NU Online News Service, Nov. 17, 2003, 11:15 a.m. EST – Generation X, born between 1961 and 1981, is America’s smartest consumer group, says Ann Fishman. “They’ve watched so many commercials, they can see right through marketing hype,” she says.

So when selling financial services products to Gen Xers, including retirement products, marketers must take a second look at everything they know about sales, Fishman says.

The president of Generational-Targeted Marketing Corp., a New Orleans consulting firm that focuses on generational issues, says there are six generations with different mindsets, attitudes, values and lifestyles. Although it might be tempered by age or current events, this mindset is formed by their youthful years, so fundamentally it will never change, Fishman says.

“This is key for financial advisors to understand,” she says.

Although there are basic differences between what Gen X men and women want, they are equally knowledgeable, Fishman adds.

“So financial advisors should make sure to show women the proper respect as worthy consumers,” Fishman says. “They are equal to men in their financial savvyness and their ability and inclination to buy.”

And women of all generations buy 80% of all products in the country, she says.

Gen X women also want “the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth,” Fishman says.

They know financial advisors sell products for a profit. They also know whether they are in the market for what the advisor wants to sell.

“She wants an honest, straightforward approach, no hype, no spin,” Fishman says. “Don’t tie this one up with a pink ribbon; they perceive it as old style.”

This is not a loyal generation either, she says.

“That means you have to earn their respect each and every time,” Fishman explains. “They expect you to do your job properly, or they will find someone who will.”

Gen X women don’t expect to be treated as though they are special, as baby boomers do. But they do expect an advisor to do her job right, she says.

This includes mentoring. Gen X women were latch-key children, Fishman says. This means they are children of divorce, step-parents, working parents and one-parent families.

There were not enough adults around to mentor this generation in financial matters, so they expect an advisor to guide them in this area. They don’t, however, expect to be patronized, Fishman says.

“They’re very savvy and know to continue being savvy, they need to continue learning. They expect [a financial advisor] to be part of this lifelong learning,” she says.

Gen X women also expect an advisor to be Internet-savvy and will visit her Web page.

“They give you seven seconds on your homepage,” Fishman says.

“The links must be clear, there should be no unnecessary copy [and] there should be more visuals than copy.”

Navigation around the site should be easy, too.

“If your site doesn’t have ease of navigation, she’s going to respond, ?If you don’t understand this, you don’t understand me,’” she says.

This generation of women also expects advisors, like any one they work with, to be polite.

“If they send you an e-mail or call, return it the same day or within 24 hours or forget their business,” Fishman says. “In the Internet world of the Gen X woman, she expects follow-through, Internet time.”

Hitting all these points will get an advisor not only the business of the Gen X woman, but also the business of the boomers in her life, Fishman says.

“They have a tremendous influence on the older generation,” she says. “They are often responsible for the purchases made by their boomer parents and grandparents.

“If you go through the front door of Gen X, you get through the back door to other generations. A lot of generations rely on Gen Xers for guidance on where to put their money.”

Recent research by Allstate, Inc., Northbrook, Ill., supports this idea. The company’s third annual Retirement Reality Check Survey shows these women are confident about their investment savvy, thinking about retirement expenses and saving toward retirement on a scale on par with or even ahead of baby boomer women.

In other words, the financial savings knowledge and equality that boomer women strived for, Xer women appear to be achieving, according to Allstate’s findings.

The Allstate survey looked at Americans of the baby boom generation, now ages 38-57, and Generation X, now ages 24-37.

Women of the two generations responded similarly in the survey to questions about financial confidence and planning.

Generation X women, however, are decades younger than baby boomer women and already have earmarked an average of $410,000 for retirement, including pensions and other company-sponsored savings plans.

Baby boomer women are only slightly ahead, having earmarked $451,000 on average, according to the Allstate survey. These numbers show Gen X women are taking an earlier and more active approach to their finances than baby boomer women.

Gen X women are ahead of their male peers, too, in the retirement savings game. Gen X men have only earmarked an average of $248,000 for retirement, according to the survey. Baby-boomer men, however, have earmarked $564,000, on average, for retirement.

Gen X women also say they are as confident as Gen X men in making investment decisions. Allstate found that 71% of Gen X women surveyed say they are confident in making investment decisions, compared to 70% of Gen X men.

During retirement, Gen X women responded that, on average, they expect to need $3,607 a month to cover basic living expenses. That compares with $3,657 cited by boomer women; $3,287 cited by Gen X men, and $4,869 by boomer men.

On the other hand, the Allstate survey found that 40% of Xer women surveyed consider the thought of retirement overwhelming, compared with only 23% of boomer women. Specifically, 57% of Xer women respondents said they fear outliving their retirement savings, while only 46% of boomer women said that.

Allstate created the survey with Harris Interactive, Rochester, N.Y.