By now you’ve probably seen the Wells Fargo Retirement Survey that found for many middle class Americans, 80 is the new 65 when it comes to retirement.  What you may not have seen is the firestorm of online discussions this survey has created.

Primarily between the Baby Boomers and Millennials (Gen X’ers are remaining characteristically quiet), the discussion boards have gotten quite heated as the Millennials -- those currently in their late 20’s and younger -- blame not only the current economic malaise on the boomers, but also the inability to advance their own careers as fewer managerial level jobs are opening up due to boomers remaining in the workforce. 

This “gray ceiling” as they are calling it, is preventing them from attaining higher salaried positions and creating their own financial independence.

Adding fuel to the fire is the increased awareness that according to the Congressional Budget Office, for every $1 spent by the federal government on children under the age of 18, $7 is spent on the elderly. For Millennials struggling under the weight of huge student loans, this disparity wreaks of an unfair playing field.

The boomer’s (currently in their late-40’s to mid-60’s) response however, is mixed, and truthfully, not pretty. While some are referencing economic circumstances beyond their control, a lack of jobs and age discrimination for their financial struggles, others are showing an “I’ve got mine, too bad for you” attitude that’s reminiscent of the 1980’s “greed is good” mentality. 

Regardless of which side of the issue you lean, a couple observations are painfully clear.  First, working longer is going to be a retirement reality for many of your clients and, second, it’s an emotionally charged issue that potentially reveals much deeper attitudes or beliefs.

So what can you do?

First, for your younger clients, help them take control of their finances. Unfortunately many baby boomers have indeed made enough mistakes to create a textbook of “What Not To Do To Become Financially Secure.” Preaching the basics of “don’t overspend, pay yourself first, create an emergency fund and invest for the long term” are rules that never change. I know it’s not as sexy as talking about a great hedge fund, but it’s time-tested and true.

Second, for your older and middle-age clients, help them see that working longer is not the end of their dreams. According to the U.S. Department of Education, those over 45 represent the fastest growing segment of the higher education market. More and more boomers are returning to the classroom not just to stay current on existing skills, but to develop new skills in hopes of making a career change to something they’ve always wanted to do. 

It may not be the path they imagined for their 50’s and 60’s, but it is a path that many are finding more realistic and engaging.

Finally, for those clients who show an “I’ve got mine” attitude, I recommend Lynne Twist’s book The Soul of Money. We all know that in the end it’s not about the money or possessions we acquire, it’s about how we spend our time and what we can do to make the world a better place. With the challenges all generations are currently facing, it’s a message we can all be reminded of.





Keith J. Weber, CFP®, CPRC, is a speaker, author and founder of Weber Consulting Group, LLC, a financial advisor training, coaching and practice management consulting firm focused on providing relationship development skills to advisors.  Through the website, Keith provides tools to advisors and clients to help build stronger client relationships.  Keith maintains the CFP® designation and is also a Certified Professional Retirement Coach.  His latest book, Rethinking Retirement, was released in July, 2010.  For more information visit, or connect with Keith on LinkedIn.