The topic of polarization has been covered at nauseum, especially in consideration of our current political landscape, but I’m going to give it a whirl from a slightly different angle – and, make the claim that this topic has a substantial impact on everyone’s future wealth accumulation/preservation story.

Let’s try to come at the topic of polarization from the perspective of age.  While it’s unfair to both generations, I’m going to limit most of my perspective to Millennials and Baby Boomers, but this is largely an ‘older vs younger’ generational topic that doesn’t change a ton over time – it only seems the intensity has grown.

Baby Boomers don’t want to be forgotten; Millennials don’t want to be underestimated.  These two opposing ingredients create friction, no doubt, and moving forward, companies, government at all levels, and families should look for the bridge, instead of intensifying the boundary.  What’s at stake?  Plenty.

As mentioned, this isn’t new.  All older generations think the new generation is soft, and the counter is always that the elder generation is stuck in their ways.  Both are right, and both ineffectively like to jab the other and point fingers.

However, more than ever, if not addressed, we risk a generation being largely bitter because their wisdom doesn’t feel appreciated and another generation that lacks plenty of humility with little idea of their blind spots after experiencing success.  And, there are financial consequences.

Examples of this challenge:

  • In the private sector, becoming a wealthy rising star has never been easier.  Thanks to technology, low interest rates, and other variables, barrier to entry for entrepreneurs has never been lower.  Additionally, the success of companies in new (relatively speaking) industries, many technology based in some fashion, have provided for compensation packages Millennial’s parents could have only dreamed of achieving (cost of living adjustment included).
  • When it comes to the role of government, for every Boomer that watches a Millennial “game” the system for child or health care assistance, there’s a Millennial pointing their finger at a Boomer for a disheveled Social Security Association and health care system.  Both have their reasons to blame, both are probably right and wrong at some capacity, and both probably overreact.
  • In families, there’s onus on younger generations to share their excitement and success with their elders; meanwhile, there’s responsibility to actively listen and seek the feedback of someone who has been there before.  Conversely, older generations must realize, their advice isn’t always applicable anymore and be eager to understand/learn new ways.  This is a tall order from both parties, and no doubt, it’s a dance.

How to be a bridge:

  • This sounds obvious, but genuine recognition that we’re all coming from a different place is critical.  I have a dear friend, upon meeting, that couldn’t have differed much more than me politically, so I thought (labels can be tricky).  As our relationship has progressed, I’ve found we’re nearly identical in belief structures.  We just arrived from different locations.  I suspect we’re all remarkably similar in our desired end game but get really bogged down with our own baggage.  This awareness can be deeply valuable in breaking down barriers.
  • Commit to learning, and never stop.  And, more importantly, don’t seek affirmation of what you already think.  Look for the stuff that scares you.  “Conservatives” and “Liberals” should seek quality content on opposing beliefs.  “Believers” and “Atheists” should seek to genuinely understand each other’s basis.  Older generations and younger generations should always be comparing new ways to historical ways of doing things.
  • Be ‘ok’ with being wrong.  Taking a stance is good.  It gives us a place to start from, pivot, and learn more.  Not taking a stance, in fear of being wrong, or taking a stance, and being afraid to change, is not ‘ok’ for anyone.

When I reflect on our firm’s client base that consists of both young and old; those that are on the fast-track and accumulated wealth early, and those that have already ‘made it’, my hope for both groups is relatively consistent.  My hope is that the young professional is grateful, humble, and thirsty to learn more.  And, my hope for the retiree is that they don’t rest on their laurels, stay engaged, and stand ready to offer their wisdom.  In both scenarios, a person’s wealth is in better tact.  A retiree will hold on less for dear life.  In a doomsday scenario, they will still be marketable.  We can’t underestimate this peace of mind.   And, a young person can be more calculated in their approach.  Many young people only know a booming economy with a strong stock market.  All investments look attractive.  Often patience is the best investment vehicle.

Stay calm.  Stay invested.

Thanks for reading,

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