By Michael Strelcheck
Perhaps the greatest threat to our society’s way of life is the growing concern about individual’s financial future. As we all know the country’s Social Security safety net is rapidly approaching insolvency and the future of its viability will be a major topic in the upcoming national elections – and it’s the “elephant in the room” at many social functions. Many would-be candidates vehemently proclaim that our country cannot afford to keep borrowing to insure people’s financial retirement, which seems to be saying that one shouldn’t count on SS for the long-term future. So what are the youth of our communities to do?
Since our government is gridlocked in its quandary about the future of the Social Security System, young Millennials aren’t waiting for Congress to come up with a plan and are taking creative action themselves. There’s a growing trend across the country for young professionals to get together and talk about typically off-limits topics, like their finances and if it’s worth investing in a 401(k) (if a company doesn’t provide matching funds), as well as other such sticky topics as the possible integration of religion and state (which seems to be what the Pope is promoting with his opinions on global warming).
Interestingly, the Millennials’ (20’s to mid 30’s) interest in social media is providing a hot bed for the sharing of creative ideas as well as new ways for them to problem solve. LearnVest, a budgeting and financial management site, is a new company that’s promoting gatherings where individuals come together for fun as well as learning. The founder of the company suggests a new social process is happening that, dare I say, sounds very New Age. CEO Alexa von Tobel shares, “There’s a social dynamic to doing things that are hard together in groups. It makes things more fun and approachable.”
For those who have followed the idea that humanity has started a New Age (with the advent of the passing through 2012), you’ve also probably heard about the dawning of the Age of Aquarius that comes with it. Accordingly to astrological science, the predominate qualities of the sign of Aquarius are its “gregarious” or fun loving social nature, as well as its “practical” spirit. Due to these qualities many pundits have speculated that the New Age will bring to humanity a renewed interest in social interaction that will inspire interaction that will inspire people to come together in group activities. Interestingly, many new businesses are now combining these two qualities in the promotion of their services.
For example, internet crowd source sites such as Phroogal, with the blog Cashville Skyline, organized a series of gatherings as part of “Phroogal’s 30-day Road to Financial Wellness” tour. The tour, which visited a new location every day in June, provided advice on different ideas and strategies for financial management. One participant reported that it “wasn’t the average lunch.” Although lunchtime financial seminars aren’t a new idea, there seems to be a new life to the concept and a growing number of financial start-ups are sprucing up the “stodgy” industry by capitalizing on the public’s growing interest in “social connecting” by integrating social experiences with business strategies. These companies are hosting coffee meet-ups, happy hours, dinner parties, wine tasting events, movies and even karaoke nights in place of traditional meetings with financial advisers. Their goal is to increase access to free financial advice through a relaxed and informal setting where individuals can connect with others of like mind.
Could it be that a new trend is emerging from “social media” that’s laying the groundwork for the future of our society? A trend that’s helping individuals come together in shared mutual interest and which naturally inspires practical solutions? A trend that helps to empower the individual through the sharing of opinions? Only in time will we know. But for one, I’m starting to like what’s happening.