Gen X and Y agents: Don’t hesitate to approach boomer market

As a producer and a member of Gen X or Y, it’s natural that you are building your practice through the people of your generation — they are the people you know. But don’t let your age be a limitation. There is another group you can be helping: the boomer generation.

The parents of your friends and clients can benefit from your expertise and your access to expertise. Their financial considerations are often different from the relatively simple needs of your generation. Not only are they focused on retirement, but they may be thinking about long-term care, estate planning and more.
Those parents of your friends and younger clients need advice now more than ever.

A 2011 Associated Press/LifeGoesStrong.com poll found that 44% of Americans born between 1946 and 1965 aren’t confident they’ll have enough money to live comfortably, with 57% saying they lost money in the recent economic downturn. Despite these concerns, according to a January poll for the TD Waterhouse Boomer Happiness Index, only 34% of boomers have a plan in place for retirement.

Boomers often don’t have time to think about their financial fitness. They are working hard and may be caring for aging parents. They need a trusted, competent financial professional.

It is actually to your advantage that you are of your generation. Boomers take advice, particularly financial advice, from their adult children. This means that when you take good care of your Gen Y and X clients, they are passing their positive experiences on to their parents. One client, a doctor and the father of a close friend, told me when I first called him that he didn’t feel he had time to meet me, but, “According to my son, I need to meet you.”

Don’t let youth be a disadvantage
It is natural for an advisor in his 30s to feel nervous about meeting and offering financial guidance to someone who’s much older, wiser and earns a big salary. But older prospects, even if they’re highly successful and experts in their fields, aren’t necessarily familiar with financial instruments and strategies.

A Sun Life Financial poll of financial advisors in March found that 27% of financial advisors believe their clients aged 50 and older lack enough knowledge of variable annuities to evaluate them.
You have the resources at your disposal to help boomer clients.

Here is what you do:

  • Don’t pretend to be something you’re not. You don’t have 30 years experience in financial services, and you’re not an expert in every aspect. Do joint work with those who are.
  • You are the clients’ advocate and part of a team of experienced specialists. Your role is to find out what’s important to them, understand their needs and bring in the appropriate experts to offer solutions.
  • Excellent listening skills are a must. Your job is to understand their big picture.
  • Start with a blank canvas. Never assume they need a specific instrument — or only one — even if they come to you with a specific need, like, say, life insurance. Dig deeper to understand what the client is trying to accomplish. That way, you and your associates can ascertain the best strategies to reach their overall financial goals.
  • Don’t underestimate your knowledge. Financial products are complicated and ever-changing. Even if you’re relatively new to the field, your rigorous license training has armed you with much more knowledge than the vast majority of the population.
  • Take time to educate your client. Explain terms, acronyms and options. It’s amazing how many people will nod their heads but are actually unaware of what a mutual fund or IRA is.
  • Hire an assistant. It helps you offer excellent service, and you’ll come across as a mature professional. If you leave it until later, you will find that you are too busy to do it, and you’ll drastically restrict your growth.

Recognize generational differences
You know that it’s the little things that matter. But what are the little things that matter to the boomer generation?

  • In general, members of Gen Y and Gen X are more casual than the boomer generation. Boomers appreciate a more formal approach.
  • Grooming and an immaculate presentation are important to the boomer. Invest in a wardrobe. I wear French cuffs, and my shirts are monogrammed. Bankers dressed like that when I was a kid. In my case, San Antonio has four military bases, so many of my clients have links to the military. Presentation is very important to them — right down to shiny shoes.
  • Always be punctual. It’s no big deal for Gen X or Gen Y clients if you’re five minutes late. Not so for most boomers. Be well-prepared and organized.
  • The boomer generation is sensitive to service. If you say you’re going to do something, do it. Follow through as soon as you get back to the office after a meeting.
  • Baby boomers appreciate correspondence by mail — they thank me for it — and read letters closely. Gen Xers, on the other hand, only pick up mail every three to five days and throw most of it in the trash.
  • Many boomers are uncomfortable with sharing financial information. One boomer client told me that she found it more invasive discussing how much she had in the bank than derobing in front of a doctor. Acknowledge to your clients that this may be a sensitive topic for them. Assure them of confidentiality. Talk about their family; people are usually open to talking about their children and grandchildren.
Final thought: you have the resources, training and wherewithal to help your generation’s parents with their financial needs. Approach your younger clients about the possibility of you helping their parents. You’ve worked hard to care for your generation’s financial needs. It’s time to help the older generation.
 
George Long, a sales manager with Sapient Financial Group in San Antonio, started his career in financial services in his early 20s and has qualified for the Million Dollar Round Table five times.
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