Middle Child Syndrome: Seeking the Gen X Factor

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Did you know Kurt Cobain would have turned 50 this year? The ‘90s are back in vogue with flannel button-downs, chokers and logo T-shirts trending once again. While the styles exemplifying the so-called Generation X are all the rage, this cohort between baby boomers and millennials is often forgotten in one critical area: wealth management.

When is the last time you had a conversation with these wealth builders in the middle? If you haven’t yet picked up the phone to call a boomer’s Gen-X beneficiaries, you may be missing a great opportunity to maintain a relationship once wealth has been transferred. And that wealth will certainly reach Gen X far before it reaches millennials.

Gen-Xers are already a captive audience for financial advice because many are well on their way toward saving for retirement. It’s worth noting that this is the first generation that can’t rely on a pension or defined benefit plan, and many instead opt to participate in their employer-sponsored retirement plan. They are also likely to be the first group without the fallback of Social Security if funds are tapped, as expected, by 2035, according to a June 2016 article on CNN Money.

This group is also already fluent in “adulting.” Often preferring a 9-to-5 job over a freelance economy gig, Gen-Xers’ steady income makes for sound long-term planning. They often have less debt to overcome than millennials, and with college and home ownership costing far more now than a generation ago, Gen-Xers consequentially have greater equity. They are also far less likely to crowdsource their next financial move, instead opting to pay a premium for quality service with a real person.

But it’s not too late to start engaging Gen X prospects. Here are some tips for knowing when and how to connect with this key demographic:

• Gen-Xers don’t want to be called only after a life event takes place. Including them in the conversation early on shows that you are interested in the long-term well-being of their family and helps foster trust.
• Advisers should consider a longer view by taking on the high-probability prospects that may not yet meet certain asset thresholds or those who have assets in a plan they cannot yet access. By offering fee-based services that may fit other immediate needs like financial planning or debt consolidation, advisers can focus on the prospect and not just the asset.
• Many Gen-Xers are starting families or already are thinking about the future of their growing children. These clients would benefit from working with an adviser on their own estate planning or saving for college, creating a multi-generational pipeline of prospects.

The opportunity is out there for the taking. But don’t take it for granted: Gen-Xers are also one of the first generations to heavily adopt technology and advisers may risk losing a client to a robo-adviser or other financial advice model if making that first call takes too long. It takes only one life event for assets to be transferred. Will you be the one they call?

To read more tips that can help engage Gen-Xers, visit our Wealth Management resources.

Matt Sommer


Matt Sommer
Vice President and Director, Retirement Strategy Group
Janus Capital Group
Denver, CO


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