- Fully 85% of Millennial workers say life insurance benefits are “somewhat” or “very” important, the largest share of any generation. With many Millennials starting their own families, this naturally risk-averse generation could create resurgent demand for life insurance policies. (ThinkAdvisor)
- NH: As we have often pointed out (see: "Millennials Want More Than Just a Paycheck"), rising risk aversion and a willingness to trust employers to trade their pay for "plans" is making Millennials very favorably disposed to just about every type of employee benefit. According to the 2018 Transamerica Retirement Survey, Millennials are the only generation that ranks life insurance almost as desirable as health insurance and a pension plan (ranked one and two by all generations). What's more, it's impossible to find any other benefit that is more sought after by any older generation than Millennials. This is true for financial wellness, workplace wellness, and "employee assistance" programs. More remarkably, it also true for cancer insurance, critical illness plans, and (even) long-term care insurance. Still more evidence of risk aversion: Millennials are the most likely to say they put their retirement savings "mostly into bonds, money market, and cash" (20%, versus 15% for both Xers and Boomers). And they are the least likely to say they put it "mostly into stocks" (19%, versus 26% for Xers). I know... this flies in the face of every principle of optimal life cycle asset allocation. But Millennials report the highest retirement confidence. And they report starting to save much earlier in life than their parents and grandparents--at a median age of 24, versus age 30 for Xers and age 35 for Boomers.
- Just 18% of Millennials say that America “stands above all other countries in the world,” the smallest share of any generation. This figure exemplifies the decline of American exceptionalism; unlike older adults, Millennials can’t remember a time in their lives when the United States was the world’s unquestioned superpower. (Pew Research Center)
- NH: Last week (see: "What Xers and Millennials Want from Foreign Policy") we pointed out that this declining belief in American exceptionalism--while often described as a progressive or blue-zone trend--actually fits pretty well with Trump's zero-sum strongman outlook on how America needs to manage its foreign policy. After all, if America is no longer exceptional, it can also no longer afford to waste its precious resources on free-rider globalism. It is sobering to compare these results with Pew's extensive April survey on the state of America's democracy, in which it points out that while Millennials have the most trust in how America's democracy is working (Xers have the least trust), both Millennials and Xers (especially those with less education) are the most likely to believe that "significant changes are needed in the design and structure of American governance." Roughly two-thirds of Millennials and Xers believe this--versus only half of Boomers.
- Local pools across the country are hiring older adults to fill the quintessential teen summer job: lifeguarding. With more young people opting for internships and extracurriculars, sprightly retirees have become the applicants of choice, with the oldest recruit from the American Lifeguard Association topping out at age 86. (The Washington Post)
- About one-quarter of current/would-be mothers say they expect to have fewer children than they consider ideal. Why? Almost all of the most commonly cited reasons hinge on financial insecurity—from the exorbitant cost of child care to concerns about the economy. (Morning Consult)
- NH: Nearly nine years into the post-GFC recovery, U.S. fertility rates are still sinking--and more than all of this decline is being driven by fertility-rate declines under age 35--that is, by Millennials. What's going on? The leading causes elicited from young women by this survey all point in different directions (see below). The most popular single response was "want more leisure time." Also right up there: "haven't found a partner," "can't afford child care," and "no desire for children." There is not much attention in this piece to the troubled future economic prospects facing Millennials as a generation, and no attention at all to the plummeting birth rates among very young and immigrant women. Instead, much of the piece focuses on gender workplace issues--and the fact that the male-female earnings divide grows rapidly between age 25 and age 35 as many mothers cut back on employment and hours. But, as Pew Research documents, this is not a new trend: It can be observed in birth cohorts going all the way back to the early 1950s.
