reposted from: Planner – AICPA Personal Financial Planning Division Newsletter
March/April 2013, Volume 29, Number 2

When you ask baby boomers about Gen X and Gen Y, most will give you an exasperated monologue on the challenges of these generations. You will hear phrases such as “disrespectful of authority,” “lacking a work ethic,” and “self-centered.”

The first step to have a successful financial planning practice that serves Gen X and Y is to drop the judgment and see the differences as something really positive. For example, when Gen X and Y say they disrespect authority, what they really want to do is think for themselves. As for lacking a work ethic, aren’t their concerns about work-life balance? Most boomers could learn a thing or two here! Self-centered? That’s simply knowing what you want, which is a good thing.

If you can get through this first hurdle and see the positives of these two generations, the opportunities are enormous. Combined, Gen X and Y are 1¾ times as large a group as baby boomers and, in 15 states, mostly in the South and Midwest, they represent more than 25% of the population. They also have more spending power than boomers. Here’s a snapshot:

  • Baby Boomers (born 1946 – 1964): 76.7million
  • Gen X (born 1965 – 1976): 49.1 million
  • Gen Y (born 1977 – 2000): 77 million

Personally, I happen to like Gen X and Y and find their approach refreshing. However, as a boomer, I know I’m not the norm. In the rest of this article, I will try to give you a positive and profitable approach to serving Gen X and Y. Perhaps in the long run, you also will fall in love with them.

What Do Gen X & Y Want?

Gen X and Y want an empowering and engaging approach. They want to be listened to, not spoken down to. They want to make their own decisions, not have you choose for them. If your current planning approach is top down, consider taking your expert hands off the wheel and let your clients drive.

Gen X and Y want to be educated, but they aren’t going to take your advice because of your education, credentials, and wisdom. They have grown accustomed to their environment with access to limitless information from the Internet. Anything they want to know is only one click away.

Start by giving them web resources you trust that will help guide them. Rather than losing control, you will gain their trust.

Every CPA financial planner’s approach will be different. At our firm, we make sure we are a good fit for them and they are a good fit for us. We start every relationship with education and empowerment, and believe our process, “The Prosperity Experience®,” is a perfect fit for this generation. Before we begin, we give clients a set of resources, including the following:

  • Electronic forms to provide their financial data
  • Interactive tools to develop their goals and priorities
  • A list of Mackey Advisors’ core principles
  • A comprehensive outline of our process

Our first two sessions, which are in person or virtual, are focused on what they want. Little attention is given to financial details other than to clarify what information they need to provide to us. These initial meetings illuminate their needs, wants, fears, values, and goals.

Before the third meeting, clients have several short-term goals to achieve, including entering their own data into the financial planning software. After that is completed, one of our advisers meets with them and walks through their assets, liabilities, and cash flow. There is no internal review of their data; instead, they review and approve the information.

The next several sessions are about engaging them in decision-making relative to their plan that we are actively creating together. Our process has each client define acceptable and ideal goals. Rather than deciding what is best, the client does the hard work of choice in real time (in person or virtual) with a Mackey Advisors®’ planner.

Here, clients really get to see the tradeoffs for themselves. They are faced with questions such as “Do I want the fancy car or do I want to fund my child’s college education?” It is all about choice.

When they craft a plan they like, we e-mail an electronic version. They can access their plan 24/7, make changes, and consider alternatives at any time. Our engagement includes unlimited access to a planner, via e-mail, phone, or client portal, as well as semi-annual updates.

Finding Gen X & Y Clients

If your practice has its roots in working with boomers and older generations, then you have some work to do to find younger clients, but don’t count on current clients—parents of Gen X and Y children—as a referral source for your planning services. Instead, Gen X and Y respect peer-to-peer recommendations. After all, according to, 90% of people believe brand recommendations from friends.

Begin by looking in your community to determine the companies that employ large numbers of high potentials. A Fortune 1000 company, a large medical facility, or large law firm are all good possibilities. Use LinkedIn and other social networks to get connected in these communities. Seek venues to speak to these audiences in their office environments. Find local groups of young professionals or attend industry conferences and meet them at these venues. Ask one or more social influencers in your target communities for their input on your planning process.

A key tip is to offer payment terms rather than upfront payment on your planning services to allow younger clients to step into your services. Once you have your first Gen X and Y client, continue to nurture the relationship and encourage referrals. Keep your web content fresh, and give clients and prospects reasons to keep coming back to your site.

My experience is that Gen X and Y are loyal clients dedicated to making a difference in their families and communities. Their pace and style is refreshing. Best of all, by starting with them when they are young, it is easier to help steer clear of big mistakes that are hard to overcome later. It often takes only small changes to make big differences in the rest of their lives; this makes serving Gen X and Y very fulfilling.