Charles Schwab Reaches Out To Gen X With Resourceful Site

by , Apr 29, 2008, 5:00 AM
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screengrabFifteen years ago, members of Gen X were perceived as slackers stuck in dead-end McJobs with a cynical view of the future. Of course, time marches on, and now they are pursuing careers, having children and thinking about retirement.

"As [members of Gen X] have grown older, they are more willing to get started and less cynical than you'd think," says Ilkay Can, director of acquisition for Charles Schwab. "They know they want to focus on their finances, and they know they need to get started saving--they just need a little help."

Accordingly, the San Francisco-based investment firm has launched a new Web site targeting the members of Gen X, with resources such as investment calculators and a peer-comparison tool that helps users understand how their financial situations and monetary attitudes shape up against their peers. The site is intended to address the specific financial issues facing people 25-40, which is how Schwab defines Gen X.

"We're trying to cater to these guys in ways that no one's catered to them before," Can tells Marketing Daily. "No one's talked to them about the future; [other companies' messages are] mostly about savings and checking."

The peer comparison tool is based on a Schwab survey of more than 5,000 between the ages of 25 and 40. The survey broke Gen Xers down into six distinct mindsets: paycheck to paycheck (the largest group at 25%); spend now, pay laters (17%); confident and risk-tolerants (15%); no money, no worries (15%); cautious savers (14%) and overwhelmed but optimistic (13%).

After users complete their answers and determine their mindset, they have a printable snapshot of their answers compared with the generation average. The printout also includes suggestions about how to improve their financial picture, which Can says appeals to the generation's "checklist mentality."

"They want to be told not what they need to do, but what they need to consider," Can says. "We want to give them an education in what it takes to get started and make it specific."

The site, schwabmoneyandmore.com, is part of an overall effort to make investing easier for younger investors, who may not make as much money as older, high-net-worth investors who are targeted by other companies. In addition to the site, Schwab has also launched a high-yield, no-minimum checking account and lowered minimums for basic investment accounts.

"It's a common misconception among Gen Xers that you need hundreds of thousands of dollars to invest," Can says. "We know they're at a life stage where they run into financial hurdles. They've got back-to-back financial needs that most other age groups don't have."

Those needs include buying a new home, having children, and perhaps most importantly, planning for retirement. "These guys are dealing with challenges that generations before them haven't faced," Can says. "A lot think Social Security isn't going to be around when they retire. They have to rely on themselves."

Charles Schwab is promoting the site through Gen X-targeted public relations efforts and looking for some spillover from its "Talk to Chuck" advertising campaign, Can says.

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