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Investments / Lending

Hey CNBC, shut up about millennials already

Your advice is patronizing, contradictory and just plain wrong

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If you are a conscious observer of the world, as we like to think we are here at HousingWire, then you’ve noticed that the subject of millennials has become an ever-popular and seemingly interminable discussion point of late.

It’s the group that everyone can’t seem to stop talking about. Millennials this. Millennials that. Millennials have taken over.

And the worst offender of all seems to be CNBC. We have CNBC on in the newsroom at HousingWire and the TV sits right over my shoulder. Trust me when I say that CNBC is obsessed with millennials.

It seems that at some point during each and every day CNBC’s analysts are discussing millennials because some new study or survey reveals new data about millennials. Each new study allows CNBC’s analysts to opine on why millennials aren’t buying homes, or buying stocks or buying whatever else it is that CNBC thinks is important that day.

There are quite a few things that bother me about this. First and foremost, all millennials are not alike, no matter how many times CNBC tells me they are.

CNBC’s analysts seem to view millennials as a giant homogenous mound of humans who all think the same way, look the same way, do the same things and look at the world in the exact same way.

Look, I understand why millennials are important and why they get talked about. Heck, I’m a millennial myself, although just barely…on the upper end of the scale, I should say.

Here in our newsroom, I sit across from another millennial, our own Brena Swanson. She and I rest at opposite ends of the millennial age scale. We have different interests and different political views. We took different paths to get here and we’re in different places in life in general.

But according to our friends at CNBC, Brena and I are exactly the same person.

In actuality, millennials are as diverse as any other age group in the country but hey, it’s way easier to generalize a population and blame them for all your problems. Millennials are the big bad bogeyman that’s truly holding back our economic recovery, at least according to CNBC.

Now, normally I tune out when CNBC talks millennials because I clearly don’t like what they have to say, but something that happened on their airwaves yesterday snapped my internal restraint meter into about 4,000 pieces.

It all started with a tweet from Mark Cuban. 

I saw the tweet come across my timeline and I couldn’t resist looking up what he was talking about.

As it turns out, Cuban was referring to a segment titled “What millennials are doing wrong.” I just couldn’t wait to see what CNBC was going to tell me about what I was doing wrong today.

The segment, which I’d apparently tuned out, begins with Sharon Epperson telling viewers that for the millennial generation, “cash is king.”

Epperson says that millennials, people ranging from ages 19-34, are “hoarding” cash because they’ve seen the effects that the financial crisis had on their parents.

“They’ve witnessed firsthand how their parents’ real estate values declined, how their investment portfolios dwindled, and their retirement savings were depleted,” Epperson said.

“According to UBS, 52% of millennials are sitting in cash, with less than one third of their assets in equities,” Epperson said. “Now, this statistic is very troubling because it’s directly counter to the long-term investment advice of many wealth managers.”

Let’s pause for just a hot second. You want millennials to listen to wealth managers? Why should they? Their parents certainly had so much success listening to the advice of those vaunted wealth managers. 

Epperson goes on to stay that a non-millennial’s portfolio is 23% cash, 15% fixed income, 46% stocks and 16% other.

Next in the video comes my favorite part. “Now, many millennials are overwhelmed with student loan debt and credit card debt,” she said. “They face the prospect of diminished social security benefits in the future and they won’t easily reach their financial goals by hoarding cash.”

So, just to be clear, Epperson is suggesting that instead of paying down their overwhelming debt, millennials should just go ahead and invest in the stock market because they’re missing out on this amazing rally that the stock market has been on since the financial crisis abated.

Let’s forget the fact that you just said, not 45 seconds ago, that millennials saw their parents’ wealth disappear in an instant, and that you are now telling them that investing in this financial system is the way to go.

Are you really that confused as to why millennials are hoarding their money? 

They saw what happened in 2008. They know. They were there. They don’t trust Wall Street, and why should they?

Millennials are a generation of do-it-yourselfers. Why would they trust the same people who screwed up our country’s financial system to not screw it up again?

Those who forget history are doomed to repeat it, right?

And by the way, how do you expect millennials to be able to buy a home if all of their money is tied up in the stock market anyway? Regardless of their debt-to-income ratios being astronomical (thanks to the rapidly exploding cost of college), they still need money for a down payment.

But let’s not worry about saving for a down payment. Let’s invest in a market so complex that those of us who work in the financial industry barely understand it sometimes.

But lest we think of millennials (as a collective, mind you) as financially ignorant, Epperson joins her fellow CNBC cohorts to talk about how millennials are SUCH GREAT SAVERS AND HOW WE CAN ALL LEARN A LESSON FROM THEM!!!!

In fact, on CNBC’s website, there’s a story by Epperson titled “Want some smart money advice? Ask a 25-year-old. No seriously.

The story recaps the entire segment and talks both about how millennials should be investing in the stock market and saving their money. They should also be paying off their student loan debt and buying a home too. Because there’s certainly enough money for all of that.

“The good news is millennials are keenly focused on trying to take control of their own financial destiny,” the article states. “They're paying off student loans, paying down credit card debt and saving for retirement early. The bad news is their approach to saving may be too cautious to help them build wealth over the long-term.”

The article goes on to say that millennials believe that “working hard and living frugally” puts them on a path to success, rather than long-term investing. How dare they think that working hard and being smart about their money will lead to success!

But the pièce de résistance comes at the very end of the CNBC article. “Longer term, financial advisors say millennials may be much further ahead of previous generations, financially,” Epperson writes. “Many advisors agree millennials could teach everyone this critical lesson: Having a plan is the first step toward achieving financial success.”

Hold up.

Apparently, some financial advisors say that millennials should invest in the market. And others say that millennials could teach everyone else a lesson by “hoarding” their cash.

Could we just pick a position and go with it?

As Cuban said, CNBC’s advice “couldn’t be any more wrong.” It’s not just wrong. It’s also contradictory and patronizing. 

With millennials being drowned in “overwhelming” student loan debt, let’s maybe focus on helping them pay for college so they can move out their parents’ basements (which CNBC is so fond of saying about millennials) and buy a house of their own, since they’re the ones holding back the housing recovery, by the way.

Millennials can worry about investing in your precious stock market when they’re good and ready.

In the meantime CNBC, shut up about millennials already. You officially do not know what you’re talking about. 

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