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Four Generational Trends Financial Planners Should Consider in Engaging Today’s Client

Cam Marston October 8, 2020

generational trends in advice
Updated on: July 26, 2021

The financial planner clients I work with through my firm, Generational Insights, find it’s getting harder to engage and gain the trust of Millennial and Gen Z clients, but it’s not just because of technology.

These younger generations have different values and priorities compared to their Boomer and Gen X parents. That causes them to view themselves, as investors, and you, as their financial professional, differently.

So, it’s essential planners recognize four financial planning trends that my research shows will shape their practices over the next 5-10 years to help them connect with newer generations of clients.

People Are Getting Married and Having Children Later

While it was common just a generation ago for people to marry under age 30, my trend data shows most people now are marrying between 30-35. In fact, because many young adults are transitioning to full adulthood at that age, too, they have less interest in long-term savings and investments before that.

That all presents a new set of challenges for financial planners to get their heads around; but, it’s necessary they do, no matter how difficult that may appear.

Because those who have children later will take care of them longer, they’ll have less disposable income to invest for retirement and a shorter time horizon to prepare for that life stage. The second half of parenting, which came earlier in previous generations, where clients planned for retirement will now get spent taking care of younger children.

Planning professionals should begin courting clients younger, in their 20s, before they are married with kids and a mortgage. That way, you can earn their trust by educating them about what it means to their investing strategy to have children later. You can encourage them to invest with financial planners earlier, either before they have children, or shortly afterward, while they’re saving for their kids’ college.

Then, when they realize they need more help with financial planning, they are likely to seek out more of your advice.

Women Are Becoming the Primary Household Financial Decision Makers

I see this as a hidden trend in the conversations financial planners have with clients, because your clients rarely identify who plays this role in their households. But it’s a trend I’ve tracked and know will become more prevalent in the next decade. While it started in Gen X, I’ve found it’s becoming permanent with younger generations. Yet, financial planners, who typically are males in their early to mid-50s, still focus on the men in conversations with couples.

They then expect couples to go home and discuss what the male partner was told in the meeting with their financial professional. Continuing this practice might alienate your female clients, particularly since today’s younger woman is better educated and more careful with money.

So, while female clients don’t expect you to “pink wash” your offerings for them, they want financial advisors that will take their household money manager role seriously. Marketing and planning advice must get directed as much to them as their husbands, with consideration focused on their needs first.

Financial planners must become both “thinking” and “feeling” in their presentations and interactions, since often the wife will have the last word on money decisions.

Younger Clients Don’t Trust “Experts”

Anybody can call themselves “experts” today. Millennials and Gen Z have grown up in an environment where misinformation may be presented as fact, and because of this, they have developed an automatic suspicion of those identifying as experts. They know they can find 10 other “experts” to say the complete opposite of what another expert said.

So, financial planners should expect these younger clients to question your advice more readily, if not to your face, behind your back. My research shows this is a permanent trend that financial professionals will confront.

The best way to deal with this is to be as transparent as possible in all interactions. When you’re proactive in providing information to clients, I believe you become more trustworthy and can effectively tear down any barriers to engagement that this mistrust may create. Utilizing technology to better integrate clients into your planning process can also make them feel involved and help build trust.

You also cultivate clients’ confidence by making sure they’re aware that other advisors might make different recommendations from the ones you make on financial issues.

Personal Problems Enter the Money Conversation

I’ve found that financial planners must find ways to help their clients deal with mental health challenges across generations. Your clients have money, but in an increasingly complex society, that money alone doesn’t lead to happiness.

You’re probably seeing this more with your clients, too—especially with clients in multigenerational families or households. Affluent clients face problems like anyone else, sometimes more, and are looking for people to help them with their family stability.

While you’re not a mental health professional, it’s important you help your clients find the help they need. You can save clients the perceived embarrassment of having to tell others they’re going to therapy either by hiring mental health professionals for your practices or by introducing them to mental health professionals.

Knowing you care enough about them to facilitate their getting the mental health guidance they need can make you more of an asset to them. It positions you as a trusted confidante who has demonstrated their commitment to their overall well-being, not just the well-being of their portfolio.

Follow the Trends to Practice Building Success

Younger clients will expect you to recognize their unique needs in a society that’s vastly changed from the one their parents confronted. When my financial planner clients recognize these and other trends I share in our conversations, they set themselves up for more success.

To learn more on the generational financial planning trends shaping the financial services industry, read eMoney’s recent ebook on the Investor of the Future where myself and other experts weigh in on the future of planning advice.

DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.

The views and opinions expressed by this blog post guest are solely those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of eMoney Advisor, LLC. eMoney Advisor is not responsible for the content, views or opinions presented by our guest, nor may eMoney Advisor be held liable for any actions taken by you based on the content, views or opinions of the guest.

Image of Cam Marston
About the Author

Cam Marston is the leading expert on the impact of generational change and its impact on the workplace and marketplace. As an author, columnist, blogger, and lecturer, he imparts a clear understanding of how generational demographics are changing the landscape of business. Marston and his firm, Generational Insights, have provided research and consultation on generational issues to hundreds of companies and professional groups, ranging from small businesses to multinational corporations, as well as major professional associations, for over 20 years.

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