The millennial member is an oft-dissected commodity. This demographic — considered those from ages 18-34 — grew up during, in some ways, a traumatic period of American history.
The Great Recession was the worst financial crisis since the 1930s and before that, the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 changed this country’s foreign policy and security measures drastically. For millennials, these events occurred during their formative years and impacted their view of the world, as well as their finances.
But what about for a more specific subset of millennials?
Navy Federal Credit Union ($73.3B, Merrifield, VA) serves six million members worldwide, about 40% of them millennials, says the credit union’s corporate economist, Alan MacEachin. And these military millennials have a slightly different take on their finances than non-military millennials.
At a Thursday morning breakfast held in Washington DC, Navy Federal released the results of the “Military Millennials and their Money” survey, conducted by Forrester Consulting. The findings were gathered via a 10-minute online survey in October 2015, using a sample size of 1,312 millennials from the ages of 18-34, 333 of whom were considered military millennials (those who are active duty, or their spouses and partners).
According to CEO Cutler Dawson, military millennials lead an “accelerated lifestyle.” At a young age they have full-time employment, fewer set expenses, and a greater degree of financial independence, though they may not be well versed in personal finance. To wit, a recent study shows that only 17 states require high school students to take a class in personal finance.
The study found that military millennials are more satisfied and confident with their current financial situation than non-military millennials, but that there is still a need for financial literacy among this group.
In terms of overall satisfaction and confidence:
87% of military millennials were satisfied with their current financial situation, compared to 66% of non-military millennials
89% of military millennials were on track to meet their five-year goals, compared to 78% of non-military millennials
82% of military millennials will save more in 2016 than in 2015, compared to 69% of non-military millennials
77% of military millennials feel prepared for a financial emergency, compared to 60% of non-military millennials
“Though military millennials are confident,” says Marcia Sanford, vice president of member research, intelligence and development at the credit union, “they are more likely to have slipups along the way.”
Based on the survey data:
21% of military millennials missed a credit card payment within the past year, compared to 11% of non-military millennials
22% of military millennials have used a payday loan within the past year, compared to 10% of non-military millennials
16% of military millennials have missed at least one mortgage payment in the past two years, compared to 6% of non-military millennials
This underscores a need for better financial education, something which Navy Federal has strived to provide.
Breakfast For Two
The breakfast served two purposes. One, to introduce the findings of the aforementioned survey (the full results of which can be viewed here). And two, to introduce a new website that went live today.
In addition to social media campaigns and in-branch subject matter experts, Navy Federal has introduced a site called Making Cents, which includes resources intended to address characteristics of the credit union’s audience such as:
73% of military millennials like to do research on their own before making financial decisions, compared to 69% of non-military millennials
58% rely on financial advice from professionals, compared to 41% of non-military millennials
56% trust digital finance advice, compared to 38% of non-military millennials
Making Cents focuses on helping young credit union members (and non-members) learn and make decisions about spending, saving, and borrowing smartly. In building this site, says Matt Freeman, Navy Federal’s manager of credit card products, the credit union wanted to create a place where content was easy to access, easy to understand, and relevant to each user’s life situation.
The website is designed to tailor information specifically for users based on any of three selected goals, such as “improve finances,” “pay for college,” and “buy a car,” among others. Information is presented in the form of articles, videos, infographics, quizzes, and slideshows.
“We’re looking to provide them with more financial education information and through the digital realm,” says Meghan Gound, the credit union’s assistant vice president of digital communications.
Of course, there’s no shortage of financial education information floating around the Internet these days. But what separates Making Cents (and other credit union online financial education sites) is something that others can’t currently offer: the trust placed in a credit union.
Information is always accessible, it’s just a matter of when someone is personally ready to seek it. And CEO Dawson feels that individuals are searching for information from people and sites that, most of all, they trust.
Dawson believes strongly in the importance of face-to-face relationship building. He tells a story from July 5 last year, when he was visiting a branch in Virginia Beach, VA.
It was 10 a.m. He saw a young couple in the branch getting information about a mortgage. Dawson, who served in the Navy, noticed the gentleman. Short hair. Beard. The CEO thought he might know what this young man did. So he asked, and was right.
The man hadn’t been in the States for six months. Hadn’t seen his wife in six months. Hadn’t had a day to himself in six months. Literally. He had arrived the day before after serving six months in Afghanistan, as a Navy SEAL.
And the first thing this man did on his first day back after six months overseas was, with his wife, walk into a Navy Federal branch and ask about a mortgage loan, wanting to prepare his family and himself for the future. That’s the kind of trust Dawson wants to build.