Millennials; A case of “arrested adulthood?”

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I hadn’t heard of Bobby Duffy till last night, he sounds like a Simon Cowell creation rather than the star of the FCA’s “live at the Kings Foundation on a Monday night” show.

But there was Bobby clambering to the rostrum after an intro from the main man Bailey.

Bobby Duffy is an accomplished speaker and he speaks to slides with expertise. I’m going to try to put the full deck on slide share and share on this but for now you’ll have to make do with a few posted shots from our phones.

Bobby (@bobbyduffykings ) used to be the main man at Ipsos Mori but’s gone to Kings to write books. If he writes as good as he speaks, somebody’s reading him.

Myth or reality?

The talk was about myths – millennial myths principally. The big idea is that there are three effects that govern generational behaviours

  1. Period effects – things that define a generation like a war or the financial crisis.
  2. Lifecycle effects – how getting older changes your outlook
  3. cohort effects – the way some generations stay the same over time (the ageing hippy for instance).

So most of what Bobby had to say was about misconceptions we have  like “millennials show up late”. Showing up late is apparently something that young people do and once adults have drummed it into them that they’re being rude, they are adults and start drumming it into the generation coming behind them. This is a lifecycle effect.

And sometimes you get cohort effects where the impact of something like rationing stays with you for your lifetime (my Mum writes the price she pays for tins of food on the tins – some of the tins in her larder are marked pre-decimal). She needs to know the price as well as the value like it was 1948.

We did quite a lot of this myth and reality stuff with expensively produced cards (I’ve nicked some and will recycle at my events).

Stupid Bias’

I was quite interested in finding out why we are so pessimistic about our future finances. We looked at life expectancy and Bobby’s stats showed what we know, that people reckon they’ll live shorter than they do. We could have looked at the various actuarial projections over the years that show actuaries refusing to accept we could live longer. Interestingly, when it got to the point that we didn’t want people to live any longer, actuaries became negative in a new way and now tell us we are living the 100 year life.

Bobby thought that negativity has been built in as a protection mechanism since the days we lived in caves and had to imagine a sabre-toothed tiger behind every rock. I can now understand the pessimism of financial economists and the demise of DB schemes , they are living the noeolithic dream!

What isn’t so clear is why we are so optimistic about having enough money to meet our retirement needs. Everyone in the room knew it would cost £600,000 to buy an escalating annuity at 60 for £18,000 pa. And everyone who wasn’t in the room is clueless.

I love Phil Jackson’s comment, he’s spot on – we need a lot more financial planning to get our AgeWage. As well as being over pessimistic about our longevity we are unrealistic about the cost of paying ourselves a living wage in retirement!

Not so stupid bias’

Apart from being stuck in the stone age on longevity and the 1990s over annuity pricing, us boomers seem to have got everything else right. We have the housing wealth, the pension wealth and it looks like we really are in a happier place than our kids will ever be.

This is mainly because of “arrested adulthood” which spawns the perception that millennials are “lazy, entitled, narcissist who still live with their parents”.

Perhaps in the interests of self-preservation (there were plenty of millennials in the room), Bobby pointed out that the only part of this perception which was true was that millennials live with their parents in “arrested development”.

It’s not just they can’t afford to own – they can’t afford to rent



About henry tapper

Founder of the Pension PlayPen,, partner of Stella, father of Olly . I am the Pension Plowman
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1 Response to Millennials; A case of “arrested adulthood?”

  1. alan chaplin says:

    My memory mixed up real and TV names … bobby Duffy brings Dallas to mind 😉

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