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Confessions of a millennial advisor: How to become an advisor to Gen Y

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Ah, those millennials!

Most of us agree that it is wrong and even dangerous to stereotype others. In a country that gives lip-service to acceptance and diversity, the huge demographic of those born between about 1980 and 1995 are often the object of shallow analysis, sometimes leading to scorn and ridicule.

So, we hear things like “millennials aren’t interested in their future” or “millennials aren’t buying anything.” Thus, many advisors avoid the younger market to their detriment.

Why market to millennials?

I recall an old illustration of the two shoe salesmen going into a third-world country some decades ago. The story goes that the first shoe salesman wired back pessimistically to his company: “No market here, the citizens don’t wear shoes.” The second wired back brimming with optimism: “Great market potential! The citizens don’t wear shoes — yet!” Like that second salesmen, I don’t look at the negatives — I see huge potential in working within the vast millennial market.

Just out of school with a degree in economics, I was drawn to the financial services industry as a way to combine my analytical skills and the ability to communicate and connect with people. As I approached graduation and took a closer look at the industry, I was both surprised and excited by the opportunity for advisors to begin at a young age. I knew I would have a large impact on clients throughout their working lives. I did not find many careers that offered such impact, growth, ownership, and financial opportunity.

My market

As Yogi Berra (reportedly) said, “It is amazing what you can observe by looking around.” As I examined the millennial demographic, I found that there are many young professionals with great jobs, large incomes, growth potential and serious financial planning needs.

As with any good marketing plan, I had to develop my target market, define my services, and brand my image to prospects and clients. Millennials, like any other group, simply want their needs and lifestyles understood.

I look at every client as a puzzle with a tangible solution. I am constantly challenged to provide both quality solutions and to learn how to communicate to people in the specific way that they need. Some millennials will need a “nudge,” others need a “pull,” and – still – others simply need direction.

People face different goals, challenges, and experiences and I enjoy bringing solutions to them in a way that best suits their specific needs.

The challenges

Some millennials, like some baby-boomers and other older demographics, are hesitant to begin planning. It is a big step and a lifestyle choice. I ask people every day to do things that do not provide short-term gratification. It is always a challenge to move people toward the responsible choice.

Another big challenge is finding forward thinking and successful millennials. So often I hear from my millennial clients that they did not realize that they could already have an advisor.

Every day, I look for more people who are working hard, are serious about their future, and believe that they absolutely deserve an advisor. Then, I try to foster a relationship that will grow with them and create their buy-in.

The financial services industry ignores millennials at its own peril.

In another decade, these young people will be “middle-aged.” And, in another decade, they will be “pre-retirees.” Millennials will likely inherit trillions of dollars from parents and grandparents. Thus, advisors need to become more focused on holistic planning for millennials. After all, people need a plan, not a product. Clients are much more likely to set and pursue their goals if they are being walked through a process focused on long-term relationships and education.

I think more consumers, including millennials, are recognizing that designations such as the CFP®, CLU®, CHFC® are great in identifying a committed advisor. In addition, the industry needs to grow in diversity.

Financial planning is so personal that it is important to have people of different backgrounds, so that clients can have more choices. In this scenario, I am particularly excited to see more women recognize that this is a career they can develop in the financial services field.

How to be successful

It is critical for new advisors to understand what they are getting into. A successful career in the financial services requires dedication and commitment. There must be a commitment to life-long learning because things are changing continually. Thus, many people who are new to the industry become frustrated when they realize that there isn’t a handbook or checklist for every situation. But that is the reality of this business.

You have to learn as you grow as an advisor. All must be built on a foundation of dedication to your clients. When you act out of integrity and in your clients’ best interest, they can easily tell that you are “walking the walk, not just talking the talk.”

See also:

How to approach an unapproachable market


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