We know all about the financial challenges faced by millennials. The Great Recession took a big bite out of their wages, and its ripple effects will continue to dampen their earnings potential for years to come. Wealth accumulation for Gen Y took an even bigger hit, especially for those burdened by high student debt. These young people are less likely to invest in stocks, or to start a business, and are delaying traditional milestones such as homeownership and marriage.

Less talked about is the fact that, in spite of these real challenges, millennials have a pretty healthy set of habits and instincts when it comes to money. They exhibit better financial discipline than they are given credit for; they are appropriately skeptical of authority and financial institutions; they are entrepreneurial in spirit, but cautious about risk; and they value meaning and purpose in addition to material well-being.

What doesn’t seem to be recognized at all is the untapped potential of combining the two. Take the bad economic hand millennials have been dealt, add in their healthy habits and instincts, and you have the conditions for a real breakthrough: a sea change in how we think of and practice financial planning.

Millennials can be at the forefront of a new, more holistic approach to financial fitness, and to integrating finance into a broader vision of a fulfilled life. But they need help in defining that vision, and in mapping a strategy to get them there. And in order for that to happen, financial advisors must reinvent themselves and how they think about their services. They must enlarge their mission, and expand the value they provide to all clients, millennials especially, into non-financial realms.

Millennials, Money and Marketing
Millennials face a kind of perfect economic storm I call the “millennial disadvantage.” In addition to the lingering effects of the Great Recession, they’ve inherited a trend of growing inequality that was worsened by that crisis, but predates it. And they’re trying to set in motion the wheels of wealth accumulation in the early stages of what some experts predict to be an extended new normal marked by tepid growth in the economy as a whole and, in the market, below average returns and high volatility.

The modest prospects for the stock market should lead investors to behave cautiously and prudently. But unfortunately, investors often do the opposite of what they should. Oaktree Capital’s Howard Marks warns us that a low-return world all too often produces risky behavior—as investors try to replicate the returns they took for granted during previous bull markets and as the financial services industry pumps out new investment products that promise above-average returns for below-average risk. The coming years could well prove tricky, forcing even experienced investors to be especially discerning in detecting hidden risks and unrealistic projections.

In the face of all this adversity, the challenge for millennials is clear: They have to learn how to earn smarter, save smarter and invest smarter. I believe they’re up to that challenge. But the financial services industry, despite a set of much-hyped products supposedly designed to appeal to millennials, isn’t stepping up to the plate in the way it could, and should.

You could fill an entire bookcase with books and articles about how to market to millennials. That literature captures some of what makes millennials special. But it doesn’t go to the heart of who millennials are, precisely because its primary goal is to market to them. For the most part, it uses the language of millennials to try to sell old-school financial services dressed up in new-school lingo. It doesn’t take the next step: which is to go beyond buzzwords and marketing to craft an entirely new philosophy of financial planning.

The Odyssey Years
In a 2007 New York Times column, David Brooks put a fresh spin on the apparent wanderings of a growing number of twentysomethings as they negotiated an extended transition between adolescence and adulthood. A year before the financial crisis that would only accelerate these trends, young people were already slower to embark on marriage, children, permanent employment and homeownership. Yet it was a mistake, he said, to dismiss this phase as simply “slacking off.” It was instead a reasonable response to a more fluid world increasingly characterized by uncertainty, searching and tinkering. It was, fundamentally, a kind of improvised search for meaning and purpose.

Five years later, psychologist Meg Jay also warned against dismissing this emerging stage of life Brooks called “The Odyssey Years.” In her book The Defining Decade, she wrote that glib phrases like “30 is the new 20” implied young people were stuck in a rut of stunted growth. Delaying the traditional milestones of adulthood doesn’t mean delaying the process of adulthood. Rather than viewing this decade as a developmental downtime, we should see it as a developmental “sweet spot.”

Jay backs up her assertion with the latest neuroscience showing that in our 20s our brains go through a second and last growth spurt as they rewire themselves for adulthood. We experience more personality change in our 20s than in any other stage of our life. If we want to establish good lifelong habits, this is the time to do it—which is why one thing young people shouldn’t delay is developing the habit of saving and investing, however modestly. In the book and in her work with patients, she stresses the importance of accumulating what she calls “identity capital,” experiences and skills that create long-term value.

Beyond Wealth Management
The traditional language of financial planning doesn’t speak to this fluid phase of exploration and experimentation so many millennials go through. Terms like “wealth accumulation” don’t resonate with a generation that sees adulthood as a process, an extended journey, and who are more concerned with accumulating a wealth of experience. Lacking the life cycle milestones of earlier generations, they are resistant to the idea of meeting financial milestones.

Yet that doesn’t mean they don’t need guidance, and help in putting together a road map for that journey. Jay finds she has to nudge patients to approach their twentysomething explorations with intention and purpose, or they’ll find themselves turning 30 and feeling the decade somehow got away from them. Similarly, there is an opportunity for financial advisors to step forward and offer a more expansive, holistic set of services that integrates financial and life goals, money and meaning. But this new breed of services has to speak a different language, and to walk it and not just talk it. It has to redefine wealth and value as embracing not just the material and financial, but experience, purpose, community and fulfillment.

There is a rich, untapped field of unmet needs here. Job-hopping has become the norm for millennials, who typically leave a job after two years. This deprives them of the kind of mentoring relationships afforded by long-term employment. A financial advisor who can provide a mix of financial and life coaching is invaluable. Young people certainly exhibit a thirst for this kind of assistance: Studies show they are obsessed with the idea of self-improvement, and willing to invest handsomely in it.

What does all this have to do with the mission of a financial advisor? Nothing, if we conceive of our role narrowly, and strictly in terms of finances and managing wealth. But I would argue that such a narrow vision is a dead end.

Jason Kirsch, CFP, is a financial professional who is dedicated to educating his peers on topics such as personal finance and self-improvement. He is the founder of Grow, a millennial-focused financial firm, and lives in Los Angeles with his wife and two dogs.