The Pulse

Generational Investing

For RIAs and fee-based advisors, adding new clients is the number-one driver of profitability, and Millennials are a prime target

Fourth annual Advisor Authority Study profiles the unique needs of Millennials; Uncovers key factors to drive client satisfaction and unlock greater growth

Louisville, KY—February 19, 2019—A new Special Report from the fourth annual Advisor Authority Study commissioned by Nationwide Advisory Solutions, formerly known as Jefferson National, takes an in-depth look at Millennials (ages 18 to 37) with investable assets of $100,000 or more, to profile the unique needs of this expanding market of emerging investors—and how they differ from the cohorts of Gen-X, Baby Boomers, and Matures who precede them. RIAs and fee-based advisors can tap into these insights to understand this younger generation and compete more effectively to win their business. Conducted online by The Harris Poll, the Advisor Authority study surveyed roughly 1,700 financial advisors and individual investors nationwide.

Adding New Clients

“Year-over-year, RIAs and fee-based advisors say that adding new clients is the number-one driver of profitability, and Millennials are a prime target—poised to grow more wealth and inherit their share of the $30 trillion Great Wealth Transfer,” said Craig Hawley, Head of Nationwide Advisory Solutions. “But this generation faces distinct challenges and fosters unique preferences—which advisors must understand in order to build productive relationships. Our latest Advisor Authority Special Report uncovers the key factors RIAs and fee-based advisors need to know to attract and retain Millennial investors, drive greater client satisfaction—and unlock greater growth.”

The opportunity is substantial. Millennials now make up over a third of the U.S. population, and are the most diverse and most educated generation so far.[i] But this generation is not without their challenges, according to this latest Advisor Authority Special Report, “Looking to the Future—Reaching Millennial Investors.” Coming of age in the wake of 9/11, the Market Crash of 2008 and the Great Recession, has impacted Millennials’ financial concerns, investing habits, and future earnings potential.[ii] They are proceeding with caution, and this aversion to risk may impact their ability to reach their future financial goals. Yet, four in 10 of these younger investors (40%) still do not have a financial advisor—and could benefit from long-term holistic planning.

Understanding Millennials: Life and Debt

Millennials are much less likely than Gen-X and Boomers to have a mortgage, but much more likely to have student loans.[iii] Perhaps as a result, Millennials say that managing debt (31%) is their number-two financial concern over the next 12 months. In comparison, managing debt is rated fourth by Gen-X (25%) and does not break the top five for Boomers (13%) or Matures (4%). This younger generation may be dealing with the repercussions of their debt for decades to come. Millennials are far more concerned than other generations with financing a large expense, rating it fourth (20% vs Gen-X 6%, Boomers 6%, Matures 4%), and financing a home (19% vs Gen-X 8%, Boomers 1%, Matures 3%), rating it fifth.

While taxes are among the top three financial concerns for every generation, only Millennials rate taxes as their number-one financial concern (33% vs Gen-X 29%, Boomers 31%, Matures 30%), and needing help managing their taxes as their number-four reason for having an advisor. They are also among the most likely to say that tax reform will increase the likelihood that they will work with an advisor in the next 12 months (46% vs Gen-X 38%, Boomers 18%, Matures 8%).

Planning for Everything—Even Retirement

Impacted by their proximity to the Market Crash of 2008 and the Great Recession, Millennials are risk averse and reluctant to invest in the stock market.[iv] Numerous studies show that they favor cash for long-term investing, ahead of stocks, bonds and other asset classes—and are likely to hold twice as much cash as any other generation in their investment portfolios.[v] There is a tremendous opportunity for advisors to help them start early and establish a lifetime of smart investing habits to reach their financial goals.

Given their younger age, it may be somewhat surprising that Millennials are already focused on saving for retirement, which is tied for fourth (20%) among their top financial concerns and concern for saving enough for retirement is rated third (13%) among their reasons for having an advisor. Meanwhile, Millennials (76%) are also as likely as Gen-X (68%), Boomers (75%), and Matures (77%) to say that they have a strategy to help protect themselves against outliving their savings.

Likewise, a majority of Millennials (53%) say that they have a strategy in place to protect their portfolio against market risk. And among those who have a strategy, they are somewhat more likely than other generations to rely on liquid alternatives as their top solution (50% vs Gen-X 27%, Boomers 33%, Matures 22%) and somewhat less likely to rely on traditional diversification as the foundation for risk management (43% vs Gen-X 77%, Boomers 76%, Matures 58%). Millennials are also generally somewhat more likely to use fixed index annuities (47%), fixed annuities (40%) and market-linked CDs (39%), and somewhat more likely to rely on sophisticated instruments such as put options (20%) and smart beta ETFs (16%).

The opportunity is substantial. Millennials now make up over a third of the U.S. population, and are the most diverse and most educated generation so far. But this generation is not without their challenges...

