For financial advisors, being able to adapt to the unique needs of clients is integral to deliver sound, relevant advice. Increasingly savvy clients with easy access to technology – online information, advice and investment tools – continue to challenge the financial industry to prove the value of professional, face-to-face advice.
At the same time, changing social and cultural norms are redefining certain needs advisors have historically associated with specific life stages and genders.
Each successive generation of Canadians is forcing us to reconsider our notions of things like wealth, marriage, homeownership and retirement.
Depending on your situation, finding an advisor who understands and can adapt to the evolving needs of different generations can be the key to realizing your financial goals.
Here are two groups of Canadians who are redefining societal norms and in doing so, challenging wealth management professionals to stay relevant.
We have all read headlines like: “Millennials are killing the (blank) industry.” From diamonds to department stores, millennials have earned a reputation for rejecting industries and practices traditionally viewed as culturally important, even necessary.
Younger generations are approaching homeownership, marriage and divorce – key events when it comes to wealth management – differently than previous generations. When it comes to homeownership, many millennials are waiting longer to take the plunge: 30.6% of young adults aged 20-34 in 2001 lived with at least one parent whereas 34.7% did as of 2016.
Younger adults are also putting off getting married and having children. This means when it comes to divorce, “Millennials tend to have fewer assets to divide, and they’re more likely to have similar incomes,” making spousal support a nonissue. Our society – advisors included – tends to view divorce as an event which should take a substantial financial toll on one or both partners.
When you combine inconsistent incomes due to freelance or “gig” work, high rates of student debt, and the cost of raising children, the reality is many married millennials can’t “afford to buy [their partner] out of the matrimonial home.” Millennials’ finances are requiring them to be more frugal, even democratic, than previous generations and advisors should be prepared to accommodate their unconventional situations.
As the largest generation in Canada, millennials have a huge impact on our economy and, despite their purported financial irresponsibility, spend a lot of time thinking about and managing their money. A 2019 report from BMO found, “millennials [are] outpacing [their] baby boomer counterparts” when it comes to retirement savings and “continue to hold higher amounts [in RRSPs] over time, accounting for the highest percentage increase with 87 percent since 2016 ($28,821 vs $15, 377 in 2016).” Millennials may not be buying diamonds, but they are being mindful of their finances.
Today, women account for approximately half of the labour force (up from less than a quarter in the 1950s) and “directly control no less than $2.2 trillion of personal financial assets.” By 2028, that number is expected to rise to $3.8 trillion.The archetypal investor – historically a man – is quickly changing to reflect the increased number of women, both married and unmarried, who are directly participating in the Canadian economy and making more household financial decisions.
In fact, a 2019 CIBC study found, “three-quarters (73 per cent) say they’re actively involved in their own long-term financial planning – a number that grows higher the older they get, rising to 82 per cent among women aged 55+.”
Most Canadians need better-defined retirement plans (about 90% do not currently have an adequate one) however, advisors should be prepared to provide advice which accurately reflects women’s needs, especially given their burgeoning control of financial assets.
Employed married women “in the core-working age demographic… now account for a record-high 47% of family income, almost double the share seen in the 1970s.” Women also live, on average, four years longer than men meaning many will likely inherit assets from their spouses later in life.
Yet, despite women having more (control over) money, they are also more likely than men to forgo incomes and therefore pensions for the sake of their families. “Almost 1 in 3 (30 per cent) women say they’ve reduced or stopped saving as a direct consequence of childcare or eldercare responsibilities.” A good financial plan will account for and work to minimize the impact these kinds of events have on women’s retirement savings.
When it comes to wealth management, finding a professional who understands the unique situation and need of each individual client makes all the difference between stellar and just average financial advice. Millennials and women are two demographics frequently on the receiving end of stereotypes – most of which have the potential to impede their ability to achieve their financial goals if their advisor subscribes to them.
Advisors who approach common milestones like homeownership, marriage and divorce from an outdated standpoint and disregard the way social norms are changing, will likely have a harder time relating and remaining relevant to those clients whose circumstances challenge them to go above and beyond “business as usual.” Make sure your advisor is a fit for you.
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