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50 Years from Now, What Will Life Be Like for Millennials?

If you’re a young Millennial, can you imagine what you and the world will be like when you’re 80?  To get a better sense, a new study examines how the largest generation in the current U.S. workforce envisions progress over the next 50 years.

Being at the center of changes being driven by technology and the employee/employer social contract, Millennials carry with them a “tech first” mentality to solving life’s problems, but they also carry a sense of anxiety and vulnerability about their future, according to “The 80-Year-Old Millennial,” a study by Prudential Financial. Conducted in partnership with Kantar Consulting, the study examines the generation’s feelings about workplace trends, economic opportunity, technological advances and maintaining health.

Since many entered the workforce during the economic downturn and struggled to launch their careers, Millennials do not necessarily share the confidence of Baby Boomers and Gen Xers who believe they will be financially better off than their parents. The findings show that nearly 9 in 10 respondents (88%) believe their generation will need to work much longer than previous generations in order to retire with the same level of financial security. And even if they do work longer, 79% of respondents believe that a comfortable retirement will be a thing of the past by time they reach 80.

What makes Millennials feel this way? Apparently they believe that the old assumptions about education, work and retirement no longer apply to themselves and their children.

“The issue is not the inability to plan, it is the inability to save. Houses are expensive, kids are expensive, and currently I don’t even have enough money to send one kid to just one semester of college. Saving money for retirement just isn’t a luxury that anyone has,” according to one of the respondents, who was age 25 and from Illinois.

According to the findings:

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents agree that in the future, “traditional full-time employment will largely disappear and freelancers will make up 75% or more of the U.S. workforce.”

  • A significant majority of Millennials (72%) report being nervous that employers will stop providing health and retirement benefits, with both women and parents reporting slightly higher than average nervousness at 76%.

  • Nearly two-thirds of respondents are either “extremely or somewhat nervous” that people will need to learn to work with and adapt to robots and artificial intelligence to do their jobs.

Finance and Automation

Millennials are apparently finding their economic footing, however, as they enter the next phase in their lives increasingly focused on career and family, and planning their financial future. Yet they also see a world that “feels more volatile, uncertain and complex than ever before.”

“Millennials are at an important crossroads, having experienced some of the most significant economic booms in history, but also the Great Recession,” explains Vishal Jain, Prudential’s Workplace Solutions Group financial wellness officer. “It’s incumbent on financial services companies — and any company that seeks to meet the financial and personal wellness needs of these constituents — to understand the changes that are driving behaviors within this generation.”

Consider that:

  • 68% of Millennials think it is likely that investments will become completely automated, based on personal data and preferences (58%, however, would still prefer receiving financial advice from a licensed professional);

  • 63% reported being “extremely/somewhat nervous” at the prospect of a world in which “wealth will be calculated based on one’s personal data, digital possessions and other forms of value—not just money and traditional investments”; and

  • 71% believe it is likely the next generation will live in a world without cash.

Having grown up with and benefited from a proliferation of technology solutions, Millennials also expect the world to continue making life easier and more connected. “They’ve built entire communities via digital platforms and they will continue using them to meet the challenges of new life stages, including becoming empty nesters and older singles,” the report notes.

  • 73% believe it is likely all of their possessions will be digitally connected and synced — leading to personalized services by the time they retire;

  • 83% agree that purchasing personal data insurance, similar to other forms of insurance, will be essential in the future;

  • 68% think it is likely they will primarily interact with computing devices using their “thoughts, instead of voice, keyboards or touchscreens in the longer-term future”; and

  • 68% expect the next generation to develop “emotional relationships” with the robots that serve them.

Yet, even as the world becomes more digital, Millennials also believe that society will increasingly place value on personal face-to-face interactions. The findings show that across the generation significantly high percentages consider it likely “experiences that happen offline” or “in real life” will become rarer and more highly valued in the future. This is most true of parents (84%) versus non-parents (74%), who experience the tension between digital connections and quality time with family.

To see how you would measure up against the mindset of Millennials, Prudential had made available an online test to assess and compare your views on how you envision progress over the next 50 years.

The report is based on an online survey of 1,002 Millennials ages 21-38 fielded from May 22 to June 1, 2017, along with expert interviews and a moderated online bulletin board.