By Lewis J. Walker, CFP®

Retirement planning is a “multi-generational” exercise. As a current state

or planned for in the future, “retirement” commands increased attention from

three or four generations, a phenomenon unique in the history of mankind given

increases in longevity.

Here’s a shocker for those not watching demographic trends. The last of

the Baby Boomers, those born between 1946-1964, turn 50 this year. That means

the leading edge of Generation X, born 1965-1978, will hit the Big 5-oh! next

year—as AARP solicitations emphasize that time is racing by.

Meantime, members of the Silent Generation, generally those born

between 1925 and 1945 who experienced WWII and the impact of the Great

Depression in childhood, range in age between 69 and 89. Their children and

grandchildren are watching those ahead of them as a vision of the future. Real

time experiences of people dealing with aging loved ones are shaping attitudes

and planning and investment behaviors of those coming up behind.

The oldest of the Millennial Generation, Gen Y, 1979-1996, turn 35 in

2014. They dream of travel, hobbies, work/life balance, the pursuit of meaning

and making a difference, ambitions colliding at times with career, job, marital,

parental, and debt payment realities.

References are made to the “sandwich generation” squeeze. It may be

more of a “club sandwich,” involving three or four generations. While managing

their own career, financial, and health challenges, many boomers in their 40s and

50s are dealing with aging parents and their financial and health difficulties. In

some cases grown children present challenges to parents. Career, job, and marital

difficulties, destructive habits and dependencies, and special needs can drain

parental emotions and finances.

This suggests, given life spans and multi-generational challenges, a need

for deep, realistic, and yes, at times difficult and emotional discussions between

generations. Often it takes a crisis to reveal a lack of planning and readiness. That

may spur conversations and conflict at a time of stress and perhaps, loss. Since a

response to crisis or difficulty often involves money, financial advisors have a role

and a fiduciary duty to further and potentially guide conversations with family

members. For some in financial services this is new and uncomfortable territory.

The study of life transitions planning is increasing among leading financial

planners. In tandem with the Age Wave, more experienced planners are living

through generational challenges themselves.

Teams of allied professionals are forming to resource myriad alternatives

germane to challenges—death, dying, grieving; end-of-life planning; loss of a

spouse or other loved one; divorce after a long marriage; succession planning

for business owners and professionals; tax, estate, and legacy planning; trust

planning to deal with special needs offspring, spouses, or parents; remarriage

and blended families; job loss and career changes; forced early retirement; family


Challenges may have positive attributes such as the pursuit of meaning

and purpose, before and after retirement, also a focus of financial planners

and allied team members. All challenges, positive and negative, require

conversations, appreciative inquiry, fact finding beyond surface observations,

and multi-dimensional solutions. For every challenge, there is an alternative,

and finding the best alternative is an outcome of analysis and applied wisdom.

Optimal alternatives require resources, and most likely, that means money.

Hence increased focus on not outliving one’s money in retirement, which

requires an assessment of risks. Take health care expenses, looming large as a

multi-generational concern. Providing for long term care and other health costs

has financial implications that impact lifestyle and dream actualization along

with investment policy and insurance decisions for both parents and offspring.

Resources often include family and community involvement. Caregiving, either

providing it or arranging for it, often falls on female members of the family. Have

probabilities and key issues been addressed? Is there a plan? Does it all fall on

one person or is there a family team?

Once you address challenges, alternatives, and resources, have

expectations, the outcome desired, been defined? More people are living to age

100, making 50 a century midpoint “wake-up-call.” Relative to the Age Wave, are

you just going with the flow? Or do you have a comprehensive surfing strategy?

Surf’s up!

Lewis Walker is President of Walker Capital Management, LLC. Certain advisory services offered through The Strategic Financial

Alliance, Inc. (SFA). Lewis Walker is a registered representative of SFA which is otherwise unaffiliated with Walker Capital

Management, LLC.