From the May 2017 issue of Investment Advisor • Subscribe!

The ‘Middle Kid’ Sounds Off

Gen X hasn't received as much attention as the much larger generations before and after it

Like the middle kid in a family, Gen Xers often feel they never got as much respect as other generations. “We grew up being told we were ‘slackers’ and ‘cynical’ and ‘lazy’ and only cared about money and hated our parents. I could go on,” Angie Herbers reports. Some Xers are still sore about it, as these reader responses to a Pew article, “Generation X: America’s neglected ‘middle child,’” make clear:

“I am a Gen Xer and I for one am very tired of the disrespect. It is high time that the all-consuming baby boomers step out of the way and let us get things done right. They have made a disaster of this world and my generation is the one with the insight and knowledge to clean it up. I am about to seriously kick some ass if they don’t get out of the way.”

“I am Gen X (born 1966). My single mother started leaving my sister and me alone when I was 6 and she was 3. I learned early to cook, clean, and teach my sister to talk, learn the alphabet, etc. I was a ‘latchkey kid’ until I graduated high school. I paid for my own college education and worked my rump off. Now I’m in a company that has a median age of 55, thanks to the number of baby boomers that can’t or won’t retire.”

“We [Gen X] as a generation have been tossed from one financial crisis to the next, always being told we’d never succeed, never own a home and were lazy slackers. In the late ’90s, all of the adults (boomers) who had stomped on us for so long suddenly decided it was time to praise the new generation of young people. For about a decade, all you ever heard was how amazing millennials were.”

“[Millennials] think they’re so technologically savvy because they have graphic user interfaces and can touch buttons on screens. We had to know DOS! We had to memorize commands and manually type in directories! File sharing was NOT such a simple thing, and it took forever!”

“As a Gen Xer, I can’t stand the ‘me, me, me’ millennials and their sense of entitlement.”

‘I’m Never Going to Stop Working.’ Sound Familiar?

“I don’t have to plan for retirement,” a Gen Xer told generational consultant Cam Marston, “because I’m not going to quit my job.” This may be a rationalization of an inability to save, but Gen X’s heavy burden of short-term obligations can make it hard to plan for something 20 or 30 years in the future.

In fact, Xers grappling with debt, child and/or parental support, and college tuition are at their most expensive stage of life. “Even if they put just a little away, it’s important for the habit to get started,” Marston says. “Hopefully, the saving habit will continue as they acquire more assets.”

Kol Birke sees more Gen Xers choosing to enjoy today in lieu of saving for retirement. Instead of deferring gratification, they want themselves and their children to enjoy the good things of life now. “They’re also more likely to be conscious of how to make their retirement meaningful and fulfilling by being with family, volunteering or diving deeper into a hobby or passion,” he adds.

Michael Kitces cautions that it may be too soon to freak out about a future train wreck. “Boomers never saved enough for retirement,” he notes. “Maybe it’s not realistic to expect Gen X to save, either.”

--- Read Thinking Gen X: An Overdue Look at an Overlooked Generation on ThinkAdvisor and see the entire series on the Thinking Generations home page. 

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