Top Factors for Attracting Millennials

When choosing an advisor, Millennials focus on different values and priorities compared to other generations. Millennial investors, like all other generations, say experience matters most (35%, Gen-X 49%, Boomers 49%, Matures 67%). However, Millennials are the only generation to say that socially responsible investing is rated within the top two factors for choosing an advisor, suggesting that this generation cares deeply about where their money goes (26% vs Gen-X 9%, Boomers 10%, Matures 9%). Reducing fees for younger clients rounds out Millennials’ top three (25% vs Gen-X 16%, Boomers 3%, Matures 6%).

While all other generations say that serving clients using a fee-based fiduciary standard is among their top four (Gen-X 29%, Boomers 22%, Matures 28%), Millennials (16%) rated it as less important than factors such as historical performance (19%), increased use of mobile technology (18%), increased use of social media (17%) and robust cyber security procedures (17%). A significant departure—and important opportunity—for advisors to provide more education on the importance of finding an advisor who puts clients’ best interests first.

It’s not surprising that Millennials, often referred to as “digital natives,” are the generation most familiar with Artificial Intelligence (47% very/extremely familiar vs Gen-X 18%, Boomers 15%, Matures 9%). Yet, among these younger tech-savvy investors who have a financial advisor, they still say that their preferred form of communication is face-to-face (35%), surpassing phone calls (26%) and all other digital channels such as emails (11%), social media (7%), video chat (6%) and text messages (3%). For Millennials, the human touch still wins, hands down.

To learn more about the unique needs of Millennial investors, financial professionals can download the Advisor Authority 2018 Special Report, “Looking to the Future – Reaching Millennial Investors.”

For additional insights on Millennial investors, financial professionals can also download the latest Advisor Authority 2018 infographic.



The fourth annual Advisor Authority study explores the investing and advising issues confronting RIAs, fee-based advisors and investors—and the innovative techniques that they need to succeed in today’s complex market. It features a special focus on the most successful advisors and the most affluent investors. This is the fourth and final Special Report in a series of ongoing Special Reports from the fourth annual study.
About Advisor Authority: Methodology
The fourth annual Advisor Authority Survey was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide Advisory Solutions from January 3 – February 21, 2018 among 972 financial advisors and 827 investors, ages 18+. Among the 972 financial advisors, there were 508 Registered Investment Advisors and 464 Broker/Dealers. Included in this group of financial advisors is a new segment of 212 Wirehouse Broker/Dealers that is excluded from trended data to allow for year-over-year comparisons. Among the 827 investors, there were 161 Millennial, 151 Generation X, 392 Baby Boomer, and 123 Mature, ranging from Mass Affluent to Ultra High Net Worth. Results of this new research are compared to results from a similar 2017 and 2016 study conducted online by The Harris Poll on behalf of Nationwide Advisory Solutions. Detailed methodologies from these studies are available upon request.
Investors are weighted where necessary by age by gender, race/ethnicity, region, education, income, marital status, household size, investable assets and propensity to be online to bring them in line with their actual proportions in the population.
About The Harris Poll
The Harris Poll is one of the longest running surveys in the U.S. tracking public opinion, motivations and social sentiment since 1963 that is now part of Harris Insights & Analytics, a global consulting and market research firm that delivers social intelligence for transformational times. We work with clients in three primary areas; building twenty-first-century corporate reputation, crafting brand strategy and performance tracking, and earning organic media through public relations research. Our mission is to provide insights and advisory to help leaders make the best decisions possible. To learn more, please visit
About Nationwide Advisory Solutions
Nationwide Advisory Solutions, formerly known as Jefferson National, is a recognized innovator with a mission to help RIAs and fee-based advisors build their practice by helping their clients to potentially accumulate more wealth and reach their financial goals. Nationwide Advisory Solutions does this by developing and delivering value-added investment products, services and technologies that fit the fiduciary standard—wrapped in an industry-leading customer experience. To learn more, please visit
About Nationwide
Nationwide, a Fortune 100 company based in Columbus, Ohio, is one of the largest and strongest diversified insurance and financial services organizations in the United States. Nationwide is rated A+ by both A.M. Best and Standard & Poor’s. An industry leader in driving customer-focused innovation, Nationwide provides a full range of insurance and financial services products including auto, business, homeowners, farm and life insurance; public and private sector retirement plans, annuities and mutual funds; excess & surplus, specialty and surety; pet, motorcycle and boat insurance. For more information, visit Follow us on Facebook and Twitter.
Nationwide, Nationwide is on your side, the Nationwide N and Eagle are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company. © 2019
[i] Pew Research Center. How Millennials Today Compare with Their Grandparents 50 Years Ago. Washington, DC. 2018.
[ii] Pew Research Center. Young, Underemployed and Optimistic: Coming of Age, Slowly, in a Tough Economy. Washington, DC. 2019.
[iii] Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Research and Statistics Group. Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit. 2018: Q3. New York, NY. November, 2018.
[iv] BlackRock, Inc. Global Investor Pulse. New York, 2019.
[v] UBS, Investor Watch. The Ties That Bind: How Boomers and their Millennial children are redefining family finances. New York, 2016.