For the last 100 years or more, demographers and strategists have defined the different generations based on a variety of factors. Some of these include population, economics, education, upbringing, customs and behaviors. Each generation creates their own values adopted from previous generations, and have a breaking point where they diverge from the norm and try to establish their own goals for the future.
Of course, not everyone will be defined exactly by the “label” of their generation. Each person creates his or her own values and paths, which could mesh from influences from each generational group. Below is a chart which shows the approximate ages (different research shows different variations) of each generation and broad characteristics of each group.
||Years & Ages
||Born 1901-1924; Ages 92 to 100+
||Economic Boom of the 1920s
||Born 1925-1946; Ages 70 to 91
||Reputation based on Social Status -
Ambitious goals/aspirations based on economic depravity during their formative years
|Baby Boom Generation
||Born 1946-1964; Ages 52 to 69
||Hope for a brighter future - More of an economically comfortable life for most baby boomers
||Born 1965-1979; Ages 37 to 51
|Overlooked- Sandwiched between the baby boomers and millennial generations
|Millennial Generation (also known as Generation Y)
||Born 1980-1999; Ages 17 to 36
|Connected and diverse
||Born begining in 2000; Ages 10 to 16
||Next generation on the horizon
|Projected to be technologically and globally connected because of technology
Being in the trust business, we see clients represented from each generational group. They may vary from those who are still living from the GI Generation or represented by a trust document that was created during this time, all the way up to the latest named generation, Generation Alpha. Needless to say, staying current with the changes and differences of each generation and their expectations is a very daunting task, but a challenge we welcome.
One of the challenges we face as a trust company is finding the right balance when dealing with the age difference and expectations among family members and executing the terms of the trust agreement. As the fiduciary, the explicit duty of a trustee is to faithfully execute the wishes of the grantor as specified in the legal document, even if the wishes seem foreign to the family member beneficiary. Being able to explain the grantor’s intent across multiple generations requires unique communication skills and sometimes a lot of patience. As a possible example of a generational viewpoint divide, does a trust provision authorizing the availability of funds for a grandchild’s education mean college tuition or money for a 12-month trip around the world? Another example is a trust document written in the 1960s stating that the trust would be distributed equally to the “lawful” children, those conceived through marriage. In today’s society, the word “lawful” could be interpreted differently with the description of a traditional family changing and children born out of wedlock being recognized.
The needs and desires of each generation are vastly different. The communication preferences are equally different. The first few generation-types prefer direct communication with their advisers, such as face-to-face meetings and physical financial statements. Older individuals from the earlier generations prefer some sort of human contact when dealing with their personal and financial information. They want to trust and know the advisers who will be handling the details of their most valuable possessions. This is unlike the younger generations, who for the most part, prefer less direct methods. The younger generations don’t feel the need to have direct contact with an adviser. They are perfectly happy with emailing and texting to convey their desires and wishes.
Understanding your client’s needs and being able to meet the diversity of those needs is more critical now than ever. Having the flexibility to cater to all types of clients is essential in our current society. At Old North State Trust, we have that type of flexibility. We can provide paper statements, online access, face-to-face meetings, online meetings or whatever our clients may want or need in this ever-changing world we face daily.
Old North State Trust, LLC (ONST) periodically produces publications as a service to clients and friends. The information contained in these publications is intended to provide general information about issues related to trust, investment and estate related topics. Readers should be aware that the facts may vary depending upon individual circumstances. The information contained in these publications is intended solely for informational purposes, is proprietary to ONST and is not guaranteed to be accurate, complete or timely.
Susan Willett is the director of trust services and oversees all aspects of trust administration for Old North State Trust, LLC. Old North State Trust, a North Carolina chartered trust company, provides: asset management services; income, estate and trust tax consulting; retirement planning and administration; and trustee and estate services to both individuals and businesses. Old North State Trust professionals have many years of experience and for over a decade have assisted clients in identifying and reaching their financial goals. For more information, visit www.oldnorthstatetrust.com or call