We speak to Mike Mutsaers of online financial adviser Prosperify about why poor financial education is behind the lack of engagement among millennials, what makes millennials different to other age groups and how he’s helping make advice more accessible for millennials.
What is the thinking behind Prosperify? What inspired you to set it up?
Prosperify has been in the making for quite some time now, ever since we had multiple friends coming to us for investment advice. We realised that financial education isn’t taught in schools or by employers, so unless you have a friend or relative who is able to teach you, how are you supposed to learn about investing?
We set out to build a scalable solution to this. In our view, everyone should be able to access independent, clear and actionable advice on what to do with their money, without paying exorbitant fees. What’s more, we aim to provide content whereby everyone can educate themselves if they wish to.
In short, we aim to become an online independent financial adviser (IFA) for millennials: based on their answers to our question set, we will generate a personal dashboard showing them their financial position, and what they’re missing. We will recommend the best products to achieve their financial goals, amounts to invest, and most appropriate providers. And of course it will be free, as it should be.
What do you hope to achieve with it in the next five to ten years?
We want to become the go-to platform for millennials for financial advice. Much as the previous generation would go to their bank manager, or an IFA, we believe our generation will ask for this advice primarily online. Our aim is that certainly within the next five years, any millennial should have access to quality financial advice to take an informed decision which is in their best interests, just as easily as a rich 60-year-old could.
We’d love to be in a position where, over the next five to ten years, whenever someone has money to invest, their first thought is to trust Prosperify to guide them on how to do so.
To what extent is a lack of financial education affecting millennials?
In our experience, it’s affecting people by making them less engaged and more risk averse, which are both completely understandable. I think the industry generally is quite intimidating: there is a lot of jargon, it doesn’t seem targeted to our generation, and a lot of the time it seems people are just after your money. This is off-putting to everyone, but especially those with a lack of a financial education.
On the risk side, I think the lack of financial education causes people to misperceive risk to some extent. In the conversations we have with millennials, property is generally seen as a ‘safe investment’, whereas stocks are ‘risky’. I think a large part of this perception stems from the fact that not everyone understands the stock market, and it can just seem like gambling. A house on the other hand, everyone understands as it’s tangible. This may be right in some cases, but it’s a big generalisation and, we believe, causes people to disengage from investing and miss out on the benefits investing in the markets can bring.
Do you think millennials approach personal finances differently to other groups? Is the industry doing enough to cater to these differences?
Other than the obvious fact that millennials are more likely to engage with personal finance through mobile and online channels, I think it’s largely a question of wealth and circumstances. Millennials today are on lower real incomes than in the past, and that’s coupled with far higher house prices, meaning that generally speaking, a lot of the focus of this generation is on the housing issue, and getting on the housing ladder.
While there is a lot of marketing push and a lot of products aimed at addressing this, it means that millennials don’t have as much ‘wealth’ to invest. A lot of people we speak to in the industry frankly find millennials are too hard to attract as customers for it to be worth their while, given the fact that the average millennial isn’t bursting with savings to invest. We think this is a very short-termist view, as we hope to prove when we launch our product.
How well do you think millennials are coping when it comes to budgeting and personal finance?
It’s no secret that real wages are down significantly from 2007, meaning millennials generally are certainly struggling more financially at this stage of their lives than perhaps other generations were. The data we’ve seen however also shows that they save more than in the past.
So generally, I think millennials are quite disciplined when it comes to budgeting and personal finance in terms of setting goals and meeting them. It may also help that there are a plethora of apps to help with this. I think the problem comes with what to do with those savings? Leaving them in a bank account earning negligible interest means you are losing money in real terms. Prosperify is here to help solve that problem and put the money to work.
If you could give millennials just one piece of advice about personal finance, what would it be?
Understand the value of compound interest, and harness it.
What could the financial services industry do to make finance simpler?
Stop using jargon, and lower barriers to entry for young people: information and advice should be far more readily available than they are.
Prosperify is building a solution to provide you with free, reliable financial advice. Sign up at www.prosperify.co.uk to join the waitlist and gain exclusive pre-launch access.