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How I Found Success Breaking Through to the Next Generation

Gen X, millennials and Gen Z each require a tailored approach based on their values and beliefs.

Financial planning doesn’t exactly conjure images of encounters with teenagers or even younger children requesting a "business call.” However, as my family-focused practice has expanded, one of the most rewarding facets of my role lies in coaching the younger members of my affluent clients' families on investments, inheritances and financial matters.

What's even more surprising is that these young individuals often initiate these conversations. I’ve found that these discussions play a pivotal role in preparing the next generation for a future where they will eventually make financial decisions independently. Engaging children in early conversations about their inheritance imparts age-appropriate decision-making skills that they can refine over time.

Why is this endeavor of paramount significance? Three distinct generations—Generation X, millennials and Generation Z—are poised to experience life-altering changes as a result of the impending wealth transfer. Projections suggest they will inherit a staggering $68 trillion from their baby boomer predecessors by 2030. Each generation necessitates a tailored approach based on their unique values and beliefs. Here's how I've successfully established connections with them.

My Personalized Approach to Holistic, Multi-Generational Wealth Management

There is no substitute for a deep familiarity with the full spectrum of a client's finances, spanning estate planning, taxation, business management, portfolio diversification and real assets. My approach entails grasping the concerns, interests and values of each generation, employing a holistic methodology that encompasses all facets of financial planning.

Equally important is grasping the role of each family member and their unique aspirations, often resulting in customized advisory approaches that resonate with their perspectives. For example, Gen Z often demonstrates a profound dedication to causes such as animal welfare or environmental preservation, prompting them to seek guidance on how their investments can support these causes. Establishing a strong rapport with heirs, no matter their generation, is all about genuinely listening to what matters most to them.

Forging strong relationships with the entire family means transcending the routine, staid quarterly planning sessions that are all too common in our industry. My commitment extends to attending clients’ family gatherings, from birthdays and anniversaries to bar mitzvahs and graduation parties, fostering an environment of comfort and openness that encourages discussions beyond financial matters. My goal is to become an extension of the families that I serve, which means being around them as often as I can to learn what drives each member.

A third pillar of my success is assisting children with their custodial accounts while helping them to embark on their financial literacy journey at an early age. As a millennial myself, I am well-positioned to bridge generational gaps through relatable communication. I always seek permission to provide guidance to younger children within each family and approach these interactions with an open-minded, non-judgmental demeanor. This permits the younger family members to openly express their thoughts and share the societal issues or pressures shaping their worldviews.

My advice to younger generations is tailored to help them manage their assets and investments according to their age and personal values. Crucially, I don't hesitate to discuss potential disadvantages of ideas they suggest that might not be suitable for their individual situations.

Gaining Trust Across Generations

When younger heirs turn to me for financial guidance, I consider it a meaningful achievement for my practice. To establish trust with multiple generations, I stress the significance of both financial fundamentals and emotional intelligence. Encouraging young individuals to gradually develop their financial literacy in an age-appropriate manner equips them with the skills and knowledge needed to eventually take charge of their financial decisions, without rushing the process or forcing concepts on them that they may not be ready to comprehend.

When advising multi-generational families on their holistic financial picture, it is imperative to be socially aware, open to meaningful conversations, and adept at "reading the room" to discern the individual priorities of each family member. Even within the same generation, beliefs and values can vary greatly, making it the advisor’s responsibility to offer thoughtful financial recommendations. Throughout my career, one lesson has stood out: active listening is paramount to an advisor's ultimate success.

Financial advisors who prioritize financial literacy among their clients' younger generations can lay the foundation for financial security and trust, nurturing enduring client relationships for a thriving, sustainable practice. This approach not only empowers young individuals but can also strengthen the bonds between generations, fostering a sense of financial well-being and collaboration within families.

Angie Spielman is a founding partner and financial advisor at Manhattan West.

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