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A New Tool for Multi-Gen Client Engagement

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What You Need to Know

  • The 1950 census is a time capsule that could hold the key for some advisors to engage with and even hold on to multigenerational clients.
  • Savvy advisors can use personal stories from this census as a springboard for asking broader questions,
  • Next steps may include planning for financial gifts to support educational goals, entrepreneurial ventures or first home purchases.

Advisors often ask: “How do I keep my clients’ kids on board?”  While there is no one answer, we know that clients rely on us for guidance as to when and how to talk about family, values and money with their children and grandchildren.

I advise revisiting history — especially events within our lived memories — for starting or deepening these conversations with clients and their rising generation family members.

A new treasure trove, the 1950 U.S. Census, may provide advisors with an entering wedge. On April 1, 2022, a 72-year waiting period will end, and the census will be available for the public to search and explore.

This time capsule could hold the key for some advisors to engage with and even hold on to multi-generational clients.

Access to the census is free through multiple online databases. The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA), the institution that holds the collection, will allow the public to start exploring the digitized 1950 U.S. Census through a dedicated website.

The well-known genealogical resource also will offer free access. Indexing done by the site, state by state, will make searches even easier and more accurate in the weeks following the much-anticipated April release.

Treasure Hunt

What might you and your clients find in these records? For those with family in the U.S. in 1950, they’re sure to find close connections. The 1950 census is comprehensive, listing the names of more than 150 million U.S. residents.

It took the nation’s pulse at a pivotal point in history, as the U.S. was coming out of World War II. The census may invoke nostalgia or at least recognition of the many changes afoot at the time. The country was experiencing a baby boom, breakthrough advancements in science and technology, the beginnings of the civil rights movement, and more.

For clients, stories inspired by the 1950 U.S. Census or other significant historical moments may inspire reflections and dialogue with you about earning, saving spending, and giving across generations. Savvy advisors can use these personal stories as a springboard for asking broader questions ,including:

  • What stories or money messages have been passed down in your family?
  • How can I help you share these messages with rising generation family members?
  • What family or business values, such as hard work, sacrifice, entrepreneurship or service, do these messages express?
  • Are these messages reflected (or translated) in the individual and family financial decisions you’re making today?
  • What actions can I help you take to realize goals that are multigenerational?

Next Steps

Together with your client, next steps may include planning for financial gifts to support educational goals, entrepreneurial ventures or first home purchases; clearer definition of rising gen roles and responsibilities; launching or expanding regular family meetings to promote engagement.

These discovery questions — when grounded in a personal, historical moment — may help clients take action.

Advisors should consider taking this opportunity with clients to look back and inform future planning discussions. While often overlooked, family history can be a powerful tool to help advisors differentiate themselves and this wide-angle approach.

Gretchen Krueger is a senior historian for the Family and Business History Group in Wells Fargo Wealth & Investment Management’s Advice and Planning Center.


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