How Gen X Learned to Start Worrying and Love Retirement Planning

New study finds the grunge generation most concerned about future security

They hope they don’t die before they get old.

Possessing a heavy streak of nihilism when they came of age two decades ago, as well as an equally weighty rejection of the materialistic 1980s, Generation X's cynicism was matched only by its clothes and music. They had the anti-authoritarian streak of their Baby Boomer elders, just without all the free love and flowers.

How times have changed. Now well into their forties, the grunge generation is listing things as lame as life insurance and retirement planning as top concerns.

A retirement study from LIMRA conducted in July found Generation X tended to be more concerned that they would not have enough money for retirement than their younger and older counterparts.

While it might seem surprising, given the attention mobile device-loving Generation Y has received of late, only a quarter of Generation Y consumers (ages 18 to 32) and three in 10 Baby Boomers (age 49 to 68) were very concerned about having enough money for retirement, compared with 36% of Gen X consumers.

Fewer than 20% of all Americans are very confident they will have a secure retirement. Boomers and Gen X were least likely to feel very confident about achieving a secure retirement (13% and 14% respectively), while 21% of Gen Y said they were very confident they would have a secure retirement.

“While many Gen X Americans are in the prime earning years, they are less likely to have a defined benefit plan than Boomers and more likely to be aware of risks associated with retirement and the challenges they face to save enough to achieve a secure retirement than younger consumers,” Alison Salka, corporate vice president and director of LIMRA Retirement Research, said in a statement. “They also may be managing multiple financial demands like saving for a child’s education or helping older parents. Meanwhile, Baby Boomers probably already have a realistic picture on their retirement outlook.”

The study asked consumers to define retirement security. The top three descriptions chosen were “living comfortably” (24%), “having financial freedom” (23%) and “peace of mind” (16%).

It found almost three-quarters of consumers surveyed reported that they have taken at least one step toward a secure retirement. Contributing to an employer-sponsored retirement savings plan was the most common step among full-time workers. As expected, workers over 55 were more likely to have taken more steps, including calculating their retirement income, discussing planning with a professional and determining what their retirement expenses will be.

On a related front, New York Life reports that before the Great Recession took hold in 2008, Gen Xers reported a median shortfall between their life insurance coverage and their self-described financial needs of $362,688. Today, they are reporting a $448,996 gap, an increase of 24%, which the company says puts them in even greater danger of missing goals such as paying off mortgage or credit card debt, funding a college education or financing a secure retirement.

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Check out Young Millionaires More Optimistic Than Boomers on ThinkAdvisor.

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