are a much better deal than banks,” he said. “We can play a role in getting them to trust financial services again and hopefully that will brighten their outlook, and turn them into lifelong credit union members."
Carolinas Credit Union League VP of Public Relations and Communications Brandon Pugh also sees the survey results as a chance to make a meaningful pitch to millennials.
“Since credit unions put people first, this looks to be a great opportunity for connecting with younger generations and offering reassurance,” he said. “It’s understandable that millennials are especially sensitive to ever-present concerns expressed in mainstream and social media. By offering life-stage and historical economic perspective — in group activities, one-on-one conversations or their own communications — credit unions can reinforce confidence and trust among millennial members and communities.”
Amid the demoralized outlook among millennials in the Country Financial survey, there was one hint of optimism, however: 50% felt they’ll have enough money to retire comfortably when the time comes.