For financial advisors, the most important designations in American society don’t fall along income, racial, religious, education or even gender divides–they’re generational. The four main generations–the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials—differ from one another in profound ways in their attitudes towards spending, saving and investing.

The fastest path to becoming a “trusted advisor” and connecting with clients, communicating effectively with them and winning their business is to understand their generational perspectives. For those advisors in the “senior” market, hold on to your hats: Boomers are a vastly different generation and won’t think, feel or act like the Silent Generation as they begin reaching age 65 in 2011.

The generation gap
There has been a generation gap between Boomers and their elders since Boomers first came of age in the late 1950s and ’60s. At every stage of life, Boomers have blazed their own trails, far from the path travelled by others. Looking back on the formative years for both generations, one can easily understand the divergent approaches to money management and financial issues.

The 35 million members of the Silent Generation, born between 1926 and 1945, shared the sacrifice during World War II and absorbed the virtues of patriotism, self-sacrifice and respect for authority. The Silents are more likely than others to save, invest and live within their means. Trusted advisors appeal to their thrift, self-discipline and fear of uncertainty.

Affluence and opportunity

Some 76 million Baby Boomers were born between 1946 and 1964, an age of prosperity and boundless potential that made them optimists by nature. The post-World War II economy fostered the notion that all things were possible, and a majority of Boomers grew up in affluence with a vision of unlimited opportunity.

The pursuit of the good life by Boomers made them big borrowers and poor savers. As they reach this next stage of life, the best advisors are appealing to their strong desire to control their destiny. Which, for now, means helping them preserve capital in hope of having an income for that time in the distant future when they are no longer earning a regular income. These forever optimistic Boomers need help, and thanks to the economic meltdown, finally know it.