Bill McManus | Thu Jun 18 10:00:00 EDT 2015
In the first two parts of the “Rule of –ates” series, I talked about the importance of considering the social habits of your millennial clients and what recreational activities they enjoy. Now I want to talk about educate—why it can be significant for financial advisors to know about where and how their millennial clients received their higher education.
Education amongst Gen Y (millennials) can be a great source of pride and connections, and also angst. By opening up the discussion around where and how your younger-generation clients were educated, you may be able to find meaningful ways to be impactful in their lives. When meeting with millennial clients, make an effort to ask questions about their alma maters. Not only can you learn more about these clients, but you can also find out important information that you can use later.
I recommend pursuing responses to a few key questions about your millennial clients’ educational experiences, and why they can be beneficial to financial advisors:
How connected are they to the schools they attended for higher education?
Generally speaking, millennials strongly identify with where they spent their years of higher education. Many of them continue to root for their school’s sports teams, join alumni associations, go back for reunions and maintain the close friendships that were forged during their years at the school. With limited employment experience, Gen Y also typically relies on their school’s network to find their place in the ‘real world.’
For your millennial clients who still have a strong connection to their alma maters, use that as conversation starters. People with steadfast school pride will be more than happy to open up about their schools, and so it can be a floodgate to information about your client and their priorities. Ask them about the big game, introduce them to fellow alumni you may know or send them articles you come across about their alma mater. In doing so, you will get these clients talking and show them that you pay attention and personalize your services.
What were they involved in during their higher education years?
Oftentimes, our college identification becomes a strong part of who we are, and so regardless of the current involvement or connection your millennial clients have with their alma maters, what they did while there can still be telling. Finding out what your millennial clients majored in, what jobs they held and what activities they participated in can be great fodder for rich conversations. For example, if your client was an English major, ask them about their favorite novel or recommend to them a good book. If they played a sport, did drama or sang a capella, let them know about local young professionals groups they can join or an upcoming show or game they can attend to continue those interests. Look for ways in which you can relate to them and help them expand their network, and that will in turn lead to becoming a more trusted advisor.
By what means did they pay for their education, and are they still paying for it?
Much fuss is made over the record levels of student debt currently held by Generation Y. Having a handle on your millennial clients’ levels of debt gives you a great opportunity to instigate positive discussions around debt management tactics, budgeting smartly and saving for the future. Those conversations can be specifically tailored to each individual client, based on the amount of repayment to which your client may be beholden.
For your millennial clients who either do not have student loan debt or who are nearing the end of their payoff plan, having a conversation with them around savings is paramount. While these clients may be tempted to take what once was a monthly obligation and apply it to their spending bucket, financial advisors now have an opportunity to discuss opening an IRA, increasing their 401(k) contribution, or even starting a 529 plan for their own further education or that of their future beneficiaries.
There are countless ways to build connections with your clients around education, and these three questions will make for a solid start. Getting millennials talking about their alma maters can be a tremendous source that will help financial advisors break through to this generation and better understand their motivations, goals and values.
All information provided is for informational and educational purposes only and is not intended to provide investment, tax, accounting or legal advice. As with all matters of an investment, tax, or legal nature, you and your clients should consult with a qualified tax or legal professional regarding your or your client’s specific legal or tax situation, as applicable.
The preceding is not intended to be a recommendation or advice. This material is intended for general use by financial advisors.