When a Millennial Isn't a Millennial

Bill McManus   |  Tue Jan 10 09:30:00 EST 2017


The ball has dropped, the calendar has flipped, and we’re now easing into 2017, which means that each demographic cohort (Boomer, Gen X, Millennial) will be reaching new milestones.  The oldest Boomers will be turning 71; Gen X will move one year closer to retirement; and the youngest Millennials will all be driving. But those milestones, and frankly, those labels, don’t account for everyone, so while they serve as helpful guidelines, they shouldn’t be used as rules.

As we start a new year, maybe it’s time to take a fresh approach to how we view a certain group, both as potential clients and partners.  

The term ‘Millennial’ tends to conjure up certain images of younger people who are fresh out of school and trying to find their place in this world, as evidenced during a roundtable discussion we hosted last year with financial advisors.  However, while the youngest of this group are taking the wheel for the first time, the oldest Millennials will be turning 37 this year.  They are homeowners, have families of their own, and are reaching prime earning years of their careers. There are two takeaways here for advisors: 1) Don’t be fooled by the technical parameters and stereotypes of the Millennial group; 2) Millennials, as they relate to you, might be in dire need of financial guidance. They just might want to receive that advice in a different way.

When meeting with clients or prospects who fall into the Millennial category, keep the following in mind:


Technology has enabled us to communicate in a much more effective manner than in generations past.  We can disseminate information quickly and efficiently (think of text messages and social media), and younger generations are commonly known as embracing technology more easily and quickly.  Consider communicating with short, digestible pieces of information for quick and easy reading, so that you avoid losing their attention.

The Millennial generation places high value on not only products and solutions, but also on experience. Crowdsourcing, ratings systems, and social reviews are common practices for the Millennial group. You may no longer be benchmarked against a competing advisor, but against the last experience someone had at a retail or service location. Think about what qualities would make you recommend or return to a certain business—accessibility, responsiveness, friendliness, helpfulness, respectfulness, integrity, patience, etc.—and put them into action to leave clients with a good feeling and the desire to reach out again. 

Our research with the MIT AgeLab shows that empathy and personalization are paramount to the advisor/ client relationship.  The simple question any client might ask himself/herself is, “Does this person get me?”  A little bit of listening and empathy can go a long way. When meeting with clients or prospects, ask questions about their work, personal life, hobbies, and goals. Identify points of connection, and use them to relate and maintain conversation. Be focused and attentive, and use examples from their own life to share insight and information.

We are always facing change in our industry.  This year presents a great opportunity to embrace some of the demographic changes that we are seeing and open yourself up to a whole new array of clients.


MIT Agelab is not an affiliate or subsidiary of Hartford Funds.


Bill McManus

Bill McManus  

Director, Strategic Markets

Bill is part of the Strategic Markets Team for Hartford Funds. In his current position, Bill is responsible for engaging and educating both financial advisors and their clients about current and emerging opportunities in the financial-services marketplace. These opportunities range from tactical strategies in areas such as retirement-income planning, investment planning, and charitable planning, to anticipating and preparing for long-term demographic and lifestyle changes.

Bill joined the organization in 2003 as an advisor consultant responsible for marketing Hartford Funds in Virginia and West Virginia. Bill earned his Certified Investment Management Analyst (CIMA®) designation, is FINRA Series 7 and 63 registered, and holds his life and variable insurance licenses.

Bill has been widely quoted in consumer and trade publications such as US News and World Report and Wealth Management.com. He has also appeared as a featured guest on Bloomberg Radio to discuss his views on retirement-related topics.

Originally from Smithville, New Jersey, Bill attended the University of Pennsylvania where he earned a bachelor’s degree in political science. He currently lives in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

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