How Young People Can Own Their Financial Future Authentically

It starts with trusting the process. The good news is Gen Zers and younger Millennials are on their way, a new study says.

Smiling young adult woman looks at her smartphone while also holding a cup of coffee.
(Image credit: Getty Images)

“Don’t trust anyone over 30” used to be the mantra of the Baby Boom generation back when they were, well, under 30.

Today those under 30 actually do trust – and in fact they have the highest levels of trust in financial services of any generation, according to a survey we at CFA Institute (opens in new tab) recently released. That’s promising news for Gen Zers and younger Millennials as they set out to make prudent financial decisions over the course of their lifetimes.

I’m heartened by what these levels of trust mean for younger investors, and let me explain why: Gen Zers and younger Millennials, more than any other generational cohort to date, need to “own” their financial futures. From paying for college to buying a home to funding retirement, they are largely on their own, and higher levels of trust in financial services will help them to make informed, unbiased opinions as they relate to these life-changing decisions.

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When I began my career transition to finance, after starting in marketing, I was determined to seek further education in order to excel. This led me to finding available tools, credentials and mentors. I see many of these same actions being mirrored by young investors looking to forge their own path right now.

But how can young investors continue to grow their investments in a way that also continues to grow their trust? Here are three key ways young investors can start building a portfolio that works for them.

Invest in Their Own Principles

This generation wants to make an impact, and many choose investments based on their own personal values. Environmental, social and governance (ESG) considerations have risen exponentially among Gen Z investors – and this has increased trust as well.

Many Gen Zers seek to invest in companies whose principles and sense of purpose resonate with them. This stands in contrast to a returns-first approach. And when they feel like they can invest their money alongside their values, there’s a correlation with rising trust in the investment process. Not to mention these considerations are often material to the performance of individual companies.

Investor Advice: Young investors should distinguish their key beliefs and formalize them. By listing out priorities and standards, they can then implement them strategically within an investment strategy. Doing research into individual companies, or finding funds that set those standards for them, can help to build an investment mix that is correlated to their own value system and in turn, ensure those values are reflected in our financial system.

Embrace Technology

We also found technology to be a “trust multiplier.” Technology enhances trust because it offers more transparency, simplifies access to markets and products, and can better align product offerings with investors’ needs through personalization. Those in their 20s are digital natives, so they often utilize new tools to find financial information and to gain a better understanding of their investments. And this familiarity leads to higher levels of trust for them.

Savings and investing apps are fundamentally changing how Gen Zers and Millennials run their financial lives. While sometimes assailed for the “gamification” of investing, these tools, when used properly, bring a host of advantages. We found that those under 35 are nearly twice as likely as the over 65s to have a retail trading account (68% versus 37%, respectively).

Continuing to embrace this curiosity in finance will give them more access and an increased understanding of their finances. But, to make the best use of technology, they must take the time to understand what tools are the best and most trustworthy.

Investor Advice: New apps and tools continue to make it easier than ever to gain access to markets, especially for those just starting their investing journey. Young investors and those looking to get their start in investing apps should search online for reviews on the best apps available for their specific investing goals, be it individual stocks or larger portfolio investing, to ensure that they’re getting the best advice when making their investment decisions.

Work With Those They Can Trust

Despite increased use of technology fostering trust, our study found there is still the need for human advice. Even the most technologically savvy young investor needs the advice of a well-trained, ethical professional at times.

Many young investors already work with an adviser, but they shouldn’t settle with the first one if they don’t seem to take into account what they care about. They should look to get reassurance that they’re following the beliefs they formalized, and investing with their best interest in mind.

Investor Advice: Young investors should take the time finding the right adviser to work with. This should include being prepared with questions about their fiduciary status, fee structure, and investment strategies, just to name a few. And as mentioned, ensuring the advisers’ values are aligned with their personal investment philosophies is a critical step to a thriving long-term partnership.

I applaud Gen Z and Millennials, and hope they continue to embrace the tools and technology that can make them trusting, informed and passionate investors for life.

This article was written by and presents the views of our contributing adviser, not the Kiplinger editorial staff. You can check adviser records with the SEC (opens in new tab) or with FINRA (opens in new tab).

Margaret Franklin, CFA
President and CEO, CFA Institute

Marg Franklin leads CFA Institute (opens in new tab) and its more than 190,000 members worldwide in promoting the highest standards of education, ethics, and professional excellence in the investment profession. Franklin has built her career over the course of more than 25 years in the investment and wealth management industries, in both institutional and private wealth. She is a CFA charterholder and a member of CFA Society Toronto.