With the generation of 76 million baby boomers entering their golden years, much of the industry focus has been on accumulations and distribution of wealth. However, if your practice is still based on paper and pencil and “kitchen table basics” because you find Monte Carlo simulations intimidating, you may find some of your best clients migrating to competitors who “get it.”
Those of us born between 1946 and 1964 constitute the first generation of technology-savvy consumers. We moved from the IBM Selectic typewriter to personal computers to Blackberries and iPods, with ease. Boomers are Internet savvy and while their $2.1 trillion spending power may not be of interest to advertisers on “American Idol,” it’s of considerable interest to Wachovia, Wells Fargo and Fidelity Investments. And for a good reason: We have few choices when it comes to soft drinks, but we have hundreds of choices when it comes to the company we trust with our savings.
Recent statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau regarding the demographics of Internet users are quite surprising. While most boomers aren’t interested in creating Web pages for themselves on sites such as MySpace.com (like our children), research at The American College is finding that boomers truly enjoy going online and completing anywhere from three to five of the competing “retirement calculators” available from leading firms’ Web sites. Boomers want to see how technology creates a financial roadmap for the last two quarters of their life.
The most visited Web sites for retirees and those aged 55 and over are leisure and special interest sites such as golf, property and health portals. HGTV, Home Depot and Quickbooks.com are among the most popular sites visited by boomers, according to Web tracking specialists. Watch what will emerge in the next few years. The savvy advertisers who want our business will migrate to large font size text in their Web sites; they’ll include more audio vs. text prompts; and they’ll highlight people of color, women and same-sex couples. In essence, they’ll look and feel more like the real mosaic that our nation has become.
If that’s not enough, get ready for more dramatic changes. When you check into a nursing home, it will have wireless access. The premiere providers will offer a Webcam in your room so you can chat with your kids in Michigan from your retirement center in Charlotte. The phone next to your bed will not only allow unlimited worldwide calling for free, but it will also offer your pulse and blood pressure readings based on new diagnostics in the headset. Those readings will be embedded into the facility’s diagnostic tracking center. Something out of “The Jetsons?” Hardly. It’s you.
This year alone, 71 percent of those age 50-64 are already regularly surfing the Web, and 32 percent of those over 65 are Googling in retirement. These numbers will surge as Web services and attractions become more tailored to what we as boomers, need, want and expect.
Seniors are especially Internet savvy when it comes to tracking their finances. In fact, when it comes to stock trading, seniors are ahead of the general population in regard to online trading. Twenty-six percent of seniors use the Internet for stock trading, compared to 15 percent of general Internet users. We may not be day traders, but we increasingly want to check out balances daily because of the volatility of global markets.
The boomers are a generation reliant on e-mail communication, Internet stock trading, online news broadcasts and Internet research. Wireless Internet is as important as a radio, television or telephone was to the last generation. Nursing homes will need to embrace these advancements and be careful about security and privacy issues so that staff members do not manipulate residents.
So, as disconcerting as it may be, think about yourself years from now, entering that special facility that has the amenities you have chosen. You’ll walk the dining room, check out the health facility, be thinking about the view and wondering about social activities. Do you really think seniors will leave technology off that punch list?