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Looking At Lucrative Lifestages: Engaging American Grandparents

The recent release of “The MetLife Report on American Grandparents,” by Peter Francese with MetLife Mature Market Institute, reveals the changing face of grandparents in the United States. It also provides a roadmap for companies with products and services for children. Increasingly, grandparents are helping young families financially navigate in this tough economic climate, paying for items essential to day-to-day life, and also looking forward to big-ticket items like tuition, cars, and college.

In 2010, there were an estimated 65 million grandparents in the United States alone; households headed by someone over the age of 45 accounts for 60% of the nation’s income. One in four adults in this country is a grandparent.

Today, a grandparent is the head of almost one in ten households and has a grandchild in residence. In spite of recent economic events, consumer spending in households 55+ has risen faster than any other age category, outpacing inflation. By 2020, projections reveal an increase to 80 million grandparents, one in three adults in the U.S.

Booming Grands: Younger, hipper more diverse grandparents

The majority of today’s grandparents are from the Baby Boomer generation; they appear more youthful, vital and active than grandparents of previous generations. In reality…

the average age of a first-time grandparent has risen in recent years from the late 40s to the early 50s. This is driven by daughters waiting longer to become moms — which is closely correlated to higher levels of education and career focus.

Today’s grandparents (ages 45-64) are educated and working (75%) — very different from generations past. These working Boomers are at the peak of their career earnings years and account for 47% of the nation’s total household income. They plan to work much longer than the previous generation of grandparents.

This is the first generation of grandparents to signal the shift of cultural diversity in this country. The Boomer generation represents the first fully acculturated generation of Asian and Hispanics in the U.S.; approximately 20% of grandparents are Asian, Hispanic or African American. This shift will only continue.

Grand Economics

Working longer increases the peak earning years for Boomer grandparents and enhances their consumer power. MetLife’s analysis of the Census data (2010) shows a mean annual income of grandparent age households of $68,500 — about $500 above that of all U.S. households. The same data analyzed for Baby Boomer grandparents reveals a mean household income of $81,000, versus $46,400 for those 65 or older.

Further, the MetLife Report shows that household income for the 25-44 year olds is declining in real dollars, as is the availability of entry-level positions. More affluent grandparents will contribute to the care and feeding of their grandchildren out of necessity. Brands targeting moms and young families need to be communicating directly with grandparents as well.

Reaching Grandparents Effectively

Today’s media landscape provides brands excellent opportunities to reach this new generation of grandparents. From lifestage publications to Boomer-targeted social networks, and the array of publications and digital media from AARP, grandparents can be targeted, engaged and communicated to in the context of information relevant to the rest of their lives. And brands can achieve their objectives cost-effectively, with excellent ROI.

This post originally appeared as a guest blog post on MediaPost Engage:Boomers blog, September 26, 2011.