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Generation X Turns 47

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This is a challenging time for anyone selling any product that involves time horizons longer than the 15-second attention span of a daytrader. That goes double for long-term care insurance (LTCI), and triple for anyone trying to sell LTCI to anyone other than the most obvious prospects.

But one thought for LTCI marketers to keep at the back of their minds is that the oldest members of the “baby bust generation,” or “Generation X,” have started turning 47.

Generation X appeared around 1965, when a U.S. Supreme Court decision made birth control pills available to married women in all 50 states, and ended in 1982, when a new baby boomlet began.

Some pop demographers include people born as early as 1960 in Generation X. People born in 1960 will turn 52 this year.

Today, the typical 52-year-old has no direct memory of President Kennedy. A typical 47-year-old has no direct memory of the Moon Landing.

Members of Generation X do remember that the job market was terrible up until about 1997, was good for about 13 years, and now has been bad for most of the last 12 years.

Jesse Slome, the executive director of the American Association for Long-Term Care Association, Westlake Village, Calif., has advised insurers, agents and brokers to focus on the core baby boomer prospects, who are certainly underserved.

He notes that AALTCI found in 2010 that only about 3.8% of the buyers of new individual LTCI policies were ages 44 or younger. He says the most logical prospects are ages 52 to 67.

But one interesting characteristic of members of Generation X who managed to start professional careers during the recession of the early 1990s and hold on to those careers is that they tend to work hard. They may become hard to insure earlier than the baby boomers did.

The National Center for Health Statistics reported in 2010, for example, that the percentage of women ages 35 to 44 who either had high blood pressure or were taking high blood pressure medication increased to 13.8% during the 2005-2008 health survey cycle, up from 11.2% during the 1988-1994 survey cycle.

For men, the percentage with high blood pressure or blood pressure medication increased to 21.1%, from 17.1%.

Over that same period, the percentage of men with cholesterol problems increased to 21.5%, from 21%, and the percentage of women with cholesterol problems jumped to 17%, from 13.5%.

Another interesting characteristic of members of Generation X is that many of them have parents who are ages 52 to 69 – in the core LTCI-buying age group. The people who now have the biggest stake in baby boomer and Silent Generation parents buying LTCI are Gen X children who could someday be caregivers.

When the MetLife Mature Market Institute, Westport, Conn., surveyed consumers of various ages, it found, for example, that only 75% of boomers thought they had a responsibility to let aging parents who ran into financial difficulties move in; 80% of the Gen Xers said they would let aging parents move in with them.

Meanwhile, because members of Generation X are part of a relatively 

small generation, they tend to get less attention from marketers than the baby boomers do.

Back in 2009, America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), Washington, did commission a Gen X LTCI awareness survey.

About 68% of the Gen X participants agreed that it was likely that they would need LTCI someday; 53% said they said they were not knowledgeable about LTCI.

In theory, members of Generation X who knew about the kinds of guarantees that good insurance products can offer might welcome the products.

T. Rowe Price, Baltimore, recently polled 860 U.S. adults ages 21 to 50 who have one or more investment accounts. Only 22% of the survey participants said they felt confident about the financial markets; 28% said they would prefer to put their money in stable, low-yield investments, such as money market funds.

So, what can LTCI marketers do about the idea that someone ought to do something about Generation X?

1. Be real.

Tom Riekse Jr., a managing general partner in the Lake Forest, Ill., office of LTCI Partners Inc., says reaching members of Generation X may take a new strategy.

“They’re skeptical about hard-sell sales practices,” Riekse says.

But, for sellers of private insurance products, the good news is that Gen Xers are also skeptical about the promises made by Social Security and Medicare, Riekse says.

Because of that concern about the stability of government programs, “they’re open to having a conversation,” Riekse says.

2. Advertise on shows that Gen Xers and their young children watch.

Insurance companies seem to run television advertising for life insurance and retirement planning products mainly on news shows and weekend sportscasts. The result is that members of Generation X who mostly watch MTV and Comedy Central, for example, may see thousands of beer commercials and hundreds of Allstate, State Farm and GEICO property-casualty insurance commercials for every one life insurance company commercial they see.

3. Get good Web ratings.

Members of Generation X tend to be heavy users of the Internet and Internet ratings. As with consumers of any age, the best way to reach a Generation X prospect is with a personal referral, marketing experts say. The second best way is with a high rating and a sincere, positive user review on a ratings Web site.


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