The two fastest-growing demographics in the U.S. today are Hispanics and women over 50. There are more Americans today aged 51 than any other age.
Yet women uniformly report that they feel invisible in the marketplace (whether the mall or the bank) after turning 50. The biggest growth opportunity for any financial institution in the next 10 years comes from winning business from this vibrant boomer woman.
Many financial institutions continue to think that women defer to the men in their lives for financial planning. They need to shed this outdated stereotype to win business from women as they age.
In a survey we conducted last year among our members (most of them aged 50 to 70), we learned that these women are taking charge of their own financial future like no previous generation. While almost half of respondents told us that they were raised to believe that a man would take care of them financially, only 3% of them believe that today. Ninety-seven percent of boomer women tell us that their financial future depends entirely on themselves.
These facts apply even to married women, but it’s important to recognize that a substantial number of boomer women are planning their financial futures alone either because they are widowed, divorced or were never married.
What can a credit union do to show boomer women it wants to serve them well? First, it should never use ads that show a woman standing behind a man or sheltered under a man’s arms. Even for the small percentage of women who aren’t insulted by such imagery, a substantial number of them actually find it sad, since it reminds them of a husband they have lost.
What images do boomer women prefer? They do like images of families (more than images of couples) but only if they present no clear image of hierarchy. Don't show the women standing behind others, but don't show them standing in front of others either. There are so few financial institutions that get this right that the one that do will be disproportionately rewarded.
What does financial security mean to boomer women? Independence.
Seventy-five percent of our respondents in our survey told us that financial security means things like self-reliance, independence and the ability to plan their own futures. Less than 15% described it in terms of being able to support others. The boomer woman is focused on her own future and does not want to depend on others as she ages. Credit unions can help this woman by showing how they can help her build a comprehensive financial plan with the goal of feeling financially secure. And they need to talk to her directly about her own life and needs, not about the needs of others.
Women entering their 50s have weathered the worst financial setback of their adult lives. How has the ongoing recession impacted their financial planning? It has scared them.
In our survey, 52% of boomer women used words like "fear," or "scared" or "anxiety" to describe their feelings about their financial future. Another 39% used words like "uncertainty" and "worry." Only 10% expressed a sense of calmness or security about their financial futures.
While it’s hard to feel good about these responses, they also offer financial institutions a great opportunity to address real concerns. This is also an opportunity that credit unions are uniquely positioned to address.
The financial industry has generally advertised its services to aging customers in terms of performance and prestige. But boomer women don’t want to hear about a bank’s past performance. They want to know that an institution can help them build a responsible financial plan for the future. This will reduce their fears and provide comfort that they will remain financial independent as they age. And there’s no reason a credit union can’t deliver this support as well as any other financial institution.
Boomer women have also learned to distrust many institutions, including Wall Street banks and brokers. Credit unions have a unique opportunity to emphasize their differences from banks and other for-profit financial institutions. And these are differences that women will appreciate.
In spite of competition of other and larger financial institutions, credit unions have a unique opportunity to win business from vibrant women over 50. Women will trust the financial institutions that get it right, which means the ones that follow some simple rules:
- Address boomer women directly. Talk to them about their own needs and their own financial futures.
- Don’t worry about anyone else in their lives, even if they are married.
- Acknowledge that larger financial institutions have ignored their real interests and needs. They will appreciate that you understand this, and they will give credit unions a chance.
- Remind them how credit unions are different from banks.
- Don’t brag. Just tell them that you want to help them build a plan to maintain financial independence as they age.
Credit unions who follow this path will gain attention and business from the country’s richest, fastest-growing generation of depositors who happen to be looking for a solution that you can provide.
Stephen Reily is founder and CEO of Vibrant Nation. CONTACT 502-568-5555 or firstname.lastname@example.org