IN FOCUS6-8 min read

Capitalize on generational nuances to best serve participants

Saving for retirement may be harder for some based on one’s stage of life. We all face competing financial needs that evolve throughout adulthood. Knowing where participants are in their life cycle can help you guide them.

Read full reportCapitalize on generational nuances to best serve participants
3 pages


Deb Boyden
Head of US Defined Contribution

We all need to save for our future but while everyone should be rowing in the same direction – saving something regularly for retirement – we’re not all in the same boat.

While everyone would benefit from regularly saving for retirement, doing so may be harder for some than others based on a participant’s stage of life. While we all face competing financial needs and priorities, these challenges evolve throughout adulthood. As a defined contribution plan sponsor, it helps to recognize where participants fall in their life cycle and guide them accordingly.

How can DC plan sponsors assist an audience that can range from a 20-something recent graduate to a 60-something employee who is ready to retire? How to deliver a message that will resonate with a 20-year old grandchild, 64-year-old grandparent and the 42-year-old bridging their generations?

Their three situations are vastly different. Their individual needs and priorities are diverse. In addition to their distinct financial priorities and ability to save, these individuals consume information rather differently too.

Where to begin?

To succeed in communicating with Baby Boomers and members of Generations X, Y (Millennials) and Z, follow these general tips:

  • Recognize their generational characteristics. While pre-retirees are laser-focused on retirement financial security, recent college grads must overcome a mountain of student debt before they can begin to focus on their retirement horizon.
  • Tap into their priorities and preferences. To connect with your target audience, acknowledge the spectrum of personal financial challenges and goals through an individual’s eyes. Connect with him/her through that lens. Show that you understand a participant’s unique situation. Address top concerns in targeted communications.
  • Personalize your messages. Surmount the generic “save more” message whenever you can and try to connect more robustly and effectively with each individual participant. One way is to make personal savings projections based on each participant’s age and account balance. That personal touch will achieve more relevant and resonant messages.
  • Honor all aspects of diversity. Variations among participants may include age, language and gender, as well as learning styles and preferences for digesting information. To reach everyone, use a variety of media that draw on: Visual messages (infographics); Data (interactive calculators); In-depth information (articles, blogs); and Quick reminders on social media.

Sensitivity to all aspects of diversity may entail special efforts to reach minorities, such as Blacks and Latinos, who tend to save less, or steps to target women, who generally invest more conservatively.

Age ranges and dates of birth for each age group

Age cohort

Dates of birth

Age range in 2022

Baby Boomers


58 and older

Generation X



Generation Y/Millennials



Generation Z



Explore what makes each generation unique

Baby Boomers

Generation X

Generation Y/Millennials & Generation Z

Ages 58 and older

Ages 42-57

Gen Y/Millennials: ages 26-41;

Gen Z: ages 25 and younger

Nearing retirement; many are financially ill-prepared.

Sandwich generation with children in school and aging.

Retirement is far off – not a pressing concern.

Catching up on savings is a top priority.

Cost concerns may include day care, braces, camp, private school, college and senior care.

Tend to carry heavy student debt. Even buying a home seems an impossible dream.

Require guidance on how to de-risk investments while catching up on savings.

Can benefit from prioritizing their own needs.

They may be overwhelmed and may heed simple, direct and actionable messages, e.g., “Get started. Enroll. Contribute what you can.”

Need advice on how to create a lifelong stream of income.

May respond to simple, positive messages urging them to save for themselves.

May appreciate the power of long-term compound returns.

Ten tips on how to master intergenerational messaging

  1. Use a wide variety of media: Examples include print, social media (TikTok, Twitter, YouTube), in-person group meetings, one-on-one sessions, blogs, videos, podcasts, infographics, interactive quizzes and other tools, online calculators and personalized messages. Use your judgment in deciding how to target each generation based on its proclivities.
  2. Be creative: Refresh or revive your branding. Use games. Personalize your communications when you can. Recognize what messages work with each age group and adapt accordingly.
  3. Communicate year-round: Take advantage of seasonal opportunities to send messages and reminders. Plan the re-enrollment period, New Year’s financial resolutions and Tax Day messages on the benefits of tax-deductible contributions. Galvanize participants to save more when announcing annual pay raises or bonuses.
  4. Critically review your plan lineup of investments: Analyze what appeals to each age cohort and what the group requires.
  5. Invite greater generational input: Include all generations on your retirement plan committee. Doing so will help you better meet particular participant needs and interests and better connect with employees. Also encourage input from personnel representing groups of all kinds. If, say, linguistic or cultural minorities do not fully appreciate your message, understand or take advantage of their benefits and reach out to them.
  6. Attempt to even out any participation gaps through auto-enrollment: Such gaps might stem from generational divide or from gender-based or ethnic gaps in their participation rate. This effort can help to pull the under-savers up to the average overall level.
  7. Address major sources of financial stress: The lives of various generations can vary tremendously. Unique stressors include student debt, housing affordability and sandwich generational concerns. Address these issues through targeted communications, broad financial wellness programs and tailored programs. For example, you might provide employer-matching contributions to help with student debt repayment or childcare and eldercare resources, as well as information sessions to help ease the transition into retirement.
  8. Provide personalized attention: This includes access to one-on-one advice. Look for ways to humanize and personalize all communication and education efforts.
  9. Consider a phased retirement program: This can feature multigenerational mentoring in which pre-retirees and retirees share institutional knowledge with younger colleagues before they fully exit the organization.
  10. Include a universal message: It can encapsulate the following information: “No matter what your short-term or other competing financial pressures and priorities, always try to save for your future.”

These tips are guidelines to help you cater to the different profiles among your employees. The key is to understand your workplace does not comprise a homogenous group of people. How personnel relate to the central challenge of saving for the future will depend on what else is happening in every individual’s life. Always consider how best to communicate with plan participants based on their singular attributes in order to meet them on their own ground and increase the efficacy of our messages.

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Read full reportCapitalize on generational nuances to best serve participants
3 pages

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The views and opinions contained herein are those of Schroders’ investment teams and/or Economics Group, and do not necessarily represent Schroder Investment Management North America Inc.’s house views. These views are subject to change. This information is intended to be for information purposes only and it is not intended as promotional material in any respect.


Deb Boyden
Head of US Defined Contribution


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