Non-Traditional Families

The Traditional Family Wasn’t and Isn’t Today


by Charles McCain  for Cannon Financial Institute


“Seven out of ten investors believe that financial advice and solutions are typically designed with only the traditional family in mind. Modern families of all types say they have difficulty finding financial professionals experienced with families like theirs.”

This not-so-complimentary insight about financial advisers is taken from: “Beyond the Picket Fence: Financial challenges of the modern American family,” a report issued by wealth management firm UBS in the fall of 2015.* It is a fascinating insight and one many FAs might want to think about in both how to serve their existing clients better and how to expand existing relationships as well as create new relationships.

Most people define the “traditional family” as a married heterosexual couple with children under eighteen, all living in the same household. Yet according to the US Census Bureau, only 21% of American families fall under this definition.** Yes, that’s right. Less than one-quarter of American families are structured in the traditional model. No wonder investors feel their advisers don’t understand them.

The standard family model in America can be traced to a specific historical event: World War Two. When men came home from the war, most wanted to get married, have children and live in their own home. And they did. By doing so, however, they created a different society than had existed prior to that time.

This type of family model became widespread and the mass media, especially television, reinforced this so repetitively that it seemed there was no other type of family in America. (This wasn’t true, of course). So ingrained did this belief become that we assumed—and continue to assume— that the nuclear family is the standard. While only 21% of American families meet this definition, we as a society still operate on the assumption that the “traditional family” is the way most families today are organized.

Again from the aforementioned UBS report, “Seven out of ten investors feel that financial guidance and solutions are generally geared toward traditional families, indicating that support systems, such as Social Security, healthcare and retirement benefits, have not fully caught up with the variety of family structures that exist today.”

As Financial Advisers, we must deal with reality not myth. And the reality is the “traditional family” ceased to be the standard model of American families decades ago.


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*UBS Investor Watch Non-Traditional Families
**US Census factfinder
Cannon Financial Institute is the “gold standard” for wealth management training, development and consulting. I worked at the firm for many years and my colleagues were the most talented people I have ever worked with.  Last year the firm sought me out to write articles for them which I started doing in January of  2016. After a hiatus of nine years, I am pleased to report that my colleagues continue to be the most talented people I have ever worked with and it is a pleasure to be working with them again.  I will posting the articles I write for them on my blog after they appear on Cannon’s website.


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Charles McCain

Charles McCain is a Washington DC based freelance journalist and novelist. He is the author of "An Honorable German," a World War Two naval epic. You can read more of his work on his website:

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