5 critical differences between younger and older boomer prospects

By B Grigg

Fidelity & Guaranty Life


How many recent articles lump all baby boomers together as one interest group, especially when it comes to retirement planning? To really gain an edge in this crowded space, a successful agent must be able to adapt core marketing messages to effectively target important subsets.

I believe one segment in particular — the “trailing-edge” boomers — presents a unique and untapped market for agents who specialize in annuity sales. Before meeting with a boomer client, consider the following five key differences in mindset between a middle and a trailing-edge boomer:

1. Beatles versus boom boxes — Leading boomers still feel a tinge of anger when they see a picture of Yoko Ono and remember what they think she did to the Beatles. Trailing-edge boomers barely remember either and definitely don’t know the history. While leading boomers focused on cultural change, trailing-edge boomers were concerned about consumerism. The safety and prosperity of the post-Cold War era focused more attention on things, rather than ideals. How will this impact their thoughts about planning for a legacy through insurance?

2. Grandkids versus kids in school — Leading boomers married early and had kids quickly. Trailing-edge boomers moved in first, then married. They had their kids much later in life. They aren’t thinking about spoiling grandkids. They may still be planning for their kids’ education or how to pay off the loans they just took out. Are they more focused on maximizing immediate income or planning out 20 years from now?

3. Change the world versus change the wallpaper — All boomers share the same core idealism and possibility of change. Trailing-edge boomers, however, have a much more restrained view of how wide the possibility for change really is. Will they be more responsive to talking about how to generate an extra $3,000 a year in annual retirement income or how to guarantee a nice annual vacation after age 65?

4. House as retirement fund versus house as an (empty) ATM — All boomers suffered due to the real estate meltdown. Leading boomers, however, typically had no mortgage. In contrast, trailing-edge boomers used the rapid rise in home equity to fund current purchases. They used their house as an ATM — and now the credit line stopped. Just how deep will the retirement hole actually be, and how honest will their recognition be when you meet with them?

5. Good times the rule versus the exception — Leading boomers grew up in period of exceptional economic growth and opportunity. Trailing-edge boomers matured when those rules reversed. College education no longer guaranteed a good job. “Safe” professions like medicine and law experienced rapid disruption. Prosperity was the exception, not the rule. Will the prospect be focused more on protecting than accumulating assets, even if their age suggests the reverse?

I had the opportunity late this summer to discuss the psychology of the trailing-edge boomer segment in great detail with Jack Marrion, a well-known retirement strategist in the industry. We created a summary of those conversations that will focus on how the fixed indexed annuity conversation must change for this group. It will be released later this spring.