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Financial Planning > College Planning

How Investors’ Decision Making Varies With Age and Wealth

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Well-off individuals and families generally place a high priority on managing and growing their wealth, but their approaches to financial decisions differ according to their age and affluence, Martini Media reported Thursday.

As a result, Martini said in a statement, financial services firms need to provide targeted guidance for achieving goals like funding lifecycle events, address concerns about trust in financial professionals and recognize that millennials will rely on different tools than their older counterparts.

The report provided details of the financial goals and online behavior of three segments of what Martini called the affluent market:

  • hyper affluent, the 3% of Americans with at least $250,000 in annual household income
  • mass affluent, the 25% of the population with income in the $100,000 to $249,000 range
  • emerging affluent, aged 18 to 39, with $75,000 to $249,000 in income

Its findings were based on an online survey conducted by Ipsos MediaCT in January among 882 adults. The sample included 145 hyper affluents.

Survey respondents’ greatest financial concern was outliving their retirement savings. Sixty-three percent regretted they had not started saving earlier for retirement.

Moreover, 70% of affluents could not accurately estimate how much money they might need to meet future exigencies, and just 39% were confident they had saved enough money for their children’s college education.

Some key themes emerged in the report.

The survey uncovered different approaches among respondents to working with financial services firms.

Eighty percent of hyper affluents preferred to engage with firms they had previously worked with, while only 69% of their younger counterparts expressed a similar level of loyalty.

Millennials were more open to working with new firms than mass and hyper affluents.

This suggests that bigger wealth management firm are doing themselves no favor—at least in terms of attracting younger investors—by raising their minimum investment requirement for new clients.

According to Martini, millennials are taking matters into their own hands, using disruptive technologies to manage their finances.

The survey found that affluents spent a minimum of six hours in an average month researching financial products across all digital media, and overall, 30% devoted more than two months to research before completing a transaction.

Nearly half of emerging affluents reported doing their research on tablets and smartphones.

Martini said affluent millennials were at the forefront of a growing trend of self-directed financial and wealth management, preferring to manage their money independently, without the use of financial professionals. Sixty percent of hyper affluents expressed a high level of trust in financial advisors, but only 33% of emerging affluents had that same level of trust. They wanted to seek information themselves and make their own decisions.

“While millennials are just starting to formulate their investment strategy and prefer to make financial decisions independently through the use of digital resources, their older counterparts place their trust in established financial institutions and are most concerned about estate planning, and saving enough for retirement and their children’s education,” Martini Media’s director of market research and insights, Karen Ring, said in the statement. 

This do-it-yourself approach can exacerbate investors’ already complex challenges, however. A recent study by Northwestern Mutual found that investors who worked with an advisor could look forward to a more secure retirement.

Still, digital remains a top influencer. In the survey, emerging affluents were more receptive to third-party content, such as user reviews and website articles, while hyper affluents preferred to use a brand’s website as a digital resource.

“Affluents are worried about their financial futures like everyone else,” Geoff Schiller, chief revenue officer at Martini Media’s parent company Evolve Media, said in the statement.

“It is clear that just because they are affluent, doesn’t mean that they aren’t looking for help. It’s important for financial advertisers to use digital media to help address those concerns and foster and facilitate trust between affluents and financial institutions.”

That’s advice that advisors have been slow to take, according to research by Cogent Reports.


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