Dear 25-Year-Old Brian, It Gets Better

Oct 16, 2018


To put the 25-year-old me into perspective: I was 3 years out of undergrad, and just getting into my current career of being a resource to independent financial advisors. I bought my first car and moved into my first apartment (all on my own.) While that time period was a huge influential pivot in my life –both personally and professionally – what loomed on the horizon was the most impactful event of my generation (and candidly all generations.) The financial crisis. While I’d like to tell myself in that time the obvious: spend less on “stuff”; commit to deferring income to retirement (because I’m definitely retiring at 50); spend as much time as possible with friends and family (because you’ll only see them on holidays later in life.) I also have three more serious suggestions for the 25-year-old me; one goes against conventional wisdom:

  1. Don’t worry about things you can’t control – for those of you who were in the workforce at the time, consider how someone telling you, “Don’t worry about the sky falling, things will be alright” would have made you feel in September of 2008 (when Lehman Brothers collapsed.) It was really hard to find any positive news, let alone be optimistic about the future. Many advisors and their clients were rightfully concerned about things getting worse before they got better. The reality then, and is still the case today: the markets are out of our control as financial professionals. There are countless articles that point to the idea that Millennials have a high degree of skepticism of Corporate America/investments because of the financial crisis, but there has been a significant amount of growth and innovation post-crises that was created by… Millennials. I’d tell my younger self, stay focused on what you can control, because many of your peers are turning their frustration into innovation.
  2. There is strength in numbers – according to the Pew Research Center, there were a total of 71 million Millennials in the U.S. in mid-2016, compared to 74 million Baby Boomers. That was in 2016, so the trend is obviously tilting towards Millennials being the lion share of the workforce. This is important to my younger self because at the time it felt like all of my peers were being laid off, going to B-school (as a means of deferring debt), or moving out to Utah to become a seasonal ski instructor. As my generational cohort make up more of the workforce, there will also be continued opportunities to take on more impactful roles. (Oh, and for the financial advisor who is wondering where the next pocket of wealth is, 71 million should catch your attention.)
  3. You’re going to be a much better resource – even though navigating through the financial crisis was tough, I can honestly look back on that time period and reflect on  how much I learned from those events, and how much more well-rounded I am as a result of what happened.
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Hey Brian, you survived one of the most devastating periods in U.S. history. The financial advisors you worked with had questions, and to keep your job, you had to find answers. Before Millennials were a “thing”, you were just a young kid trying to find his way into the business. You listened and learned from the people around you with for more wisdom and experience. You figured it out, and you became a better person in the process.

If I had to do it all over again, I would absolutely commit myself to becoming the grizzled Millennial I am today. When you think about hiring a person under 40 who was working during 2008, consider asking them what they would have done differently then. Aside from moving back home with their parents, I’m guessing most of them will say, not much because things will get better.

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