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Your Money or Your Life: AARP Fintech and Amazon Show

So many head-spinning numbers to describe the 50+ Consumer.  In making the case for the 'FinTech' innovation market opportunity, AARP’s new Financial Innovation Frontiers report (aimed at the Fintech industry) freely fires off a wide range of market segment numbers.  Is the report about the population aged 50-100?  There are 111 million Americans aged 50 and older, 35% of the US population, described as a 'generation.' That includes three segments of baby boomers as well as their parents. The report is not about the growing life expectancy of those who live to age 65 with their predicted longevity  (88.8 for women, 86.6 for men). Instead, the report focuses on the 50+ Consumer (their term) aged 50-60 who is a decade away or less from ‘retirement’, an increasingly obsolete term. They are confronted with a range of financial challenges -- the report suggests Fintech tools that could help them deal with retirement savings shortfalls resulting from career setbacks ($4.3 trillion savings gap), unplanned withdrawals ($4.1 trillion) and student debt ($1.3 trillion).

As for advice, big problems are offered small fintech solutions.  The very big problems and needs described in this report are addressed with some useful tools, but debatable strategies -- built around questionable assumptions.  For example: although 76% of the 65+ population is retired – as of last year; full-time work of those agde 65+ was down to 22% -- and no doubt will fall further if re-surveyed. Perhaps analyzed as retired from one career, many are still working -- media articles acknowledge and even suggest delaying.  The recommendations to fintech industries (Financial Fitness, Healthcare Emergencies, and Retirement Readiness) are a hodgepodge of clever examples that are mostly small scale tools aimed at teaching consumers through online tools, winning cash prizes for saving, creating an annuity from savings, supported by chat bots asking ‘how can I help?’ Can a direct-to-consumer annuity marketplace or gender-aware robo advisor provide innovation that consumers need? Describing a source as trustworthy – does that make it so?

Now arriving, Amazon Show and tell. You thought you had it all, with the Amazon Echo listening and misunderstanding your in-kitchen conversation, adding to your shopping list, describing the weather for tomorrow, playing your music, and doing so calmly and mostly accurately. But no, that was just the 'hear me' phase. Now we are in the moe dubious 'see me' phase – first with Amazon Look – evaluating your clothes and making suggestions. Okay, that’s pretty creepy – but maybe just right for style watchers, (especially since the wonderful NY Times’ photographer Bill Cunningham passed away). But that was just the beginning of a camera-in-every-room addition to the home – check out Amazon Echo Show. You can set a "reminder from your bedroom, you can view your agenda on the Echo Show in the kitchen." And you can chat with everyone else you know who has an Echo.  Maybe that will turn out to be a useful and pleasant interface for older adults who may not be benefiting from their smartphones or tablets.

Platforms matter – everything else is just an app.  Of course, you are aware of platforms and their ecosystems of offerings. Think Microsoft and Apple with their tentacles into office, home, cars, design studios, music, movies and more. These are platforms – and Amazon’s Echo is yet another, moving quite rapidly (Hey Siri, Okay Google – get moving!).  Once a platform is established, add-ons and extensions in hardware happen (like Show), but more to the point, the platform becomes a medium for cloud-based software (no Microsoft Patch Tuesday upgrades required!).  Even better, Amazon appears to have no motivation to steal your information and sell it to marketers.  For one thing, they already have it since you opted in, they are the marketers, and you buying stuff through the platform is at least one of the company’s not-so-subtle goals in watching you.  You shopping for other people's stuff through the platform is probably okay with them too. 


The Show is a big step in the right direction for the longevity market - interesting use cases both in addressing social isolation as well as safety, to say nothing of the IoT front end. A much better platform front end than the echo for this market.

I saw on a napkin at the AARP Innovation @50 Live Pitch luncheon that had a drawing of shark's fin with '-Tech' next to it.  But there were no sharks amongst the day's winning pitch contestants (Silver Bills, Eversafe, LifeSite, Golden). Bill paying assistance, financial transaction monitoring, collaborative communication tools, legal services, associated analytics services.  Nice potential as components for integrated personal care and assistance systems.  Certainly sharks are lurking.


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