A full quarter of affluent American millennials are using or holding cryptocurrency. That’s among the findings in the Millennials with Money report from Edelman.
The survey defines affluent millennials as aged 24-38, making $100,000 in individual or joint income, or having $50,000 in investable assets.
An additional 31% are interested in using cryptocurrency.
The numbers surprised Deidre Campbell, Edelman’s Global Chair of Financial Services. But, she adds, it’s not a shocking figure to the millennials she speaks with.
“Anyone that has crypto tells me they wish they bought it sooner,” she says.
Millennials also prefer cash more than other generations. Campbell says that the strong habit of saving makes millennials comfortable with risks associated with crypto. It should be noted that it’s been a brutal year for cryptocurrencies: after a huge run-up in 2017, so far this year bitcoin is down 54%, while other coins like ether and litecoin have dropped further.
“It’s not inherently that they’re riskier,” Campbell explained. “But rather, better supported with savings. So they’re open to different opportunities.”
Campbell also says that because millennials tend to be more skeptical of the financial services sector, blockchain technology, upon which cryptocurrency is built, has appeal.
“I think it’s a sense of a younger generation being open to more risk in their portfolio and willing to try new things with crypto.”
A dark outlook
The report found that millennials – and affluent millennials in particular – are wary of the financial system.
More than three-quarters of affluent millennials said that it’s “just a matter of time” before another financial crisis hits. That’s compared to 58% of non-affluent millennials. They are also more fearful of personal information being stolen. A full 75% are worried that the global financial system will be hacked, compared to 58% of their non-affluent counterparts.
A 2016 Facebook report found only 8% of millennials surveyed trusted financial institutions to give them guidance. This general distrust has given rise to saving and investing apps like Acorns, Robinhood, and Stash. The low-cost and easy-to-use platforms have been particularly appealing to millennials who shy away from more traditional investing methods.
It’s no surprise to Campbell that, with such a dark outlook of financial institutions, nearly 75% of the affluent millennials surveyed believe blockchain makes the global financial system more secure.
“A lot of people have a hope that blockchain will be a part of the answer for security and data security,” Campbell said. (Blockchain is a decentralized distributed ledger that is open to the public and can record transactions; it is the technology that underpins bitcoin, and has other applications, including in the financial services area.)
The story was different two years ago. Edelman’s 2016 report found that a staggering 82% of all millennials trusted banks, compared to 64% of the general population.
But, Campbell says, a lot has happened in two years.
“Geopolitical unrest is a near-daily occurrence, and has replaced a more hopeful outlook,” she said. “Two years ago we were talking about financial services regulatory reform. And there’s been none of that conversation happening now — except for the unwinding. So I think now, with the riskier environment we are living in – against a strong economy and uncertainty in the markets – has caused that.”
And in two years time, Campbell says the interest in crypto will only grow.
“I think it will definitely carry on,” she predicted. “I think that we’ll see innovation that will leapfrog crypto. I think the role of quantum computing along with AI [artificial intelligence] will change our relationship with financial services even more than it has.”
“They say millennials will also be the smartest generation of investors because they’ve grown with different fintech platforms,” she said. “They have more experience with their own money because it’s accessible to them on their phone. It’s giving them more insight and control into their financial future.”
But there is room for concern.
Many millennials are choosing to go it alone when making financial decisions. Nearly half of non-affluent millennials make decisions without help or advice. An additional 42% seek outside advice, but then still make their own decisions.
“It’s a concern if they aren’t getting professional financial advice,” Campbell said. “How will they get to the next level?”
Kristin Myers is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.
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