In modern demographic parlance, I belong to a generation of cynics, pragmatists and latch-key kids. Born between 1961 and 1976 and sandwiched between the have-it-all Baby Boomers and the post-computer Generation Ys, we 4.5 million Gen Xs grew up in a time of drugs, divorce and economic strain.

We’re known for our resilience, self-reliance and dislike of authority and our burning resentment of the “old-fart” boomers – stemming from the fact that they just won’t move over and give us our time in the sun.

Gen Ys are a different breed altogether. As many employers are already finding out, this generation is a demanding lot – generally considered to be impatient, disloyal and self-obsessed. On the upside, apparently the average Gen Y is tech-savvy and acutely environmentally-conscious (although I have to say I always question this – I don’t know about you, but in my household it’s us Gen X’s who worry about recycling and saving water, and have the bucket in the shower etc – , the Gen Y in house, on the other hand, has a collection of power-guzzling gadgets and don’t even get me started on how many possible products that one can possibly use in one’s hair!

And I am sure they can’t be very environmentally friendly at all). Anyway – with Gen Xs moving into their peak income years and Gen Ys hot on their heels, super funds are being warned to look beyond the boomers and come to grips with what really makes these “wealth-creating” generations tick.

This was one of several key messages delivered by leading demographer Bernard Salt at a recent AIST lunch. The author of two books on generational change in Australia and a KPMG partner, Salt said it was important for super funds to recognise key differences between Gen Y and Gen X to effectively engage with these two generations and to keep in mind that each would behave differently from their preceding generation.

The message for super funds was to ensure their marketing strategies were aligned with the different values of each generation. A one-size-fits-all marketing strategy won’t work. According to Salt, while baby boomers wouldn’t dream of consulting their parents (who came from the 1920s) about such matters as superannuation, the “I live for today” GenYs are comfortable turning to their parents for financial counsel.

The way through to Gen Y – the first generation to have superannuation for its entire working life – might be through the collegiate relationship they have with their parents. Salt also predicted that demographic changes – both in Australia and overseas – will have a powerful impact on the business environment in which super funds and other financial service providers operate.

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