July 01, 2016

Turning the millennial "adulting" gap into opportunity

By Alicia Valko

“Adulting” sucks.

As part of the infamous millennial generation, I’ve begun to understand just how difficult (and confusing and soul-crushing) adulting can be.

For those of you not familiar with the term, “adulting” is a blanket expression millennials assign to performing tasks typically reserved for adults — and doing so when you still very much view yourself as a “kid”. Doing your taxes, buying a lawn mower, getting health insurance, taking multivitamins, planning for retirement, and so on. And yes, it’s overwhelming.

But doesn’t every generation deal with this?

Well, sure. But keep in mind that, we millennials came of age during a hugely stressful time. Graduating college saddled with student loan debt, we’ve faced higher unemployment rates, lower average incomes, higher rents, and an unstable housing market — just to name a few. And these stressors have contributed to the delayed development of my much-criticized generation.

Today, 36 percent of 18–34 year olds are living with their parents (yep, did it), and only 20 percent are married with children (down from 49% in 1970). And 7 in 10 millennials can’t afford to start actively planning for retirement until they’ve paid off their student loans (roughly a decade after they graduate).

Yet we simply can’t afford not to. The loss of retirement savings resulting from student loans will cost millennials, on average, $684,474 in retirement savings by the time they reach the age of 75.


Whelmed 1430938192

We need help.

Among millennials there’s a huge appetite for products and solutions that understand these “adulting” hurdles. But so far, only a few brands have gotten onboard. Companies that have caught on early have uncovered the keys to grabbing the challenging millennial market:

1. Create something authentic. MassMutual got it right in creating Society of Grownups as a separate entity specifically for millennials. Society of Grownups makes being a “grownup” less terrible through coffee chats, supper clubs and happy hours.

2. Show, don’t tell. Genworth Financial unveiled a VR experience at CES that made participants feel what it’s like to get old. Completely terrifying, IMO, but definitely enough to inspire better preparation for ageing.

3. Make it fun. Givling was created as a crowdfunding game to help millennials pay off student loans while having fun at the same time.

We’ve used these principles to help our client, Guardian Life Insurance, make financial planning more authentic, interactive and fun. The My Retirement Walk microsite is interactive and bright to engage millennials, and stocked with tools to prepare them for retirement. The site also gamifies retirement through interactive quizzes that then lead to custom results and recommendations.


1. Huffington Post

2. Mother Jones

3. Upworthy

4. NerdWallet