One of the most rewarding parts of my career has been talking to high school and college students about finance. I’ve been doing it for years now.
In fact, one of my first memorable talks with a group of students was career day at my son’s school. Talk about a scary and humbling experience. This audience of roughly twenty-five 3rd graders was intimidating.
Imagine trying to connect with a bunch of hyped up kids with 30 minutes left in the school day on a sunny Friday afternoon in spring. If that wasn’t enough, I had to present after a volunteer firefighter and a guy that worked for Microsoft. He brought an XBox with him and claimed to have helped invent it. I severely doubted this fact, but the kids ate it up.
Then I was up... How do you follow that up? Talk about stress.
It started slowly. I didn’t exactly get the Mariano Rivera ‘Enter Sandman’ treatment to my intro that I was hoping for…
“Mr. Woods is a trader at the Stock Market. Do you guys know the stock market? He’s here to talk about it.”
Faces of confusion, a few yawns, and a couple friendly hellos from the kids on my little league team. We were the Orioles that year and pretty darn good... but I digress.
I had to make this as relatable as possible, keep their attention and show up the XBox guy. I looked over to my son and got a big smile. Ok, that’s all I needed. Let’s go!
I talked about being a market maker and being in one location where people would come to buy and sell things all day. To make this relatable, I went with the good old lemonade stand example.
“On this hot day, is lemonade going to be easy to sell?”, I asked them.
Kids started shouting out...
“I’m so thirsty, I’ll drink two glasses”
“I don’t like lemonade”... *note to self - avoid going back to that kid.
Ok... we have a product and we know there’s demand. They are following along. This is great.
So there seems to be a lot of people that want lemonade. This is what we call demand. That lemonade is going to cost money. How much should we charge for a glass? We established 50 cents.
Then we went to the supply side. Well, what if I told you there wasn’t enough for everybody to buy. What if we could only sell 5 glasses? I see everyone wants some, but we don’t have enough for everyone to meet the demand.
“Would anyone pay more than 50 cents?”, I asked them.
Most hands went up. “I’d pay a dollar, two dollars, FIVE!” The price was going higher. The demand outweighed the supply.
Then we switched it up. I told them we just got a delivery of more lemonade and the outside temperature is now really cold. How are we going to sell all that lemonade when its available for everyone and it’s so cold outside? Will the price stay high or should it decline?
“It will go down! I’m not paying $5 now!” They got the concept. Then I applied it to publicly traded companies.
Disney was the go-to stock for this crowd. If a new Disney movie opens up and everyone goes to see it, is that good for the stock?
Yes - they are making money, it should go up.
We kept it simple, engaging and fun. I survived my talk and enjoyed connecting with the kids. I may not have been as exciting as a firefighter or the XBox guy, but I connected.
So why am I even telling this story? Good question.
Those kids are now teenagers. They are Gen-Z. The next demographic of consumers of all the products we trade. They are the trend setters and the market drivers going forward. They are much more tech savvy than any generation before them. Finance is finally being taught to them at a younger age. In fact, finance is becoming embedded in their way of life.
This may be the biggest term to hit the financial world over the past 12 months, yet the concept is still quite new to most. In fact, it’s so new that my go-to website for all terms financial - Investopedia - doesn’t even have it listed.
A quick google search and you’ll get this definition…
Embedded finance is the future of the financial services industry. It's the merging of a non-financial service provider, such as a retailer or ride-sharing company, with a financial service, such as payment processing, lending, or insurance.
Quite simply, it’s a term used to describe FinTech’s ability to link one app to another to make paying for services simple. Whether it’s ride sharing, banking or investing, the services keep expanding and improving, making life easier and simpler for all.
As it relates to the next generation, I have a different take on the term embedded finance. For these teenagers who are on their iPhones all day and will rarely use cash, the future of finance will be embedded in their lives.
The way they invest by buying slices of shares or rounding up purchases of the products they use into stock of their favorite companies is just starting to revolutionize the financial industry. This will be the new normal.
Companies will build relationships with their consumers as they become natural shareholders. The newest investors will learn the importance of dollar cost averaging, compounding, and long term investing. They may also be acutely aware of quarterly earnings now that they have a vested interest in the companies they use and love.
Brand loyalty will take on a new meaning. The brand will have a small form of a buyback if they can maintain a strong relationship with their customer. The consumer will likely stay more faithful to the brand since they are a shareholder reaping benefits of special offers and knowing they will help the company’s bottom line.
This is just one of many potential ways that the future investor will be embedded into this new world of saving and investing. It will be organic, engaging and, yes, fun. They will be involved at an earlier age and more informed than those before them.
The lemonade stand example won’t be necessary because their ability to understand finance and saving will be adopted earlier. Their access to information and the fact that they will be ‘learning by doing’ will lead to an investment start that earlier generations could have only dreamed of.
To put it in perspective, Gen-Z is anyone born between 1997 and 2015. They are 6 to 24 years old. That’s 68 million people in the US alone. According to a google search…
they are expected to account for 40% of all customers. Even more astounding, one expert says “Generation Z is one of the most powerful consumer forces in the market today. Their buying power is $44 billion and expands to $600 billion when considering the influence they have on their parents' spending.”
In 2020, more than 10 million new brokerage accounts were opened. The new investors are here and, hopefully, most are here to stay. The way they invest will get easier and more accessible.
Who is on deck to start that next wave of investing after witnessing this latest mania? Yep - those kids that grew up with iPhones literally attached to their hands. They will embrace and use the new advances in FinTech that will be embedded into their everyday lives. With the proper education and the way things are heading, they will be much better off as a result.