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Talking to millennials about money with Patrick O’Shaughnessy of Millennial Invest

Est. 4 min read

Above, Patrick O’Shaugnessy, author of “Millennial Money”

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You might’ve seen the headlines. “Why Millennials Are Scared To Invest” reads one. “Millennials Trust No One When It Comes To Their Personal Finances” says another. So it might seem crazy for Patrick O’Shaughnessy to write a book and blog dedicated to telling millennials to invest their money.

But O’Shaughnessy, son of James P. O’Shaughnessy, founder and CEO of O’Shaughnessy Asset Management, LLC, isn’t crazy. His writing, available at Millennial Invest and in bookstores nationwide, is clear, concise, and easy to understand. Even the most money-averse reader will come away from O’Shaughnessy’s writing with a better understanding of complex financial topics.

We sat down with O’Shaughnessy to ask him a few questions about the blog, his writing style, and how he talks to millennials.

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When did you start your blog and why?

My goals with the blog are to educate those interested in investing and to learn myself about a wide variety of investing topics. I learn along with my readers by doing lots of research and sharing my findings.

Do you have a specific tactic when it comes to writing to a millennial audience?

I like to keep things simple, fun, and jargon-free. My goal is to explain things in terms that anyone can understand. The worst thing about investing is that it can get very complicated and intimidating, which causes people to shut down. I try to write in a very honest, open voice and often weave in stories from my own life (both in the blog and in my book Millennial Money) to make things more accessible to my readers.

Have millennials been receptive to your work?

Very much so. Millennials are very skeptical, which makes them great readers. I want people questioning everything I write, because I will be wrong sometimes. Having smart, interested readers has made me and my writing better.

What are the biggest challenges when it comes to talking to millennials about money?

Millennials have two big issues: high unemployment and lots of student loan debt. Overcoming those issues. Many conversations are non-starters because of these two issues. It’s very hard to save if you don’t have a job or are making huge interest payments on loan debt.

If millennials continue to be conservative with their money, what will the long-term effects be?

If they continue to favor cash over stocks, their long term results will be subpar because inflation slowly eats away at the value of cash. Short term peace of mind comes at the expense of long-term wealth.

What’s the best way to reach millennials? How do we gain their trust when it comes to money?

Millennials are extremely active online and favor automated, technology driven solutions to their needs. Web-based word of mouth, blogs, twitter, facebook, and books are all great ways of reaching the millennial audience. I try to do my best to reach millennials across all of those channels. When it comes to money, we want to know that we aren’t getting screwed. We distrust the big banks, but so far love companies like Wealthfront which use technology to automate the investing process at a fairly low cost.

What kind of funds should someone just one or two years out of college be putting their limited free income into?

Focus on low cost, global index funds from providers like Vanguard (ETFs or mutual funds) or rules based value-investing-focused ETFs (check out offerings from Cambria and Alpha Architect).

What was the most important piece of advice you’ve ever received about managing your money?

That your behavior matters more than anything. Our emotions cause us to do the wrong thing at the wrong time (e.g. sell in panic AFTER a crash and buy greedily at market tops). Successful investing is about removing your emotions from the equation completely. The best way to do so is to make your investment contributions automatic and to check your portfolio as infrequently as possible.

How does your book fit into your strategy to reach millennial audiences?

The book is meant to provide the basics that millennials need to get off on the right foot. Parents should buy it for their young kids, and millennials for themselves and for their friends. It is short (200 pages), it is not complicated, and I wrote it to be as fun and interesting a read as possible. I’ve tried to distill the most important aspects of investing into a readable package with the hope that it will truly change people’s choices and behavior. The beautiful thing about investing is that youth is the number one advantage. If you start very young, then you will have a leg up on most everyone else because there is no substitute for time spent in the market. I encourage all millennials to seize this opportunity and get going with their investments.

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Millennial Money CoverCheck out Patrick O’Shaughnessy’s book, Millennial Money: How Young Investors Can Build A Fortune, available now. And make sure to follow him on Twitter @millennial_inv.

Published on November 10, 2014

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Adam Cecil writes for PolicyGenius, a digital insurance brokerage trying to make sense of insurance for consumers. You can read more of his writing on his site.
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