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Reality Bites: Gen Xers Aren’t Slackers Anymore, MetLife Says

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The unthinkable inevitable has happened: Gen Xers have become their moms and dads.

Yes, people who grew up as part of the MTV generation are making the shocking discovery that their lives today look remarkably similar to those of their Boomer parents, says a new study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute released Thursday.

Not only are the “slackers” of the 1990s now married with kids—even movie stars Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke and Ben Stiller of slacker hit “Reality Bites” are all now 40-somethings—but they’re also “as affluent, stable and saddled with responsibility as their parents were at the same age,” MetLife reports, with just a touch of schadenfreude.

Middle-age members of Generation X have an average of 2.5 children, with 70% of Gen Xers living with a spouse or partner and 82% owning their own homes, though 17% of those report that the value of those homes is less than the debt attached to them, according to “The MetLife Study of Generation X: The MTV Generation Moves into Mid-Life.”

A total of 1,000 interviews were completed by phone by GfK Custom Research North America for the MetLife Mature Market Institute between Nov. 29 and Dec. 19. Respondents were all born between 1965 and 1976.

In addition, the survey reports that 43% have remained in the same type of career throughout their working years and just more than 40% have been with the same employer for 10 years or more. Fully 75% are working full or part time, and most are part of a dual-earner household. Ten percent are grandparents, and many Gen Xers “are part of the sandwich generation because many are caring for both their children and their parents,” MetLife says.

“The Gen Xers have suffered from the ‘Marcia, Marcia, Marcia’ syndrome since they’ve been compared with The Brady Bunch daughter, Jan, the frequently unnoticed middle child,” said Sandra Timmermann, Ed.D., director of the MetLife Mature Market Institute, in a statement. “Because they followed the Baby Boomers, it took a while for them to make their mark. That was also due to the fact that they’re small in number—just 50 million compared to 77 million Boomers—and entered the work force later than their predecessors.”

Although many slackers entered, or failed to enter, the work force during the recession of the early 1990s, the economy was ultimately not too tough on the group, now age 36 to 47. Just 19% earn less than $35,000 per year, and 29% earn more than $100,000. They are arguably better educated than any generation before them, with 43% having graduated from college.

Perhaps the most compelling statistic of the MetLife study is the number of Gen Xers who look backward in comparing themselves with others. While the largest percentage, 41%, of Gen Xers said they identify most with other Gen Xers, a significant portion, 28%, identify with Boomers.

More stats from MetLife’s GenX study:

Only 50% say they are behind on their retirement savings; they have relatively high ownership rates of 401(k) plans (66%).

Fully 70% of Gen Xers are not confident that Social Security will be there to provide benefits when they retire.

Most would like to retire at age 62, but believe working until at least age 67 is inevitable.

On average, Gen Xers own about four financial products, with those in higher income brackets much more likely to own more products. 

The majority (63%) of Gen Xers still have both parents living and almost two in 10 regularly provide care for their aging parent(s).

Almost six in 10 Gen Xers report they exercise daily.

Approximately 20% have never been married.

Two in 10 Gen Xers have been married more than once.


Read Boomers Will Have $22T in Retirement Assets by 2020 at AdvisorOne.


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