CHICAGO -- Financial advisors looking to work with 20-something clients need to take a unique service approach with a group that financial services firm OrganizAmerica President Joanne Woiteshek says has traditionally been treated as the “trophy generation.”

Many of those 20-somethings are coming to terms with new realities that are different from what their parents have told them and unique to their generation, Woiteshek said in her talk titled “Truth and Consequences of Clients Financial Goals” at the Women Advisors Forum here Tuesday.

“We gave them a trophy for everything,” Woiteshek said. “They need to realize that they’re not that special.”

Young 20-something professionals have been told that going to college will make them successful. Yet professionals in their 20s today earn less than their 1970s counterparts and 30% of them are underemployed. On average, they carry $27,000 in debt.

Those young professionals have also been told that working hard will allow them to achieve the American Dream, according to Woiteshek. But statistically most of them will move back home and also marry later than previous generations.

At the same time, 20-somethings’ personalities are continuing to grow as their brain’s frontal lobe continues to develop.

Financial advisors need to develop strategies specifically tailored to those circumstances, Woiteshek said, recalling a financial advisor who turned away a potential 20-something client by telling him to come back when he had $250,000 in assets. Advisors need to help them get to that level of assets, she said.

“If we are going to service our clients, then we need to service their children,” Woiteshek said. “We need to help them.”

First, when working with 20-somethings, advisors need to refrain from reprimanding them about how much debt they have accumulated, Woiteshek said, and instead focus on helping those clients reduce that debt.

Advisors must also help 20-somethings to develop emergency funds and motivate them to save by showing them how their progress can help them work toward specific goals, she said.

Learning to communicate with these clients in a way they feel comfortable with, while staying cognizant of compliance rules, is also important, according to Woiteshek. She recalled how she used to write letters when her eldest child, now 39 years old, was in college, while her youngest 25-year-old child only communicates by text.

While targeting younger generations requires a new approach, it can also be a learning experience for advisors. 

“You’re going to be able to see them grow, and then you grow because you’re learning from them,” Woiteshek said.

Lorie Konish writes for On Wall Street.