Advisors: Don’t You Forget About Me

GenX

As I continue to grow in my role as a millennial contributor to Practically Speaking®, I read and research a ton on the constant perception of struggle between Millennials and Baby Boomers. One of my early posts highlighted the need to fire my advisor due to the fact we just were no longer a good fit, but with the intention that I want to continue working with an advisor. I’ve always positioned myself as an “older millennial”, which translates to having generational traits of both Millennials and Gen Xers. While there is a warranted amount of effort spent throughout the industry to connect Millennial investors with advisors, the same talking point applies to the latchkey kids who seem to often wonder, what about me?

I’d like to introduce Laura, who as a guest blogger represents the Gen Xers and makes a strong case to financial advisors to explore a new target market of “meh” investors who also need your help!

Hi. I’m Laura. As a kid, I saw MTV’s first day. As a teen, I blasted Raising Hell and Purple Rain on a record player, owned a fanny pack, and feared Russia – the last time those were on trend. And I was in college when the Berlin Wall came down. I am Generation X. Now, I’m a fortysomething mom to two high schoolers, I have a mortgage, a company-sponsored 401k, a little more debt than I should, and I do not have a financial advisor.

I admitted that last one in a meeting with the other writers of this blog. It went over as you’d expect. They encouraged me to rectify this situation, and to share that experience with you.

But why?

The late 80s/early 90s were a cynical time to become an adult. And I was as apathetic as the best of them. Despite the current non-stop frenzy about the generation behind us, we Xers ALSO graduated during not ideal financial times. We are ACTUALLY the first generation to do worse than its parents. We are the first true generation of divorced or two-working-parent households, so our parents were distracted and too busy to show up when we received the occasional trophy for winning (that’s right, I went for the low hanging fruit), but they did manage to mention approximately 8000 times that pensions were disappearing. That there would be no social security, that “retirement” would be retired. So we were generally pretty meh before meh had its name.

Beyond pop culture touchstones, I actually don’t like discussing things as generational. It’s specious to suggest that we operate homogeneously. I’m sure there are plenty of my cohorts who found a financial advisor early and are on a path different from mine. But I did an informal poll of a very specific subset of the population (read: my friends and co-workers who are Gen Xers.) Seventy-five percent of those I polled do not have an advisor.  All stated four reasons similar to my own:

  1. I assumed I need a dump truck of money to start.
  2. I do not trust financial people.
  3. I never thought I’d retire.
  4. After the dot-com bust, the housing collapse – well, 2008 in general – plus student loans, there was no money to invest or save.
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Still cynical after all these years

So advisors, what can you do to capture the attention and earn the business of GenXers who need financial advice and planning? After all, we’re in our prime earning years and we’d be ideal clients to help grow your firm. I can’t say what works for all of us, but I suggest you start with overcoming our four reasons why. It would probably help your firm regardless of your target client.

  • I bet that first point spans generations, so consider working on seeming – or actually being – more accessible.
  • As for reason 2, by now we know everyone isn’t Gordon Gekko – and that his job isn’t the same as yours – but that was the “finance” stereotype for us and it was pervasive. The fiduciary movement has my attention, but I think that’s a symptom of working here at SEI more than escalated awareness in general. So if you’re a fiduciary, then shout it loud and proud to anyone who will listen.
  • For me, reason 4 made reason 3 seem more true for many years, it also added to my distrust of…things – it was a little like Gordon Gekko part two. More generally, reason 4 can be easily edited to reflect any economic challenges that decimate a group in the same life phase. Consider what you offer that could help that group and go find them.

Selfishly, I encourage all advisors everywhere to consider a new target market: the “GenXers Who Are Still Mostly Meh, But Think They Should Probably Do Something. Okay Fine, I’ll Do It” niche. Then? I’m in.

So, at the suggestion of my co-workers in that meeting, I’m going to search for an advisor and I’ll share what I find along the way in future posts. I’m hopeful this becomes a mutually beneficial experience where I find an advisor match and it helps you assess your firm’s fitness for being found.

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