Understanding Generational Money Chatter Online

April 12, 2017
person with credit card and laptop

New research by Hope Schau is helping the banking industry understand how different generations approach money issues.

Schau, associate dean of Eller MBA Programs and Gary M. Munsinger Chair in Entrepreneurship, is leading the Filene Research Institute’s Center for Consumer Decision Making through a four-year, $1 million research grant to examine consumer decision making in the financial sector. The grant is funded by CUNA (Credit Union National Association).

The first report, coauthored by Schau and doctoral student Ignacio Luri, is a guide to Millennial financial discourse. Schau and Luri used netnography – an interpretive research method that adapts traditional ethnographic work to a digital environment – to analyze financial conversations among Millennials.

“Netnography is an excellent way to truly understand how young adults talk about money as they don’t think about their ‘responses’ as responses at all,” she said. “The objective of this research was to look for significant and unique language markers to understand how Millennials in particular deal with financial issues.”
Schau and Luri analyzed representative Twitter content, blogs and forums to capture the wider Millennial conversation about money, including the specific language they use to talk about personal finance and what that language revealed about their perception of financial services, instruments and institutions.

“Student debt monopolizes the money talk among Millennials, and the conversation is full of negative feelings,” Schau said, adding that their research is critical to credit unions, since Millennials are the largest living generation and represent the next potential heavy users of financial services and instruments.

“An emerging fintech market is appealing directly to this generation and poses a threat to credit union objectives for greater Millennial engagement,” she said. “We believe there is an opportunity for credit unions to tap into this generation’s perceptions of personal finance by utilizing the same money chatter phrases in marketing communications and investing time and resources to engage with them online.”Future research funded by the grant will focus on consumer borrowing and comparing money discourse across generations (Boomers, Xers and Millennials). 

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