Tackle cross-generational planning

By Dean DiSpalatro | January 7, 2014 | Last updated on January 7, 2014
3 min read

Advisors have four main types of clients, says Grant Shorten, director of strategic insights at Renaissance Investments.

That’s because people’s priorities and preferences are often shaped by the generation they’re part of, he adds.

Read: The great divides

Below, Shorten outlines the characteristics of the four types of clients.

1. Traditionalists

Shorten refers to the oldest generation of clients as traditionalists. They are between the ages of 68 and 91. They’re often advisors’ “long-term and most loyal clients.” These types of people are focused on sustaining “a reasonable quality of life and on maintaining their health. [They also want to] spend time with grandchildren and leave a seamless legacy to their loved ones.”


2. Baby Boomers

Boomers are between the ages of 49 and 67, and they make up a large portion of the population. These “clients are enjoying their peak earning years, and many of them are well on their way to achieving affluence,” says Shorten. They’re focused on preparing for retirement, and they want emotional assurance that they’ll be able to maintain their desired lifestyle after they stop working.

He adds, “Retirement planning and managing expectations are critical [when] working with a Baby-Boomer client…[These people are ] increasingly concerned about the health and welfare of their aging parents…Advisors need to be more active in discussing things like elder…care.”

Read: Retiring Boomers want to keep their homes, poll shows

3. Gen X

The next group of clients is Generation X, who are between the ages of 33 and 48. They’re “often defined by their scepticism…when it comes to the world of investing and finance,” Shorten explains. In their earlier investing years, this generation experienced things like the tech bubble, and then came the meltdown and banking crisis in 2008. “Our work with Gen X is…about proving ourselves on an ongoing basis” and on rebuilding relationships, he adds.

Read: Gen X squeezed by Boomers, Gen Y

4. Gen Y

The youngest group is Gen Y, or Millennials. They are between the ages of about 9 and 32. These tech-savvy clients use tools like social media and are “exceptionally good at communicating in sound bytes…We need to find ways to communicate with these clients using sound bytes or through email, or through online channels or…social media,” says Shorten.

Top of mind for this generation is paying down student loans. Once that’s achieved, these clients will focus on designing a plan to grow their wealth. It’s important for advisors to understand this latter group, he adds, since they must form strong relationships with the adult children and grandchildren of older clients.


If they don’t find ways to connect, they could see assets disappear when older clients die, says Shorten, who finds the best strategy is to start diversifying your client base across all four generations to protect your business. This means advisors have to adapt their approaches so they meet the specific needs of each generation.

“A lot of advisors are facing a big challenge because…a substantial portion of their assets under management…[currently] belong to the oldest generation [of clients], or the traditionalists,” says Shorten.


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Dean DiSpalatro