Demographics & Culture
High net worth Gen Xers: "Do-it-yourself" generation
Mike Van Wyk
Head of Customer Research and Insights

Advisors: Gen Xers need your help. They just don’t want to ask for it.

Mike Van Wyk, Capital Group’s vice president of Customer Research & Insights, shared new research on the unique generational needs of high net worth Gen X clients. During his presentation, titled "Millennials to Boomers: Better high net worth planning by generation,” Van Wyk revealed data on Gen X and corresponding actions advisors might consider to serve them best.


  • 70% of Gen X know they are Gen X
  • But seven out of 10 Gen Xers don’t think they are unique as a generation
  • Gen X’s self-identity is defined by their work ethic

They are…

Defined by family and work ethic

  • Six out of 10 Gen Xers say being a parent is a very important part of their identity
  • Gen Xers are two times more likely than Boomers to say their financial choices are influenced by family
  • Gen X members trust themselves almost two times more than anyone else, including a financial advisor
  • Work ethic is what Gen Xers think makes them unique

Laser focused on retirement

  • 70% say retirement is their most important financial priority

Trying to go it alone

  • Gen Xers are least likely to say they are conservative investors (45%)
  • Just over 25% trust financial services
  • Only half trust financial advisors
  • Gen Xers are least likely to have a financial advisor
  • Less than half think they will retire by their ideal retirement age

Gen X: Trust themselves first

Gen X persona: Do-it-yourselfers who need help but don’t want to ask

Meet a generation that wants to be shown, not told.

Many Gen X investors grew up as “latchkey children” and have been do-it-yourselfers since childhood. Gen X investors are unique because they are largely self-directed and trust themselves more than advisors.

There’s still opportunity for advisors. Gen X investors are highly curious, worried about their financial readiness for retirement and willing to tolerate volatility to find the best way to prepare for retirement. If there’s one guiding force for Generation X, it is family. Gen X is twice as likely as Boomers to allow family considerations to steer financial choices. Help Gen X do their own research and focus on long-term family goals, and you’ll win hard-earned trust with them.

Gen X action plan for advisors: Build trust.

The challenge is trust. Gen Xers are skeptical. Only a quarter of Gen Xers trust financial services and only half trust financial advisors.

Make family first. Look for opportunity in “moments of truth” like college planning, divorce and the sale of a house. These life events are acutely important to Gen Xers because they touch the heart of their family. Helping Gen Xers navigate these events is key to teaching them to value financial advice.

Be ready for an aggressive attitude. Many Gen Xers know they aren’t on track for their financial goals. They often respond with an aggressive investment approach. Half of Gen Xers say they prefer higher-risk investments with the potential of higher reward (+12% vs. Boomers), and they are the least likely generation to say that they are conservative investors.

Show, don’t tell. Their DIY attitude and natural skepticism means that they want to put some of their own effort into understanding and approving decisions. More than half of Gen Xers research investment opportunities themselves, more than other generations.

Ty Summerlin
Senior Wealth Advisor of HoyleCohen


Schwab Impact Gen X

On Screen:


Ty Summerlin:

I think a lot of what your research indicates about Gen X is very true. They're very self-reliant. They tend to trust themselves more than anything else. And the way that we focus on building trust with Gen X is the same approach that we use with a lot of other clients, and that's just being curious because being curious tends to break down those barriers and allows us to build trust with someone who may be a lot more self-reliant really fast.

On Screen:


Ty Summerlin:

So, for us, we focus on being curious, asking the right questions, letting them know that we're not trying to sell them because the second a Gen Xer hears a sales pitch, you're done as an advisor. The conversation is closed. And a lot of our questions in that initial phase will tend to focus more on family, and when we tell them that we tend to act more like a family CFO, that seems to resonate a lot more than a typical financial advisor or a financial planner because they may have a lot of preconceived notions around what that is.

Whereas a family CFO ... Remember, these guys are busy. They're in their peak earning years. They're dealing with the CFO at the office all the time, and they view them as a collaborative problem solver and critical thinker. So, when we present ourselves like that and letting them know that we are here to just collaborate with them and help them as a guide and reference point and we're not trying to pitch them on anything, it tends to resonate a lot more than f- pitching ourselves as a typical financial advisor or a financial planner.

Ty Sumerlin, Senior Wealth Advisor of HoyleCohen, discusses his firm’s experiences working with Gen X clients

More in this series about HNW generations

High net worth Millennials: Savvy with high expectations

High net worth Boomers: Settling into retirement

HNW generations: By the numbers

An at-a-glance look at data that define your clients’ generations


HNW generations: Action plan

Enhance your effectiveness as an advisor by understanding your clients’ generation


More about high net worth:

3 secrets of high net worth clients revealed

High net worth will soon look very different

Survey: What high net worth clients want


Capital Group Advisor Generational Attitudes Study, September 2018

Capital Group Investor Generational Attitudes Study, August 2018

Capital Group Wisdom of Experience Survey, December 2017

McKinsey Money in Motion Survey, 2016


Mike Van Wyk is a senior market research manager at Capital Group, home of American Funds. He has 25 years of industry experience and has been with Capital Group for seven years as of December 31, 2022. Prior to joining Capital, Mike was director of global strategy development and advanced research methods at Procter & Gamble. He holds an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin and a bachelor's degree in horticulture from Michigan State University. Mike is based in Los Angeles.

Learn more about
Investments are not FDIC-insured, nor are they deposits of or guaranteed by a bank or any other entity, so they may lose value.
Investors should carefully consider investment objectives, risks, charges and expenses. This and other important information is contained in the fund prospectuses and summary prospectuses, which can be obtained from a financial professional and should be read carefully before investing.
Statements attributed to an individual represent the opinions of that individual as of the date published and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Capital Group or its affiliates. This information is intended to highlight issues and should not be considered advice, an endorsement or a recommendation.
All Capital Group trademarks mentioned are owned by The Capital Group Companies, Inc., an affiliated company or fund. All other company and product names mentioned are the property of their respective companies.
Use of this website is intended for U.S. residents only.
Effective July 1, 2024, American Funds Distributors, Inc. was renamed Capital Client Group, Inc.
This content, developed by Capital Group, home of American Funds, should not be used as a primary basis for investment decisions and is not intended to serve as impartial investment or fiduciary advice.

Use of this website is intended for U.S. residents only.