Secure the generational wealth transfer


It’s no secret we are currently witnessing the greatest wealth transfer in history. It’s also no secret preventing assets from walking out the door is one of the toughest parts of being a financial advisor. What makes it so hard?

In most families, talking about money is taboo. Many families will put the conversation off until something urgent takes place, and they have no choice. With emotions running high and the family in a situation that already feels precarious, these last-minute conversations can lead to rash decisions, which result in avoidable tension or even the loss of wealth.

Only about 30% of wealth transfer plans are successful.1 Why do so many fail? Trust and communication issues are the primary causes, both among family members and between family members and their advisor.1 To improve the success rate of wealth transfers, advisors must realize it’s not just about protecting the actual assets, but about preparing the heirs receiving the assets.

As a financial advisor, you play an invaluable role in helping families have open dialogues about money. Advisors who understand multigenerational dynamics and can initiate discussions can have an advantage in the marketplace.

Here are some tips to help you simplify intergenerational financial conversations and ease the tension amid families:

Uncover each person’s concerns

Begin by having individual meetings with grandparents, parents and children to uncover their unique concerns. These conversations can help you understand concerns from every generation’s viewpoint. For example, your Traditionalist may be most worried about preserving family values. Baby Boomers might be concerned about how they will maintain their independence as they age. Gen Xers could be troubled if they don’t have a clear picture of what is going on financially in their family. And Millennial and Generation Z heirs may be worried about keeping up with the financial jargon at the meeting. Taking time to make connections and learn about each person’s concerns will help your clients and will strengthen your relationship with each heir.

Explore individual goals

Your role as an advisor goes beyond uncovering and addressing concerns but also requires examining each person’s goals and objectives. Without understanding everyone’s different needs, a successful wealth transfer cannot happen. Perhaps Traditionalist grandparents would like to share their life lessons, stories and values with their children and grandchildren. Baby Boomers may have lofty visions of what retirement will look like or may want to start an encore career. Xers may have a dream of sending their kids to college debt-free. Millennials might be exploring options for a trip abroad, donating to a philanthropic cause or saving to purchase a home. Uncovering the goals of each generation will help you focus on both individual and shared priorities, so every family member feels valued and invested in the plan at large. After all, assisting clients to reach personal goals is arguably one of the best parts of being a financial advisor.

Be their generational translator

So how do you carefully bring both the concerns and goals of each person to the table? There are two things to keep in mind here: the structure of the meeting itself and the perspective of each generation. When considering the structure of the meeting, keep in mind that each generation will most likely have different expectations. For example, Traditionalists and Boomers will want some structure and would benefit from an agenda ahead of time. Xers may wish to ask questions, to you or their family members, and Millennials will want this to feel like a collaborative process. While not easy, it is possible to address all of these generational desires at the same meeting.

Generational perspectives may, however, provide some angst to the conversation. Beyond the structure of the meeting, you may need to moderate as communication can break down along generation lines, especially when it comes to priorities and perspectives. Do Traditionalists feel like a valued part of the conversation and not put out to pasture? Are your Boomer clients worried their Millennial heirs don’t understand what’s at stake? Are the Xers focusing on the worst-case scenarios and deflating the others in the room?

Start these conversations by saying something like, “After meeting with each of you, here’s what I have learned….” Then use your generational know-how to keep the conversation moving.


Although the family conversations can be labor-intensive, advisors have an excellent opportunity to fill a need for their clients and forge lasting relationships with the next generation of investors. Getting each generation involved in discussions about money can create stronger families, more responsible financial planning, and can improve your ability to secure generational wealth transfers.

1The Williams Group. (2015).

This information was prepared in part by an unrelated independent third party, BridgeWorks, and is provided for informational purposes only. Ivy Distributors, Inc., believes the information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.