The getting older generation just got a new face, and I don’t mean Betty White. Luke Perry, the brooding heartthrob of Beverly Hills 90210, has turned the big 5-0. He dons the cover of this month’s AARP magazine, setting social media abuzz and causing 90210 purists to assess our own sense of youth.
For most of us, AARP means aging and then preparing to retire. Yet, for most 50-year-olds, it is just the halfway mark. In fact, most people over age 50 have spent their working years being computer proficient. Times have changed. Smartphones and tablets are no longer tools only for the younger generations. Even file cabinets are becoming a thing of the past. If this is the case, should businesses continue to default to the snail mail way of delivering information to customers?
Rethinking what it means to be “older” is a big topic that can go in a number of directions. Time spent in retirement doesn’t even mean the same thing as it did 40, 30, or even 20 years ago.
With these changes and others, some would say that issues such as switching to the paperless electronic delivery of customer information is the simple stuff, a no-brainer. Particularly if those still hanging on to their file cabinets can choose to receive paper still. Others argue we aren’t ready for that yet.
This issue may seem unimportant, but it is especially prevalent right now in the investment world. For those of us with an Individual Retirement Account, a money market account, or any simple (or not so simple investment), we are well aware of the piles of disclosures and statements that fill our mailboxes each week, and inevitably end up in the trash.
To say that we aren’t ready for e-delivery of customer information begs the question? Why Not? After all, electronic medical records are here, machines can already be our personal assistants, our cars will soon drive themselves, and our toothbrushes will become diagnostic tools to detect illness ahead of our doctors. With all these advancements, is sending account information electronically something we should consider too advanced for our time, or can Luke Perry (and even Betty White) accept these changes?
This is a serious debate at the Securities and Exchange Commission, yet even Social Security already accepts this reality. They send us electronic statements annually with a paper statement only once every five years.
A failure to accept this change will mean that billions of dollars will be wasted on documents people don’t want or have time to read, and inevitably throw out. The ability to easily save those same documents in a computer file could change that dynamic and make any key information easier to find. Plus, I’m sure the environmental groups would prefer to save all of those trees.
So unless we all need to purchase monster shredders to sit next to the trash cans in our kitchens, perhaps it’s time to take a new approach. If Dylan McKay can now get his senior discount card, perhaps it’s time to embrace this new generation of “old” and move forward.
Jill Hoffman is the Vice President of Government Affairs for Investment Management at the Financial Services Roundtable