If the three largest generation cohorts were the sisters from “The Brady Bunch,” the baby boomers would be Marcia, the oldest and most popular. The millennials would be Cindy, the youngest, needing the most attention. And the forgotten middle child, Generation X, would likely be Jan.
Gen X has seemingly become lost in the sibling shadows of the baby boomers and millennials. Many financial advisers have rushed to embrace the millennials as the next big holders of wealth and influence in the economy, and have been courting baby boomers for the last 20 or so years. But what about Generation X — why have they been all but left behind?
The Gen X opportunity
Gen Xers are loosely defined as those who were born between 1965 and 1976, making them 38 to 50 years old today. Think Robert Downey Jr. (born in 1965) on the older end of the scale and Peyton Manning (born in 1976) on the younger end. There are an estimated 50 million members of Gen X, compared with approximately 75 million baby boomers and 75 million millennials.
From my perspective, there are five main reasons why advisers should begin (or continue) to target Gen Xers as long-term clients:
1. Many CEOs are Gen Xers. Approximately 68% of Inc. 500 CEOs are from Gen X. Many Gen Xers are climbing the corporate ladder and are poised to take over leadership roles from their baby boomer bosses. They are also nearing their peak earning years — and retirement is beginning to loom on the horizon.
2. They've been through many market cycles. When you ask a millennial client what they think of the stock market, you may get a response about 2008 and how much they value their cash stash. Gen X has already been through the market crash of 1987, the turmoil of the early 2000s, and the financial and housing crises of 2008. They understand that the market goes through cycles and that staying invested through cycles is rewarding. They have also seen the baby boomers struggle to attain a comfortable retirement, and want to do things differently.
3. Gen Xers are ignored by the media — and by most advisers. How many advertisements are either focused on the young tech-savvy generation or those in retirement? When was the last time you saw an ad specifically targeting Gen X? Many advisers are claiming to focus on millennial clients, but very few have chosen Gen X as a niche.
4. There is an urgent financial planning need. Gen Xers were hit hard by the housing crisis. Many bought and sold homes at the wrong time, oftentimes overextending themselves financially in the process. According to a study from The Pew Charitable Trusts, about three-quarters of Gen Xers had higher family incomes than their parents did at the same age — but only about a third of them had higher wealth. Many are shunning stocks and clinging to low-interest investments like certificates of deposit and savings accounts.
5. The wealth transfer is happening right now. Approximately $30 trillion will be transferred to Gen X and millennials over the next 30 years. Gen Xers will likely see the large wealth transfers occur in the next 10 to 20 years, while the millennials will have to wait a bit longer to get their big break.
So why aren't advisers spending more time targeting and courting the Gen Xers? Maybe it's time to approach the proverbial Jan Brady of the generation cohorts.
Grant Webster is senior wealth manager at AKT Wealth Advisors