There's been a much talked about generational shift in retirement since Covid-19. While many Baby Boomers (born 1943-1960) have already left the workforce, more members of Generation X (1961–1981) are choosing early retirement.
As a firm, we find this provides us with a more defined niche (as I explained in my last post). Like Baby Boomers, these people have the money and are ready to make the most of their retirement; but the way they choose to spend it is very different.
Gen X has money, time and a sense of adventure
Our typical clients have worked for around 30-35 years. They've got assets and savings – for example a large pension, average house and a bit of cash. It’s the pension that funds the adventure.
Lockdown seems to have triggered something in the so-called 'Slacker Generation'. After being forced to stay home – and enjoying a more laid-back pace of life – many people in their 50s are wondering: why not take the money and go enjoy life?
Older members of Gen X are in that sweet spot where they have the means to stop working, and the energy (not to mention confidence) to enjoy their hobbies and explore the world.
The Gen X ethos
Understanding the Gen X ethos is key. Of course, it’s unfair to generalise, but there are some defining factors in terms of attitude.
After all, Gen Xers grew up having similar experiences of the world around us. In my experience, they don't like rules, are fiercely independent, and prefer simplicity over flashiness. Another key is that they 'work to live', and don't 'live to work'. Once they choose retirement, they're happy to go off and enjoy life – you're unlikely to tempt them back to the workplace.
Building a bridge between Gen X retirees and young financial planners
We have a lot of younger financial planners (both Millennials and Gen Z) joining the business. They also have unique generational values, which are very different to those of Gen X. It's hard for them to understand what makes Gen X tick, without spending quality time with members of that generation.
Additionally, clients need to know they can make decisions with our help. It's not always about providing answers, but about helping clients ask the right questions to get to the correct decisions. They need to know they're working with a team who can provide that.
Using adventure events to build community
So how do we build that trust and understanding across generations? With amazing social events.
I'm not talking about wine and cheese socials (although those can be fun, too). I'm talking about adventurous activities that put our team and clients together. This helps younger members of the team understand what makes our clients tick, and what their priorities are. It also gives our clients the chance to meet other people in the same boat, and enjoy the kind of amazing experiences many of them crave in retirement.
Case study: our trip to Iceland
To build brand awareness, and put my team development ideas into action, I decided to organise a hiking trip to Iceland. Clients were welcome to join us and paid their own way. In the end, six of my team and seven clients embarked on a 47-mile walk across some of the world's most breathtaking landscapes.
We spread the trip across four days. We waded through rivers, slept in rustic huts and – most importantly – built a community. The feedback was so good that we're planning to make it an annual thing, and next year is likely to be even bigger.
After seeing photographs in our quarterly magazine Unleashed, many clients who wouldn't usually consider this type of trip are asking about it. This supported another benefit, which is that often clients struggle to really ‘think big’ about their retirement – until they’re given the ‘permission’ to do so.
Appeal to Gen X by appealing to their sense of adventure and freedom
I believe it’s more important than ever to consider Generation X and understand what really makes them tick. It’s the freedom our clients seem to hanker after the most. Freedom from rules, responsibilities, from having to toe the line – it’s almost as if they want to be feral again, like they were as kids.
It’s interesting to me that the pension reforms were called ‘freedoms’ and that a Gen X Chancellor (Osborne) came up with the radical reform.
I’m not sure how long those freedoms will last, but the Gen Xers we work with are happy to exploit the opportunities – sometimes all that’s needed is a bit of inspiration to help them to run wild.