Get to know your millennials before deciding what they need.

There are a lot of think pieces, blog posts and even news articles out there about millennials and how different we are. Some are more successful than others, but an unfortunate number of them are just plain wrong. I call these millennial misconceptions, mostly for the alliteration.

But why do people seem to care about millennials so much? It could be because we’re an ever-growing portion of the workforce. It could be because our buying behaviors seem to mystify marketing execs. Or maybe it’s because we dodge online advertisements like Neo from The Matrix.

My own working theory is that we all just love to lump groups of people together and make big, sweeping generalizations about them.

There’s nothing any writer can say that will be true about a whole generation of consumers, so I won’t even try. Instead, I’m here to offer you three millennial misconceptions, in the hopes that we can let some of these toxic stereotypes die.

Millennials are killing your industry

Of all millennial misconceptions, this one irks me the most. For starters, if you’re looking to learn about millennials you should probably be suspicious of any article with the title “Millennials are killing the [INSERT NAME HERE] industry.” Yes, even Forbes has been guilty of this. In nearly every one of these articles, the writer ultimately failed to listen to actual millennials.

When you see this headline, pay attention to the “dead” industry. It’s almost always something expensive, unnecessary, and formerly profitable. There’s a more obvious conclusion here, but it seems to escape everyone. It probably involves millennials’ income-to-debt ratio and the price of this unnecessary product. (But you know, math is hard.)

Nevertheless, there are industries that have been going under, where millennials refuse to buy. There are also many unnecessary and expensive products from companies that millennials are happy to support. It’s not really a secret that we tend to buy from brands we’re comfortable with. Millennials just have some different ideas about why.

Millennials don’t want to buy houses, cars or babies

Wait, can you even buy babies? Kinda? No? Never mind.

Despite what you’ve heard, millennials aren’t child-phobic, house-apathetic or new-car-adverse. We aren’t all looking to live the DINK life. We don’t prefer paying rent to paying a mortgage, and who hates that new car smell?

Not to rehash my earlier point here, but new houses, new cars, and new babies all sound expensive. And really, they are. 

The reality is, millennials are having trouble meeting those milestones, not putting them off. If you sat down with a millennial and asked them what guides their financial decisions, they’d probably show you their student loan statements

Millennials don’t work hard, but expect to be praised anyway

There’s this persistent myth that millennials are entitled, have an attitude, and are generally lazy. A lot of this might be just a generational get-off-my-lawn complaint. However, it is true that millennials have been more financially reliant on their parents than recent generations.

But with the price of tuition in the stratosphere, the minimum wage unconscionably low, and the possibility of a second recession, can you blame us? We’re likely going to be the first generation in American history to be poorer than our parents.

No amount of bootstrap-pulling could lift an entire generation up, but that doesn’t mean you can’t help. Millennials need a lot of advice and assistance, as soon as possible. A lot of us don’t know how to save, how to manage our debt, or how to plan for the future.

Don’t rely on people like me to tell you what millennials are looking for. Ask them yourself. Get to know your millennials before deciding what they need.

And PLEASE put these millennial misconceptions to rest.

Sam Dicken

Email this article to a friend or coworker.