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The Gloomy Generation: How Financial Advisors Can Help Baby Boomers

By ClientWise | April 5, 2012

“All generalizations are false, including this one.”…Mark Twain

Every day for the next 18 years, more than 10,000 Baby Boomers will retire. Unfortunately, the majority will retire fearful and concerned. Fortunately, savvy financial advisors can help.

Despite the widely held perception that Baby Boomers are the generation of optimism and affluence, Baby Boomers are not terribly happy with their financial lot. Haven’t been for a while really, but we’ll get into that later.

In a recent Money Across Generations survey commissioned by Ameriprise, it is revealed that Baby Boomer confidence in achieving their important financial goals has plummeted in the past five years. Five years ago, 64% of Baby Boomers were optimistic regarding their financial future. Today, it is 49%. Five years ago, 39% of Baby Boomers were VERY optimistic…today it is 17%.

Baby Boomers, who have always been identified with their youth, bounded onto the stage in the 1960’s. Raised under the nurturing child-as-individuals teaching of Dr. Benjamin Spock, and then placed under the mesmerizing spell of television, Baby Boomers were imbued with a sense of entitlement that had not existed before. (Note: There are more than 79 million Baby Boomers, i.e. 26% of the US population. We realize that it is a fool’s endeavor to assume that ALL Baby Boomers adhere to the same characteristics!) Today, as Baby Boomers face a future of living longer and working longer, they also might be nursing some disappointment as to how their lives have turned out.

What’s interesting is that Baby Boomers have been in a funk for decades, and have consistently been more dissatisfied as compared to all other generations. (Check out this finding by Pew Research.) Is this related to the attitudes and expectations forced upon them when they were young? Who knows? However, there’s no ignoring the fact that many Boomers are feeling much less secure financially these days.

In the Money Across Generations study, Baby Boomers were asked about their level of confidence for their most important financial goals, and this confidence has consistently fallen in since 2007:

  • Assuring a financial secure future for themselves and their family (Confidence was 51%...now it’s 33%)
  • Continue their current lifestyle in retirement (44% vs. 27%)
  • Help children and grandchildren pay for education (39% vs. 24%)
  • Assure a financial secure life for their parents (33% vs. 19%)
  • Support a charity or cause that’s important to them (29% vs. 18%)
  • Preserve wealth to leave to their kids (28% vs. 16%)

So…how can financial advisors guide Baby Boomers through this blue funk?

  • In the first place, make no assumptions. What may be interesting grist for the mill for studies and surveys, newspaper articles, or even blog posts should not be assumed to be the truth for your clients.
  • Empathize. Not only are Baby Boomers moving through the pangs of middle age, they are facing the real concerns of shaky job security, diminished investment returns, the continued debate regarding the future of programs like Social Security and Medicare, as well as being sandwiched between the concerns of their aging parents and adult children.
  • Ask questions that matter. Unsure about what your clients are concerned about? Ask them. For example: “When you visualize your future, what’s the one thing that concerns you most?” “What do you really want to accomplish financially?”
  • Help Baby Boomers determine the real gap between their financial aspirations and goal…and their current reality. It might be less than they think. (Or more!)


All the best!


Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans...John Lennon


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Topics: Communication Client Engagement Financial Planning

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