Gen-Xers lost almost half of their wealth in the economic collapse, compared with 28 percent and 25 percent of early and late Baby Boomers, respectively.
One of the benchmarks of achieving the American Dream was to retire at age 65 and spend those later years in leisure and doing what you wanted. Unrealistic, say eight-in-ten Gen Xers and Baby Boomers of that traditional definition of retirement. According to a new Allianz Life study, the majority considers it “a romantic fantasy of the past.”
The study of 2,000 Americans, including 1,000 Baby Boomers ages 49-67 and 1,000 Gen Xers ages 35-48, found that Gen Xers are much more pessimistic about achieving their retirement goals and about their own financial situation than their Baby Boomer counterparts. Nearly seven-in-ten (67 percent) state that the financial targets of how much one needs to retire are out of reach. Roughly half (49 percent) of Baby Boomers have a similar downbeat opinion.
Gen Xers were hit hardest by the economic collapse, according to a 2014 Pew Research study. They lost almost half their wealth, compared with just 28 percent and 25 percent, respectively, for the groups Pew calls early and late boomers. Many Gen Xers were hit by a double whammy. They entered the workforce in the early 1990s in the midst of the recession and just as they were getting their footing, the dot-com bubble burst in 2000. They bought homes at high prices during that decade, and were hurt yet again when home values collapse in the Great Recession.
The Allianz study finds that Gen X respondents are significantly more likely than Baby Boomers to feel “bogged down with uncertainty when planning for retirement (64 percent vs. 43 percent) and believe it is “useless to plan for retirement when everything is uncertain” (44 percent vs. 31 percent). They also feel they will “never have enough money to stop working (68 percent vs. 43 percent of Baby Boomers).
Gen Xers tend to feel the financial weight of the world more keenly than Baby Boomers. They believe their generation is burdened with more expenses (80 percent vs. 80 percent of Baby Boomers), more uncertainty (86 percent vs. 72 percent) and more risk (78 percent vs. 64 percent).
How bad is it? At least two-thirds of Baby Boomers agree with Gen Xers that they have it tougher when it comes to planning for retirement, saving money, keeping a job, and staying out of debt.
Both generations agree that credit cards now function as a survival tool, the Allianz study finds. But Gen Xers report carrying 82 percent more nonmortgage debt (student loans and credit cards) than Baby Boomers. This, in turn, may be impeding their retirement planning. Twice as many Gen Xers (27 percent versus 11 percent) indicate they are either unsure about when they plan to retire or don’t plan to retire at all.
And yet, a majority of Gen Xers (53 percent) hold on to the hope that “everything’s going to work out” although they are not as optimistic as Baby Boomers, 65 percent of whom express this more rosy view of being financially prepared for retirement. Forty-six percent figure they will “figure it out when I get there” (compared with 36 percent of Baby Boomers.
Donald Liebenson writes news and features for Millionaire Corner. He has been published in the Chicago Tribune, The Chicago Sun-Times, The Los Angeles Times, Fiscal Times, Entertainment Weekly, Huffington Post, and other outlets. He has also served as a marketing writer for Chicago-based Questar Entertainment and distributor Baker & Taylor.
A graduate of the University of Southern California, he is married with a college-age son. He also writes extensively about entertainment.