Generation Differences in Financial Literacy and Education was a practitioners’ forum discussion led by Schane Coker, AFC®, FFC® with panelists Donna (Dee) Gardner, AFC®, Jason Simpson, AFC®, FFC®, and Elaine Harrison, AFC®, FFC®.

The goal of the panel discussion was to review complicated generationally-impacted case studies from a wide range of panelist generational perspectives; the four presenters provided practitioner perspectives from the Baby Boomer, Generation X, and Millennial generations while case studies included client considerations for Baby Boomers to Generation Alpha through three different overall topics. All presenters agreed upon the importance of checking individual biases when working with clients.

Relationship Case Study: Case Study Scenario

An unmarried same-sex couple with an age gap seeks a financial counselor to assist with money management issues. Their parents are unsupportive, and both partners have children from previous relationships. 

Panel Discussion

Never make assumptions about a clients’ knowledge or income based on their age. Consider how the clients feel about money when creating the plan and discuss fair versus equitable financial contributions. It may make sense to use income percentages to split the expenses; for example, both clients may save 10% in a joint account; one partner may contribute $50 while the other partner may contribute $200. However, the counselor needs to confirm each partner feels comfortable with the plan. 

Discuss the implications of financial support provided from their previous partners and the impact on their children. Explore significant differences in children’s financial and economic experiences from an individual and generational perspective. Help the clients come to a mutually comfortable financial communication agreement with consideration to the different spending needs each partner may have specific to their children. Involve the children when appropriate and consider offering financial education to the children. 

Retirement Case Study: Case Study Scenario

A 20-year-old client is behind on their bills after having a parent recently become their dependent. There is a cultural expectation for children to care for their parents, but the client’s parent stole their identity to purchase a vehicle. They would like help getting back on track.

Panel Discussion

Explore the client’s value of their relationship with their parent. Educate the client on their options, and let the client decide how to proceed based on their values and beliefs. 

As it makes sense to do so, discuss the expectations of both the client and the family to understand financial counseling and planning needs; consider insurance, employer benefits, and government benefits. Gather information on parental income contributions and timelines impacting their abilities. 

Consider creating a T-chart to reallocate bills and spending between paychecks. Look for opportunities to help the client overcome other contributing difficulties, such as avoidance opening their mail. 

Higher Education Funding Case Study: Case Study Scenario

A 48-year-old formerly incarcerated, working client feels they have limited job prospects and plans to attend college but has affordability concerns. The client’s 33-year-old child is incarcerated leaving the client guardianship of their 16-year-old grandchild. The client has an additional goal for their grandchild to attend college in hopes of breaking the cycle of intergenerational incarceration.

Panel Discussion

Recognize the significance of the client achieving their personal education goals while simultaneously setting an example for their grandchild. Stay focused on their educational goals and assist in finding the best financial outcome in doing so.

Explore the ability to continue working, placing attention on the client’s work-life-school balance needs. Discuss the timeframe for their child’s release along with options for their involvement at that time. Consider access to employer tuition assistance, grants, scholarships, and federal student loans. Reevaluate funding options in consideration to the grandchild’s potential work-life-school balance needs. 

Look for opportunities to provide financial education for the grandchild and encourage independence as they start managing their own money. Depending on the child’s release timeline, discuss opportunities to provide financial counseling support during the reentry process and beyond.


A session participant thoughtfully inquired about times when panelists have felt their age or generation has affected financial counseling sessions. Elaine (Baby Boomer) finds difficulty guiding Generation Z on realistic timeframes for goal achievement as she has seen many expecting get rich quick outcomes; her solution is to take more time to ensure her messaging is well-received. Dee (Generation X) expressed difficulty connecting with Generation Z clients due to differences in communication styles, and she loves seeing her financial counselor mentees rising to meet their needs. Jason (Xennial, the blended microgeneration of Generation X and Millennial) mentioned hurdles from appearing very young but ultimately believes clients primarily want results when they reach the action stage. Schane (Millennial) discussed concerns of others communicating in an authoritative rather than supportive manner.


The session was unique in showcasing commonalities and differences in financial counselors spanning multiple generations while exploring intriguing generational client issues. The session was a nice reminder to be aware of your biases and how it may impact your financial counseling sessions. Consider reading articles in the Journal of Financial Counseling and Planning to learn more about generational differences in financial counseling and access resources for overcoming bias in the AFCPE® Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Toolkit.

Meghan McInnes, AFC®, FFC®, FBS® is the Director of the Center for Excellence in Financial Counseling and Assistant Teaching Professor of Personal Finance at the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She earned her MS in Personal Financial Planning, Graduate Certificate in Financial Therapy, and Graduate Certificate in Personal Financial Planning from Kansas State University and BS in Business Administration with an emphasis in Management from the University of Missouri – St. Louis. She has been an AFCPE® member since 2015.

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