- Walmart is taking public positions on social issues in an attempt to win more customers. Until now, the company preferred to stay quiet to avoid alienating anyone—but that’s not an option when 85% of shoppers now say Walmart should “make it clear what values [it stands] for.” (The Wall Street Journal)
- NH: Walmart has in fact steadily raised its brand profile among both Republicans and (especially) Democrats over the last decade. (See: "Walmart Goes Blue for Democrats.") Part of that success comes from recognizing that, in today's climate, no one admires a ruthlessly efficient machine. Consumers and local residents want to feel that institutions are committed to a mission that includes a higher values message. Articulating that message, of course, risks offending some people. The secret is knowing how to take the most resolute stands on issues that most people already agree on. (See: "Do Brands Need Safe Spaces?")
- At 8.6%, the mall vacancy rate is now the highest it’s been since 2012. Though some malls in affluent areas are faring well, online competition continues to take its toll on suburban strip malls anchored by once-iconic names like Toys R Us. (The Wall Street Journal)
- NH: According to Hedgeye's Retail Sector, the brick-and-mortar retail depression, which has experienced a mild reprieve early in 2018, is going to come back with a vengeance by Q4. If we hit another recession later in 2019, the hollowing out of urban and suburban malls across America could trigger political upheaval in state and city governments. Millennial consumers and voters may insist that these spaces become genuine community centers and house vital public services.
- Fully 42% of 18- to 21-year-olds say they would ask family and friends to help them pick out a vacation destination, the highest share of any age group. Though the Internet remains the number one source of vacation information for all age groups, young adults have no problem deferring to the expertise of their peers. (Morning Consult)
- NH: I love Morning Consult: They're getting smarter, while so many other survey groups are getting dumber. Lots of interesting numbers here. Interest in travel abroad declines steeply by age, from 56% for late-wave Millennials (18-21) to 32% for Boomers. The type of vacation most sought after by all age groups is "affordable." Among the top attributes after this are "relaxing," "serene," and "revitalizing"--which scored much better than "exotic," "thrilling," or "exclusive." "Popular" was at the very bottom. For cost, convenience, fun, and minimal hassle, Americans much prefer traveling in cars to any other type of transportation. They think planes are getting less comfortable and a lot more expensive. Airbnb is still not as recognized as major hotel chains like Marriott, but the share "likely to purchase" Airbnb is rising steadily among the young (36% among Millennials, versus only 23% among Boomers).
- Millennials wary of car ownership have a new alternative to buying or leasing: a monthly subscription. But with luxury brands like BMW, Porsche, and Mercedes-Benz leading the way, Millennials may be priced out of the market. (USA Today)
- More Boomers are opting for “collaborative divorce”: an amicable, less costly approach to splitting up that avoids the court system. With the help of a team of qualified professionals, Boomers in search of personal fulfillment can now get a divorce without becoming ensnared in a years-long legal battle or airing their dirty laundry in court. (The Philadelphia Inquirer)
- NH: If Millennials show caution about marriage and saving, one explanation is that so many of them have witnessed their Boomer parents botch both. Saving? Hmm, there must be some good reason Boomers are now signing up as summer lifeguards (see story above)--a job once reserved for teenagers. And marriage? The divorce revolution is tracking this going-solo generation all the way into old age, even as the divorce rate for younger generations drops.
- Just 66% of 16- to 22-year-olds identify as exclusively heterosexual, the lowest share of any age group. Increased acceptance of LGBT lifestyles, especially among inclusive young adults, has reduced the stigma associated with “coming out.” (Ipsos MORI)
DID YOU KNOW?
Road Tripping in Style. The summer road trip is a storied American tradition. But this classic concept is getting a luxury reboot, according to The Wall Street Journal, which profiles the rise of high-end prepackaged summer getaways. Travel companies such as All Roads North, EXP Journeys, and Black Tomato aim to take the hassle—and the decision-making—away from travelers. Trips come complete with customized route maps, detailed itineraries, tour guides (if desired), and even high-end transport options (who doesn't want to sightsee in a Lamborghini?). All of this pampering comes at a price: Trips can reach $4,000 per day at the high end of the market. The price tag may be worth it for affluent families and couples who want help getting the most out of their vacation. But not everyone is happy about this new paradigm, including author and travel historian Richard Ratay: "So much of the fun and the opportunity for bonding was facing the challenges, even the boredom, that travel along the highway can bring a family's way."