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The Generational Divide

The Generational Divide

The next generation of investors is easily misunderstood. But if you want to hold onto their assets, you’d better get to know them.

We often talk about the affluent as if it were one big homogenous group. But there are age, gender and personality differences that affect the way we communicate, select advisors and make decisions about money. 

Most advisors want to capture the assets of the next generation, and age has a major effect on how we relate to each other. So how does age affect your relationships with clients and prospects?



As we age, the way we like to make decisions changes. Good, bad or indifferent, we become more trusting, prefer fewer options and rely more heavily on our intuition. A white paper written by Andrew E. Reed, a lecturer for the Cornell University College of Ecology, makes the case quite well:

“When it comes to choice in decision-making, the contemporary mentality seems typified by a more-is-better mantra,” said Andrew E. Reed, a lecturer for the Cornell University College of Ecology, in a white paper. “But is this the case for all individuals? Research by Dr. Mikels and Dr. Simon suggests that while such a mentality may be part of the exuberance of youth, older adults neither desire, nor value, choice to the same extent that younger adults do.”

Reed goes on to cite large-scale surveys of adults over age 65 and undergraduate students, which found that on average, older adults chose half as many options as younger adults when given a variety of domains. Even the oldest participants (80-year-olds) desired fewer options than 70-year-olds.

Let’s say for example you’re meeting with an affluent client in her seventies. If she needs an estate plan, she probably doesn’t want a list of six attorneys to interview. She would prefer you to have an attorney you work with, arrange the appointment and escort her to the meeting. But if her 35-year-old son was presented with a need for estate planning for his mother, a discussion about options and costs would likely be the starting point, followed by digital homework that included researching the recommended attorneys. 

Next generation investors will conduct ongoing digital research but need guidance in execution. And they don’t like hearing, “After you’ve been through a few of these recessions, you’ll have a better understanding of…” Your role as an advisor—whether it’s communicating with the son of an affluent client or working with an affluent millennial independently—is to help transform all of this information into knowledge in a seamless manner so that it becomes their decision. Here are some key differences to keep in mind:


Younger Affluent Clients/Prospects                         Older Affluent Clients/Prospects

- More options                                                            - Fewer options

- Rely on analytical skills                                           - Rely on their “gut instincts”

- Digital research                                                        - Word-of mouth

- Text, email                                                               - Telephone, face-to-face communication

- Information heavy                                                    - Selective information

- Price aware                                                               - Value aware (fee transparency)

- Experience-deficient                                                - Experienced

- Social media users                                                   - Growing social media awareness          


Methods of Communication

Chances are that many of your best clients, prospects and centers-of-influence are somewhat removed from the texting/tweeting trend. Your older clients grew up with letters, phone calls and in-person visits.

Research from the Oechsli Institute shows that affluent investors of all ages prefer in-person meetings and personal phone calls. Yet, social media usage has increased dramatically over the last three years, especially among ultra-high-net-worth individuals, according to a Spectrem Group survey. 

But regardless of age, personal introductions and referrals increased significantly with face-to-face interaction; this holds true for the digital generation. To put it lightly – it’s important to get face-to-face with all of your affluent clients and prospects, while at the same time adjusting your communication from generation to generation.


The Oechsli Institute does ongoing research and coaching for nearly every major financial services firm in the US. To take the first step towards coaching with The Oechsli Institute, complete the pre-coaching business profile for a complimentary consultation.

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