Our profession was built by and for baby boomers, and we make a lot of money serving them. What concerns me is how we’ve all but ignored Generation Xers—people aged 37 to 55 who really need our help right now. Sometimes described as the middle child between the oxygen-sucking boomers and the self-absorbed millennials, Gen Xers are both unprepared financially and skeptical about the advice available.

According to the 2017 “Transamerica Retirement Survey,” Gen X is about 18% to 20% behind the savings rate boomers enjoyed at this life stage, with greater debt loads and higher projected living expenses for retirement. They are highly entrepreneurial, but because many are freelancers or small business owners, they have fewer corporate benefits. Add to that the uncertain future of Social Security, and a crisis is looming for which there is no safety net. Yet only 20% of Gen Xers report using an advisor for financial planning. What can we do about this?

Talking To Gen Xers

I asked about 20 consumers at an average age of 40, with household incomes above $200,000, to talk about their financial lives. Baby boomers may have put a man on the moon, but Gen X saw the Space Shuttle Challenger explode. They were marked by 9/11 and other terrorist attacks. They were latchkey kids. They’ve seen economies and stock markets boom and bust, and the anthems of their youth include songs like Beck’s “Loser” and Radiohead’s “Creep” after disco gave way to grunge, punk, hip-hop and rap music.

There is a line in the pop hit “Money For Nothing” by Dire Straits that sums it up: “Easy, easy money for nothin’, chicks for free.” This picture of life manifests in the low savings rates, high debt and lack of long-term planning that I’ve discovered in surveys and interviews. The consumers I spoke with know they need help, but they don’t see it coming.

One of the men I interviewed had this to say: “Boomers have their advisors, millennials have an app for everything, and I feel like no one gets my generation.” A female executive shared how she had interviewed two different advisors in the Seattle area and was “turned down” because her assets didn’t qualify for their account minimums, even though she had boatloads of stock options, a sizable 401(k) and significant real estate.

Of the 20 people I interviewed, about 60% were do-it-yourselfers using online or robo programs, which seem to work fine for investing but not planning. Of the 40% who had human advisors, only four out of eight were happy with the experience. What are they looking for?

The Advisor Interviews

I interviewed a dozen advisors from around the country who indicated they had clients in the 35-to-55 age range, and the advisors themselves were all Gen Xers or millennials. To my surprise, only five felt their firms adequately focused on Gen X. The other seven expressed personal interest in Gen X but their firms’ interest in boomers was overriding.

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