Millennials were the biggest group to sign up for their employer 401(k) program in the first half of 2014, defying stereotypes and presenting new business opportunities for advisors, according to a new retirement planning study.

Bank of America Merrill Lynch found that nearly 40,000 of millennial workers who enrolled in their employer’s 401(k) plans lead the study released this week. The surge represents a 55% increase in millennial first-time contributors from the same period last year, according to the wirehouse’s biannual 401(k) Wellness Scorecard.

The statistics present a unique opportunity for advisors to approach conversations with the younger generation of investors in a more personalized way.

“Advisors should think about really engaging with a human being one-on-one – regardless if they’re a millennial, of their gender, regardless of their stage in life and not really relying on their perception as an advisor of what they’re going to want,” says Michael Liersch, director of behavioral finance at Merrill.

“But instead," he adds, "advisors should be asking clients directly: 'What are your goals? What are you trying to accomplish, and what do you want from me?'”

The scorecard collects data on employer adoption of BofA Merrill Lynch 401(k) plans and workplace savings vehicles, as well as behavioral trends of employee participants. Saving for retirement and healthcare was prioritized by employees of all ages in the scorecard. 401(k) first-time enrollment increased 37% across all generations in the first half of the year. The wirehouse says automatic enrollment has played a crucial part in the jump.

Liersch noted several misperceptions about millennial behaviors, including one suggesting that they are more interested in spending, rather than saving and investing. Those that do save take the conservative approach: they stash cash under the mattress.

“The actual data of behaviors of employees aren’t playing that stereotype out,” he adds.

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