It's one of the most criticized and misunderstood generations. Millennials — folks born roughly between 1982 and 2004, often characterized as self-centered, materialistic and super tech-savvy — are no longer the future. They’re here right now.

They behave differently than others from previous generations. If you’re a financial advisor working with high-net-worth millennials, read on to see what your clients are really looking for. (For more, see: A Financial Advisor's Guide to Millennial Clients.

They Want Freedom

Unlike some generations, the millennial group doesn’t dream of retiring early to sit on a beach. They want to save up and spend money on the things that really matter to them. Millennials are very conscious and aware of their values.

“I do not see a strong desire to retire early,” said Vincent Wagner, CFP and President of Guide Tower Financial Planning, LLC. “Instead I see a focus on lifestyle and the ability to spend more time doing what they enjoy (family, travel, business).”

Christine Haviaris, CPA, CFP, said that it’s not so much that millennials don’t care about early retirement, but that they care more about having freedom in their lives. They don’t mind working longer if it gets them closer to their goals. Money is a road to freedom that allows them to have more choices in their lives.

Millennials Want Jobs They Like

Millennials tend to be very entrepreneurial. At the very least, they want to enjoy their jobs. The days of young people working for the same company for 40 years are over. And if they’re going to switch companies every few years, they at least want to be in a career they like.

“They want careers that they enjoy,” said Sophia Bera, CFP and founder of Gen Y Planning. “Whether it's starting a business or working for a company that aligns with their values, they know they'll be working for a long time so they want to believe in the work they're doing.” (For more, see: Are Millennials All About Responsible Investing?)

They Need Work-Life Balance

CFP Katie Brewer, of Your Richest Life Planning, said she has many clients who don’t enjoy what they currently do. Part of the reason they save is to have the flexibility to do something different, whether it’s “starting their own businesses to changing into a different career to pursuing their PhD,” she said. “Most Millennials I've worked with would rather find a good work-life balance now or in the near future than wait until a traditional retirement age.” 

Millennials Care About the World

Contrary to the constant refrain that millennials are selfish, Andrew Mohrmann, CFP and founder of Modern Dollar Planning, finds that many of his clients are the opposite. They don’t dream of being rich for the sake of themselves; they want to use their money to benefit the causes they care about.

“They feel a sense of obligation and responsibility that comes with wealth,” he said. “As an outsider, you might assume that all your stresses and worries would disappear if you had enough wealth for your lifetime. When I talk with these people, however, there is a heavyweight in how to steward their wealth to make an impact on the world, especially if the wealth was inherited.”

The Bottom Line

The millennial generation is made up of a different breed of investors. Their main goal is not to retire at age 60 with a full portfolio and a plane ticket around the world. They want to travel now, they want to start their own businesses while they’re young, and they want to change the world. They don’t want to be tied down to a job they hate that requires them to be on the clock 24 hours a day. 

“They certainly seek independence, autonomy and flexibility, but they also want to use their time and resources to make the world a little better than they found it,” Mohrmann said. (For related reading, see: The Biggest Financial Mistakes Millennials Make.)