What the Next Decade Holds for Financial Advisors

The financial sector is rapidly changing in many ways. What does the future hold? Although it is impossible to say for certain, several recent trends have quickly gained traction in the marketplace and are likely to play themselves out within the next decade. Financial advisors need to get ready for them now.

Key Takeaways

  • For decades, financial advisors have done things more or less the same way—checking in once or twice a year and focusing on accumulation.
  • The next few years, however, will see a shift in trends that promises to reshape the ways that successful advisors need to think in order to stay ahead.
  • Technological trends in robo-advising, an aging client population that seeks income rather than risk and accumulation, and regulatory changes toward fiduciary duty are all among future considerations that advisors must take heed of.
  • The current number of financial advisors (330,300) is expected to increase by close to 51,000 by 2031.
  • More than $50 trillion is expected to pass from Baby Boomers to Gen Xers and Millennials in the upcoming decades.

Technological Trends

Almost nowhere is the digital revolution making an impact as large as it is in the financial industry. It's now easier than ever for investors to access their accounts and see how their portfolios and the markets are performing.

The future will likely make seamless digital portals as commonplace as cell phones are today, allowing clients to log in and manage their money, communicate with advisors and planners around the clock, and place trades.

Robo-advisors will probably be employed by every firm in one capacity or another. In 10 years, it's likely that they will be able to follow very sophisticated strategies that employ a measure of judgment regarding buy and sell decisions.

Access to these services will become completely mobile and cloud-based and these innovations may combine to drastically drive down the price of financial planning and asset management for the public.

There is, in fact, speculation that financial planning may become available at no cost once computer technology reaches the point where it can use automated programs to help clients to determine their risk tolerance and time horizon and then formulate an investment strategy.

Fiduciary Trend

The Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule, which mandated that all those involved in retirement planning, product sales, and financial advice maintain a fiduciary status, was quashed by a federal court in June 2018. However, it may yet leave a legacy. Many financial services firms had already begun altering business practices to lessen conflicts of interest (or the appearance of same).

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) adopted a set of new regulations requiring brokers to put their customers’ financial interests ahead of their own in 2019. Many futurists in the industry see more transparent pricing and disclosure policies ahead, along with an adviser compensation model that is based on a regular periodic retainer rather than fees or commissions.

Please note that Investopedia refers to investment professionals with a strict fiduciary responsibility who advise clients and/or manage their financial assets as “advisers.” We refer to investment professionals who follow the suitability standard as “advisors.”

Generation Gap

Advisors who are ignoring potential Generation X and Millennial clients are doing so at their peril. More than $50 trillion dollars is going to pass from the Baby Boomer generation to their descendants in the next couple of decades.

Planners need to make a point of getting to know their older clients’ children in order to retain them after their parents are gone. Investment professionals should be prepared to shift back to risk and growth investing for the inheritors and away from the stability, conservation, and retirement income needed by the parents.

Demographic Shifts

The change in demographics and increasing globalization of the world’s economies will lead to enormous new marketing opportunities for advisors who are able to reach clients previously beyond their grasp. The number of people with mobile phones by the end of 2021 was an estimated 8.3 billion and the figure is expected to rise another billion by 2027.

The amount of private wealth in the world is also expected to rise, and shift toward women. In fact, women will control about $30 trillion of the liquid investable assets in the U.S. by 2030.

This unprecedented wealth shift creates new challenges, but also new opportunities, for financial advisors. That's because women often react differently to market risk, have different investment styles and financial goals than men, and so on.

Education Debt

Paying off student loans is a huge burden for many graduates and parents, and there is now more educational loan debt than credit card debt in America. More clients will be looking for advice on how to deal with this issue, and a legislative overhaul will likely be necessary to deal with the problem on a national scale.

Retirement Planning

If retirement planning seems difficult now, it will only get harder for many younger workers who may substantially outlive their parents. Modern medical advances in areas such as cancer research are combining to push average projected lifespans into the 90s and potentially past the century mark at some point. The demand for new products, such as longevity annuities, will most likely mushroom in the next several years.

Other vehicles may become available in the insurance marketplace that can help savers to preserve their incomes for as long as they live. Accelerated benefit riders that allow life insurance policyholders to access a portion of death benefits for expenses such as long-term health care are also likely to become integral parts of every term and permanent insurance policy.

Are Robo-Advisors Replacing Human Financial Advisors?

Robo-advisors are app-based investment platforms that automate long-term investment portfolios using algorithms to allocate and manage portfolios at low cost. In 2019, robo-advisors were estimated to have $460 billion in assets under management (AUM). That number is expected to grow to $1.2 trillion by 2024.

Will The Number of Financial Advisors Grow in the Future?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were more than 330,300 financial advisors in America in 2021. That number is expected to increase by 50,900 by 2031, a faster than average rate of job growth.

How Much Money Do Financial Advisors Make?

Financial advisor earnings have a very wide range, especially since the job is often based on commissions or assets under management. According to U.S. government statistics, the median base pay among financial advisors in 2021 was $94,170.

The Bottom Line

The financial industry is in the throes of digital and marketplace revolutions that may result in the availability of low-cost financial planning for the masses. Seamless, cloud-based technology will enable round-the-clock mobility for traders and younger clients who have grown up in the internet era. Automated services and transparent pricing are on the horizon, along with stricter rules and regulations for advisors who service retirement plans and accounts.

Article Sources
Investopedia requires writers to use primary sources to support their work. These include white papers, government data, original reporting, and interviews with industry experts. We also reference original research from other reputable publishers where appropriate. You can learn more about the standards we follow in producing accurate, unbiased content in our editorial policy.
  1. U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. "Personal Financial Advisors."

  2. Deloitte. "The Expansion of Robo-Advisory in Wealth Management."

  3. Mordor Intelligence. "Robo-Advisory Services Market - Growth, Trends, COVID-19 Impact, and Forecasts (2022 - 2027)."

  4. Congressional Research Service. "DOL’s 2016 Fiduciary Rule on Investment Advice."

  5. Loan Syndications & Trading Association. "Mandate Department of Labor’s Fiduciary Rule," Download PDF.

  6. U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. "SEC Adopts Rules and Interpretations to Enhance Protections and Preserve Choice for Retail Investors in Their Relationships With Financial Professionals."

  7. Cerulli Associates. "Cerulli Anticipates $84 Trillion in Wealth Transfers Through 2045."

  8. Ericsson. "Mobile Subscriptions Outlook: 5G Mobile Subscriptions to Surpass 1 Billion in 2022."

  9. McKinsey & Co. "Women as the Next Wave of Growth in US Wealth Management."

  10. PaymentsJournal by Mercator Advisory Group. "U.S. Household Debt by Type."

  11. CNBC. "Why Robo-Advisors Are Striving Toward a ‘Hybrid Model,’ as the Industry Passes the $460 Billion Mark."

Take the Next Step to Invest
The offers that appear in this table are from partnerships from which Investopedia receives compensation. This compensation may impact how and where listings appear. Investopedia does not include all offers available in the marketplace.