Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers: What Do Members Want?

What do middle-income credit union members worry about? How do they define success for themselves? And how can credit unions come alongside them and help them overcome their worries and achieve their goals?

These were the questions that CUNA Mutual Group set out to answer with its What Matters Now™ study. Drawing on more than 2 million annual conversations with credit union members, TruStage conducted research with over 25,000 individuals, using quantitative, qualitative and innovative social approaches.

One of these unique approaches was to enlist 83 families to keep photo journals of their lives for one week, showing the researchers what they spent their time on, what was important to them, and what kept them up at night.

“We wanted to add depth and dimension to this group that is critically important to credit unions,” said Angie Fuhrken, director, marketing strategy for TruStage. “The more we understand their values, habits and daily worries, the better that we can serve them together.”

The results show a group of Americans concerned about financial stability but not preoccupied with getting rich or fighting their way to the top. Instead they envision success as raising their children to be happy and capable adults, having good relationships with their spouses and partners, staying healthy and building financial security for themselves and their families.

“One finding that really stood out,” said Fuhrken, “was the degree to which middle-income credit union members worry about the financial stability of their families — 62% worry on a daily basis, and others worry plenty, if not daily.” She said that debt was a key driver of those worries, as well as fears about something happening to a family member and the emotional and financial strain that would put on the household.

“As credit unions better understand what’s driving the worries, habits and goals of their members,” said Fuhrken, “they’ll be able to tailor their services to meet those unique needs, and help their members achieve the success they want.”

Differences Across Generations

TruStage broke down the research by generation, showing how Millennials, Gen Xers and Baby Boomers compare in their particular definitions of success.

“By looking at each generation individually, credit unions can develop targeted services to best meet generational needs,” said Fuhrken.

Millennials

“For instance,” she said, “41% of Millennials said that they don’t feel confident making financial decisions. Credit unions have a great opportunity to give this generation the education and clear, goal-oriented services it needs to build confidence. If you can meet this need, you could earn members for life.”

She also said that, though successfully raising children was a key point of success across all generations, Millennials were more inclined than older generations to want to help their children pursue their passions, in addition to instilling positive character traits and helping them towards success.

Millennials Quote

Generation X

Generation X, Fuhrken said, reported the greatest emotional worry in regards to financial stability. “Not only did they weather the Great Recession right when they should be ascending to their professional peaks,” she said, “but they are the most likely right now to have children, be married, and own a home, experiencing all of these financial pressures.”

Plus, said Fuhrken, many Gen Xers are reaching the point of life where they are thinking about their children going off to college, a big financial hurdle in many homes.

Gen X Quote

Baby Boomers

“As Boomers enter retirement, they are more likely than the younger generations to consider health a key element of success,” said Fuhrken. Retirement can be a balancing act for many people, and health costs are a key consideration as Boomers plan their post-professional lives.

Boomers were slightly less likely to list financial concerns as a key element of success, but still agreed that financial stability was an important component to a successful life. Their key drivers of success were staying in good health, raising their children well, and maintaining good relationships with their spouses and partners.

Boomers Quote

Building Financial Security

“CUNA Mutual Group serves both credit unions and credit union members,” said Fuhrken. “We recognize the value of sharing information like this. Together we can serve members better.”

TruStage, she said, “is focused on helping deliver the most compelling and successful ways to help credit union members build financial security.” She pointed out that life insurance —a popular TruStage product — can be an important piece of a financially secure family, but that 80% of Americans overestimate its cost.

But Fuhrken said that TruStage’s insurance products are only one leg of a financial plan to ensure long-term security, and that credit unions are a critical partner for their members in building financial lives that work.

“We’ve had the opportunity to brainstorm with executives from a number of credit unions,” she said. “They talked about how to use this research to target their services to meet the needs of this important group of members. In addition to building financial security, these members are more likely to want to remodel their kitchens and bathrooms, so marketing home equity loans for that purpose can help them meet their goals.”

Executives also talked about using this research to train their staff, giving them a deeper understanding of their members so that values, needs and goals can be seen and addressed more clearly and quickly.

“We will continue to partner with credit unions to do this type of research on important topics,” said Fuhrken, “and continue to learn how we can help credit union members achieve the security and success they desire.”

Questions about this story? Contact James Pearson: 206.340.4790, jpearson@nwcua.org.

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