The rise of the asset-under-management (AUM) model has driven a concomitant shift in financial advisors to focus increasingly on Baby Boomer retirees – for the same reason that Willie Sutton robbed banks: “That’s where the money is.” To the point that some in the industry have raised the question of whether the pendulum is swinging too far to retirees, and that it’s time to start doing more financial planning for next-generation clients as well.
Except the challenge for most advisory firms is that it’s not profitable to do financial planning for younger clients, who simply don’t have sufficiently-sized investment accounts to generate enough AUM fees for the advisory firm to deliver the advice. For which advisory firms can adopt various “fee-for-service” models, from charging minimum fees based on a percentage of income, to flat monthly retainer fees. Except then the pressure is on the advisory firm to justify the value of the financial planning advice being given to clients for that fee, especially when they tend to have "simpler" financial needs in the first place.
Yet the reality is that younger clients with fewer assets and lower net worth still experience the kinds of tumultuous life transitions that necessitate engaging a financial advisor in the first place. In fact, ironically, older retirees typically only experience a few major life transitions in the span of decades – retirement itself, a major change in health, and the death of a spouse – while it’s younger clients who actually experience a steady stream of major life transitions that may necessitate a financial advisor, from getting a new job, to going back to school, starting a business, getting married (or getting divorced!), having children, and more.
And while younger clients may have less in the way of investments and assets, they still face substantial complexities when it comes to their cash flow itself, from how to transition from a dual-income household to a stay-at-home-parent (or back again) after the birth of a child or a decision to go back to school, merging finances during a marriage (or separating them again after a divorce), to adjusting spending while launching a business. Or simply engaging in strategies to increase income and job potential in the first place.
Which means, in the end, while the focus of financial planning may shift for next-generation clients – from monitoring the health of their assets to monitoring the health of their income instead – arguably younger clients don’t really have “simpler” financial advice needs in the first place. Instead, they have a different set of complex financial advice needs… and an even greater need for the cyclical and ongoing financial planning process in the first place, because of the pace and frequency of the life transitions that impact their financial situation throughout their 20s, 30s, and 40s!