PANC 2017: The Generational Divide

L. Rita Fiumara from UBS shared generation-specific insights that can help shape retirement plan communications.

Many of us have probably seen studies or media reports that Millennials are selfish, lazy and narcissistic and live in their parents’ basements. But L. Rita Fiumara, senior vice president – investments, senior retirement plan consultant, UBS Institutional Retirement Group, cast some further light on that assessment. A centuries-old document she read to attendees of the 2017 PLANADVISER National Conference, Friday, suggested older generations have felt this way about the younger through all time.

Fiumara reported that, by 2030, 75% of the work force is expected to be Millennials, so understanding this generation is key for creating effective retirement plan communications.

She said money is not the main motivator for these young Americans; they want to grow in their careers, to continue to learn and to be in contact with valued peers. Smart technology is their “soother”; they love quick sound bites, short tidbits and subject lines that are brief and precise. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter are how they stay connected and communicate.

Additionally, Fiumara noted, they are not lazy—they just want quality of life. They want an expanded sphere of operation and to not be stuck at a desk.

Among their financial concerns, 40% have student loans; of these, 83% say their loans have had a moderate or significant impact on their ability to meet their financial goals, UBS research found. Fiumara said the new strategy of aligning student loan repayment benefits with defined contribution (DC) retirement plan programs is ingenious.

As to other age groups, she said, Generation X is more cynical; these workers need to verify and to trust. According to Fiumara, incorporating health with wellness started with Gen X, and this produced the concept of incorporating retirement with financial wellness. UBS found that 58% of plan sponsors offer at least one financial wellness tool and that 84% believe they will by year end.

Gen X likes data, pictures and graphs, Fiumara says. This group is independent; they—not Millennials—drove the move to robo-advisers. Eighty percent worry that they have too little emergency savings, and that they won’t be able to retire on time. With financial advisers, they ask, “What’s in it for me? What’s in it for you? What have you done for me lately?”

Every day, 10,000 people turn 65, Fiumara said. She described this group as being “all about verbal connections”; they love to tell stories, like group meetings and one-on-ones. They want people to get to know them, she said.

Among Baby Boomers’ top financial concerns, 45% said they had inadequate emergency savings; 41% said being unable to retire when they want to. “It’s too late for a lot of these folks. Many can’t afford to retire, and they are concerned about health care costs and are staying in the work force longer,” Fiumara said.

NEXT: Communication strategies for the generations

According to Fiumara, each generation has different goals for where they want to spend their money, and advisers need to know this. She said all three generations value the importance of philanthropy, financial independence and fun money.

When sorting out the goals by demographics, advisers should think in terms of buckets; currency doesn’t move people, but the house, the vacation, the things they can feel and touch today are important.

Moreover, one in four employees are missing out on their company match; this equates to $24 million, Fiumara said, explaining that participants tend to ignore communication campaigns that discourage them by pointing out how much they’ll need, to retire. Instead, communications should help them understand how to increase their saving—up to the company match.

“Show them peer comparison income replacement ratios. Show them how changes can make a big difference for them. Use behavioral finance,” Fiumara said.

Communications to Millennials should be informal, concise and fast. They want electronic communications and a hierarchy showing what to focus on first, Fiumara said. With Gen X, present the facts. “Show me” is their mantra. They are the toughest crowd when it comes to fees and performance. With Baby Boomers, face-to-face and group meetings work best, she said, adding that they want a holistic financial plan and details.

According to Fiumara, adviser retirement planning services should include education and strategies for how to save, budget, invest, manage credit and debt, buy a home and save for college. Further services should explain the Social Security benefit—including how and when to make a first claim—tax and estate planning; health savings accounts (HSAs); and options for financing health care and long-term care.

“Research done in part with UBS shows financial wellness programs help,” she concluded.