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Do you have a friend that’s over 30 years younger or older than you?

I spent a couple of months while we were in full lockdown thinking about diversity and inclusion. I’ve listened to podcasts and I’ve read – a lot. I still feel like I now about 10% of what I need to, both as an employer – and as a financial planner. I wish I could just get all the information into my brain straight away and then it’d give me a chance to practice; practice using the knowledge in my everyday interactions with people and the impact those interactions have.

I’m almost ready to launch a new project with Liv Parnell, which I’m really excited about. In the lead up to this I’ve had to do loads of research about our topics and one that I have really been blown away by is Age(ism). So, I thought I’d share some of this, in this blog, but certainly you’ll hear more about this from me and Liv in the future.

Ageism goes both ways

As a younger female planner (I use younger lightly as I am now in my 40’s) – I understand being a minority. However, probably the most prevalent discrimination I’ve experienced in my career to date has been around age.

I think many young planners experience this at some point, the “you haven’t lived, what would you know” or “I was doing this whilst you were still in nappies” comments, or possibly clients querying age – in relation to their own age or life stage.

Of course, the issue of age goes the other way too.

The Royal Society for Public Health has undertaken some research and produced a document called “That Old Age Question”. This highlights some significant indicators that those aged 18-34 were found to have the most negative attitudes to ageing and older people, compared to other age groups. For example:

  1. Two in five 18-24 year olds (40%) believe “there isn’t any way to escape getting dementia as you age.”

  2. One in four 18-34 year olds (25%) believe “it is normal to be unhappy and depressed when you are old.”

This proves there are some dangerous pre-conceived ideas about ageing – I’m pretty sure most of us know some very capable and happy older people!

The FCA said in 2017, only 6% of 18 to 34 year olds received financial advice. The average age of a UK financial advisor is 53. Do they think we all have dementia and are depressed?!

I’m joking – I don’t seriously think that’s the case or the advice gap is that simple – but it does highlight ageism is still very prevalent within society and often goes unchallenged. It’s so inherent, in the media and our workplaces, we don’t recognise it.

The multi-aged planner persona

To be excellent financial planners we need to be able to navigate the nuances of possibly 6 decades – from age 25-85.

We have to be able to understand and relate somehow to many generations – in order to serve the population as a whole. We have to be able to show a level of maturity and be able to adapt to different clients – even if you don’t really relate easily to them. Almost like a persona!

We have to be able to understand some of the bias’s that other generations may have and how we can overcome these to develop meaningful long lasting relationships.

So how?

Impactful friendships and interactions

Probably the most significant statistics “The Old Age Question” document reported for me was that nearly two in three of the public (64%) don’t have a single friendship with an age gap of 30 years or more. (Grandparents/grandchildren don’t count).

I think this could cause significant issues for our profession, especially when it comes to gaining the skills we need to work with multigenerational clients (and for employers – multigenerational staff).

I reflected on this personally– I certainly have friends in their 50’s and 60’s (that’s 20 years older) – but not older. Although, when I was younger, I did amateur dramatics and played in the town band and at that time I did have friends who were over 30 years older. Maybe this helped me in my career.

This highlights the importance of community (like knowing neighbours / work colleagues) and developing bonds with people outside your usual social network and peer group – developing skills to deal with multi-decades of people.

I have reflected on my team – the oldest is now 60 and youngest 18. How do they even start to relate to one another and be tolerant of the naturally occurring differences in their attitude to work and ability? How do I encourage more learning and engagement with one another – with mutual respect?

I don’t have the answers, but I think it’s vital with all recognise the issue. If you have any thoughts drop me a DM!

Gretchen Betts, Magenta

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