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Weber Shandwick Identifies Critical Crossroad in Generation X Retirement Planning: The Intersection of Health and Wealth

MINNEAPOLIS, December 5, 2014 – As Generation Xers begins to enter their peak wealth accumulation years, a new Weber Shandwick study finds that while once considered “slackers,” these people are well-positioned to receive retirement planning products and advice, and are actively focused on retirement planning. However, despite their engagement, they do not feel prepared and are looking to build long-term financial security.

The study – Leveraging the Gen X Retirement Market: From Overlooked to Opportunity – is based on original research conducted by Weber Shandwick with an online panel of Gen X consumers. The study reveals that while Gen Xers are thinking about their long-term financial needs, few companies are addressing the generation’s most troubling financial planning concerns – specifically their future healthcare needs.

Gen Xers, born between 1965 and 1980, are in fact engaged, mindful and often worried about their long-term financial security, especially when asked about financing their healthcare as they age.  The research found that members of this demographic are trying to lead healthful lives today to prepare for their later years, but very few are planning for their future healthcare costs in retirement, even though it is a top worry for them.

The Intersection of Health and Wealth

“We were surprised by the level of concern that Gen Xers have around their health – both today and over the long term – and although they express significant anxiety around how they will cover their future health needs, their retirement planning seems disconnected from this concern,” said Barb Iverson, president of Weber Shandwick’s North American Financial Services practice.  “They feel they could and should be doing more for their retirement, and this offers the financial services industry a substantial opportunity to help this generation prioritize and focus their planning on areas that worry them the most, including healthcare costs in retirement.”

The financial footing of this market segment was shaken by their formative experiences in the recession of the early 1990s, as well as the recent economic downturn. Gen X took the largest hit in the latest recession, losing nearly half (45 percent) of its wealth, according to the Pew Charitable Trusts. Many say they don’t feel well-prepared for retirement and are anxious about paying for healthcare as they age, even though most have begun planning for the long term.

“The majority of our Gen X panelists believe they are lagging behind in their retirement planning, and nearly all expressed anxiety about paying for healthcare in retirement,” according to Brooke Worden, senior vice president of Financial Services at Weber Shandwick. “Financial services providers can meet the overlooked needs of this market and provide guidance and financial products geared specifically toward this generation, which is inching closer to retirement. In fact, the first wave of this group will begin to turn 50 next year.”

Eight Strategies for Engaging the Gen X Market

With the breadth of learning uncovered from Weber Shandwick’s online panel, conducted over a five-day period earlier this year, the research report outlines eight strategies for financial services providers and communicators on how best to unlock the potential of the Gen X market segment:

  1. Consider Gen X its own target segment, distinct from Baby Boomers and Millennials
  2. Acknowledge Gen X as a viable but at-risk financial services target
  3. Bring the future closer to Gen Xers to incite savings
  4. Make it easy for Gen Xers to sort through investment options
  5. Guide Gen Xers to consider healthcare costs in retirement as part  of their long-term financial  planning
  6. Ensure that education programs are accessible to this generation
  7. Facilitate Gen Xers’ understanding through scenarios and projections
  8. Engender trust through all communications

“After being dealt a large blow from the 2008 financial crisis and dealing with the implications of healthcare reform, Gen Xers know they must be more proactive in their retirement and long-term healthcare planning to become confident about their financial futures,” Iverson said. “But the financial services industry can’t merely reboot its messages aimed at Baby Boomers to engage this generation. It’s essential that companies recognize the unique experiences and life stage that Gen Xers are currently facing, as well as their distinct concerns around their health care costs in retirement, and encourage them to think of health and wealth as two sides of the same coin.”

Click here to view the Leveraging the Gen X Retirement Market: From Overlooked to Opportunity report.

About The Research

The insights outlined in Leveraging the Gen X Retirement Market: From Overlooked to Opportunity represent learning from a five-day online bulletin board discussion with a sample of 18 American Gen X consumers conducted in May 2014.

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About Weber Shandwick

Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations firm with offices in 81 countries. The firm’s diverse team of thinkers, strategists, analysts, producers, designers, developers and campaign activators has won the most prestigious awards in the world for innovative, creative approaches and impactful work, including being honored as a 2014 Ad Age A-List Agency, The Holmes Report’s 2014 Global Agency of the Year, and winning 23 Cannes Lions together with its Prime unit since 2009. Weber Shandwick was also named PRWeek’s International Consultancy of the Year and The Holmes Report’s Best Healthcare Consultancy in the World in 2013, in addition to earning numerous best place to work accolades. The firm deploys deep expertise across sectors and specialty areas, including consumer marketing, corporate reputation, healthcare, technology, public affairs, financial services, corporate social responsibility, financial communications and crisis management, using proprietary social, digital and analytics methodologies. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG). For more information, visit http://www.webershandwick.com.

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