Hey, Baby Boomers, Wall Street Wants to be Your New Best Friend

Baby Boomers control over $2 Trillion in wealth and many are unsure of how to best manage their retirement assets. It should come as no surprise, then, that the financial services industry has turned their attention to this market. Here are some factors to consider when they come calling.


NPR's Marketplace recently aired a story highlighting a new trend on Wall Street, their concerted effort to win the Baby Boomer customer. Marketplace reports:

"Boomers are hot targets for banks and financial advisers eager for a slice of their retirement savings. While wary of Wall Street's aggressive sales pitch, more and more older Americans feel they could use some advice. Why? Because they face the most challenging retirement landscape in modern U.S. history, one that is complicated by longer lifespans, the slow disappearance of pensions and rapidly multiplying offerings of complex financial products."

Given that 73% of Americans across all age groups and income levels say they are wary of Wall Street, it's understandable that the average consumer would have a tough time mapping out a strategy for retirement. Identifying a financial advisor that is knowledgeable and trustworthy is often a big part of that process.

Here are three things to keep in mind as you consider your options:

1. Shop around

Obvious advice, perhaps, but it still bears repeating.  And don't limit your comparison-shopping to the financial advisor or bank you select.  Consider shopping around for every product or service that advisor or institution pitches as well. 

Let them know you'll be shopping around; it's a strong incentive for them to cut to the chase and put their best offer on the table up front.

2. Conduct independent research

Marketplace also interviewed Debra Whitman, executive vice president with AARP. She had this to say about consumer research, "People really have to do a lot of homework to make sure they're going to be both with an adviser and then also with the type of products that can meet their needs. It has to be from somebody that the individual trusts and is looking out for their interest, not just trying to sell them something."

Not only should we research the advisor, products and services we choose to go with, we should also deepen our overall financial literacy with respect to retirement options.  Non-profits like AARP and financial news organizations like NPR's Marketplace are great sources of this kind of information because they're neutral and aren't trying to sell you anything.

Friends, colleagues and extended family can also be great sources of information.  There's no ‘one size fits all', so the choices they've made may not be right for you.  But even if you don't follow the same route as they did, getting insight into what's working for people you know and trust can still be highly useful.

If money talk is considered as taboo as politics and religion at your social gatherings, consider forming a money circle discussion group with your friends.

Columnist and personal finance expert, Kerry Hannon, offers great tips on how to start such a group or even how to simply get more comfortable talking about money informally with your close girlfriends.

3. Consider a specialist

According to the Marketplace report, "financial gerontology" is the newest specialization trend on Wall Street.  While we may initially scoff, it does indicate that some financial institutions are giving serious consideration – and dedicating resources - to the unique financial planning needs of Baby Boomers.

As Marketplace reports, Boomers are facing very different prospects for retirement than previous generations.  Chief among these are, "how to save for a retirement that may last 40 years and how to put enough money away to take care of future medical expenses. Modern advisers also need to know how to deal with the increasingly shaky ground under the longtime pillars of American retirements: pensions and Social Security."

The financial advisor you choose should have expertise in all of these important areas. 

Join the Conversation

Are you pleased with or suspicious of Wall Street's sudden new interest in Baby Boomers?

How are you handling the complicated maze of asset management and retirement planning?  Do you work with a professional advisor or manage your portfolio yourself?