Investigating the Sandwich Generation in the United States
In financial circles, the term sandwich generation is considered something of a misnomer. Strictly speaking, it doesn’t refer to a cohort of people born around a similar time like Baby Boomers or millennials. Sandwich generation instead refers to people who are in a stage in life where they are providing care for both their parents and their children., sandwiched between two generations of people and twin responsibilities.
Aside from providing care for their loved ones, they are often under significant financial and emotional stress due to added pressure from their own careers and planning for their own retirement, resulting in high levels of personal debt.
Today, we attempt to further our understanding of the sandwich generation’s relationship with financial stability...
We extracted social media posts of 9.3 million users in the USA from platforms like Twitter, Reddit, Instagram, and Facebook. Through the clustering of posts via unsupervised semiotic learning, our research team identified a few distinct strains of discourse.
These strains of discourse were then qualitatively mapped onto 6 different need states. Finally, a rulebook of sub-segments was created based on those need states, identifying the tone, method of communication and range of products and services that would appeal to each profile.
While they are collectively defined by their circumstances, one needs two essential variables to understand the sandwich generation:
1 — Necessity 2 — Bandwidth
Necessity refers to the spectrum of needs (emotional, financial, so on) people have, while bandwidth refers to the headspace one has left after fulfilling their immediate needs to think about non-essentials (financial products, wealth boosting, retirement planning, so on).
Identifying the key segments of the sandwich generation
Segments with High Bandwidth:
Of the six profiles we identified in our segmentation, the first are thecurious stabilizers, individuals with low necessity and high bandwidth. They live a comfortable life, having done well for themselves, and are increasingly aware of their looming retirement.
While they do exhibit some anxiety related to employment (job loss, low growth, etc), their financial literacy and curiosity leads them towards opportunities to grow their wealth like index funds and low risk bonds.
Considering their exploratory nature and enthusiasm for risk, brands should consider giving this bunch a realistic financial map of their current situation as well as easy steps they can take to take care of their future.
Next, we have the future proofers, individuals with medium necessity and high bandwidth. They know exactly what they want: financial independence. Their financial journey has seen them breaking through the shackles of debt, and they aren’t looking to put those shackles back on any time soon.
Financial wellness for this group is having a realistic goal and grinding their way towards it. They are well-versed in financial products and tend to be skeptical of most, relying on products shared among their community.
Brands looking to engage with this group should lead by example, showcasing individual success stories and how those stories are connected to the larger growth of the community.
Rounding off the profiles with high bandwidth are those with high necessity, the competitive achievers. These individuals are looking to grow their wealth and are generally more financially secure than the other personas, actively seeking better information, resources, and advice to allay their appetite for risk.
Given their ambition to continually reach the next level by growing their assets, brands are encouraged to clearly articulate financial milestones and roadmaps to achieving them.
Now, it’s time to start thinking about those dealing with a lack of material supply.
Segments with low bandwidth:
The stressed jugglers are individuals with high necessity and low bandwidth. They are used to living on a shoestring budget and have numerous financial obligations that complicate planning for the future. On social media, they look for advice about navigating immediate complex social support systems like government welfare programs and disability checks.
At the same time, they’re seeking to build their wealth by avoiding unnecessary payment and investing in low-risk opportunities. Their focus is on the current moment, and financial planning is nowhere on the horizon. It is advisable that solutions are presented in a matter-of-fact but empathetic way, while suggesting achievable short-term goals that may help them out of dire straits.
On the other side of the spectrum are the carefree optimists, individuals with low necessity and low bandwidth. Financial literacy is neither a need nor a want for them in the present and they mostly stay away from conversations about finance.
The way to develop their interest for financial products is by delivering practically and emotionally relevant messages to the platforms they use like YouTube and Instagram.
Segment with medium bandwidth: Begrudging Planners
The last of the profiles we profiled were the begrudging planners, individuals with medium necessity and medium bandwidth. They have attempted to be financially responsible in the past but have been harmed by the financial system instead. There are feelin gs of hurt, distrust and anger associated with the idea of finance.
They commiserate with others about the broken social support system that wipes out their credit score for a single mistake or a fund that wipes out their savings. They are actively seeking ways out of their bad financial situation and are likely to have already explored the conventional routes.
The only way to earn their trust is by acknowledging the system’s faults, making one’s processes radically transparent, and treating customers as partners in a professional relationship.
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