In Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, a play by Tom Stoppard, two of the minor characters in Shakespeare’s Hamlet become the major characters, while Hamlet, Ophelia and Polonius are all relegated to walk-on parts.
The two title characters of the play are charged with figuring out what ails Hamlet, and they try a role-playing game, with Guildenstern as Hamlet and Rosencrantz as the interrogator. You should read the full exchange, but one of the best lines in the play is delivered by Rosencrantz:
“To sum up: your father, whom you love, dies, you are his heir, you come back to find that hardly was the corpse cold before his young brother popped on to his throne and into his sheets, thereby offending both legal and natural practice. Now, why exactly you behaving in this extraordinary manner?”
In recent weeks, several well-intentioned (if self-serving) surveys have appeared, trying to divine, exactly, why Millennials are so suspicious of pretty much the entire financial world. TD Bank, for example, found that only 1/8th of Millennials sought financial information from a bank. Fidelity discovered that one in four trust no one about financial information. And, thankfully, most Millennials don’t own annuities.
Of course, the implied question here for Millennials is, “Why exactly are you behaving in this extraordinary manner?” Bearing in mind that Millennials were born between 1980 and 2000 (roughly), there are a few reasons:
- Millennials have lived through the two worst bear markets since the Great Depression. The odds are fairly good that these bear markets had a negative effect on their families’ fortunes.
- Millennials have lived through the worst recession since the Great Depression. The odds are fairly good that one or both of their parents were laid off, especially if they worked in the previously booming financial services sector.
- Millennials have lived through the worst housing meltdown since the Great Depression. The odds are good that Millennials know people who lost their house, their job, and their savings in relatively short order.
Why, exactly, do Millennials distrust the financial services industry? It’s a mystery.