About half of Gen Xers say they will just figure out retirement when they get there.

Baby boomers’ worries about retirement have received wide coverage in the financial press, much less so the sobering realities besetting Generation X.

As Americans in the 35-to-48 age group approach retirement, they are showing significant angst and pessimism about the current and future state of their finances, according to a new study published Wednesday by Allianz Life Insurance Co. of North America.

Both boomers and Gen Xers, the study found, widely believe that traditional retirement is a “romantic fantasy of the past,” and that retirement starting at age 65 is now unrealistic.

However, Gen Xers in the study expressed much more hopelessness than boomers about achieving retirement goals and about their overall financial situation.

Sixty-seven percent of Gen Xers felt that supposed targets for the amount needed to retire were beyond their reach, compared with 49% of boomers who felt this way.

Significantly more Gen X respondents than boomers also admitted to being mired in uncertainty when planning for retirement. They despaired of ever having enough money to stop working.

“It’s been widely reported that baby boomers are worried about their retirement, but the financial planning and retirement concerns of Generation X have gotten less attention,” Katie Libbe, Allianz Life vice president of consumer insights, said in a statement.

“They’re the next generation that’s quickly approaching retirement and their hands-off approach to planning and preparation is alarming.”

Larson Research and Strategy Consulting conducted a nationwide online quantitative survey of 2,000 U.S. adults ages 35 to 67 with a minimum household income of $30,000. The sample was designed to achieve a 50/50 balance of women and men, and a 50/50 balance of baby boomers and Gen Xers.

Tough Going

The study found that Gen Xers and boomers both thought their generation had more expenses, faced more uncertainty and was at greater risk than their counterparts.

But boomer respondents agreed that Gen Xers were much worse off in the following areas:

  • Planning for retirement—86% of Gen Xers and 65% of boomers agreed
  • Saving money—89% of Gen Xers and 68% of boomers agreed
  • Keeping a job—85% of Gen Xers and 69% of boomers agreed
  • Staying out of debt—90% of Gen Xers and 72% of boomers agreed
  • Getting a job—85% of Gen Xers and 73% of boomers agreed

Still, both generations were surprisingly relaxed about planning for their financial futures, the study found.

Sixty-five percent of boomers and 53% of Gen Xers agreed that “when it comes to retirement, I just have this feeling that everything’s going to work out.”

Furthermore, 46% of Gen X respondents thought they would “just figure [retirement] out when I get there,” versus 36% of boomers. Allianz Life said this approach to financial planning likely reflected feelings of hopelessness boomers and particularly Gen Xers had about their current situation.

Seventy-two percent of Gen Xers and 60% of boomers agreed that it was “almost impossible” to figure out what their retirement expenses were going to be.

More than half of Gen X respondents and nearly a third of boomers also agreed that with the amount of current expenses, they simply did not think about putting money away for the future.

Not surprisingly, 48% of Gen Xers and 27% of boomers said they were unclear on how much money they would need to retire.

“The disconnect between planning and expectations from both generations is concerning, but it’s clear the financial services industry needs to provide more resources and support for Generation X,” Libbe said.

“Although they are not as close to retirement as boomers, Gen Xers need to understand that a successful tomorrow can only happen through careful planning today. Whether they choose to start making simple changes on their own or get advice from a financial professional, they must move past the negativity and take control of their finances.”

— Check out Tax-Deferred Retirement Saving, Without a 401(k) on ThinkAdvisor.