Financial Planning

Gen Xers Face a Unique Set of Financial Challenges

Their net worth was damaged more than that of other generations during the Great Recession.

I was born in 1957, at the peak of the baby boom, and I have felt the effects of that population surge for most of my life. Classrooms were crowded: My sixth-grade class had 42 kids, and my junior high needed temporary classrooms. When I started my career, competition for jobs was intense. But I also benefited from being a boomer. My family rode the economic expansion between the 1950s and early ’70s that was fueled by the population boom, and when I got my first full-time job (with the Kiplinger organization), I was able to sign up for the profit-sharing and pension plans. I bought my first home in 1987, and I have been rewarded by steadily rising home prices ever since.

Demographics play a big role in personal finances. A large number of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance subscribers are boomers, and our generation has accumulated more wealth than any other generation in history from extended bull markets, steady home appreciation, and generous pensions and employer benefits. Our mission is to help you increase and manage that wealth, with articles such as our cover story, Countdown to Retirement. At the same time, we have tried to expand our reach to younger people who haven’t had the same advantages and need some financial tutoring. But a year ago, when I wrote a column titled Financial Advice for Millennials, about our new column for millennials, I heard from a couple of Generation X readers who thought we were neglecting them. One reader wrote: “I would like to remind you that the millennials are not the next generation. Everyone continues to forget about Generation X. We are the ones taking over many leadership positions, and we actually have assets.”

A generation of jugglers. Gen Xers, we’re listening. Generation X: Time Is on Your Side, written by Kim Lankford—who is herself a Gen Xer—is for you. Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen Xers are stuck between boomers and millennials, both of whom throw their larger-population weight around. Gen Xers’ net worth was damaged more than that of other generations during the Great Recession, when their retirement account balances tanked along with their home values. At the start of their careers, the era of the private-sector pension was coming to a swift end. Partly because 401(k)s were new, Gen X got a later start saving for retirement.

Fidelity calls Gen Xers a generation of jugglers. They are saving for college for their kids and may still be paying off their own student loans and other debt while trying to save for retirement. Because they are raising children and increasingly taking care of aging parents at the same time, they have also been called the panini generation—press both sides of a sandwich in a hot grill and you get the idea.

Fortunately, their home values have rebounded, and the stock market just experienced the longest bull market in history. Plus, Gen Xers are in their prime earning years, so they can supercharge their savings.

We take a look at demographics elsewhere in this issue, too. In Millennial Money, we play the new Monopoly for Millennials game and challenge the stereotypes it perpetuates. In honor of Valentine’s Day, Takeaway compares three generations’ attitudes about how couples should handle money.

And please take a look at a new poll we conducted with Personal Capital, the financial firm. We asked people ages 35 to 64 how they’re doing at saving for retirement. See our poll for some eye-opening insights.

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