Among the myriad of studies that researchers have conducted on Americans’ finances, most of those with an age demographic orientation have focused on the largest generations, such as baby boomers and millennials, but less attention has been paid to the generation sandwiched in between: Generation X.
That’s changing as more Gen Xers — those born between the mid-1960s and mid-1980s — enter their peak years in terms of earnings potential. Their growing financial clout, and the challenges they face as they prepare for a retirement, are thus drawing greater scrutiny from the financial services community.
Case-in-point: Allianz Life, which last month released a report contrasting the financial fitness and boomers and Gen Xers. Among other findings, the study noted that, compared to boomers, Gen Xers hold more debt and are “remarkably complacent” about the impact of debt on their financial futures.
Now comes the Insured Retirement Institute’s “Third Biennial Study on the Retirement Readiness of Generation X.” The findings are a mixed bag. They show improvements on certain measures of retirement readiness and financial well-being, but also reveal significant financial issues faced by Gen Xers.
For example, let’s take savings. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of Gen Xers with retirement savings have less than $150,000 saved for retirement. That compares with 77 percent in 2013 and 76 percent in 2011.
Why the declining percentage? The answer is a bit of good news: higher savings levels among those with retirement savings. About 1 in 7 (14 percent of Gen Xers) have between $150,000 and $250,000 saved for retirement, up from 9 percent in 2011.
Savings levels, IRI reports, are likely to be even better among those who work with a financial professional — a finding consistently echoed in other surveys about retirement readiness. Gen Xers who work with financial professionals are twice as likely as those who plan on their own to have at least $100,000 saved for retirement.
Still, Gen Xers have their work cut out for them because fewer than 1 in 10 (8 percent) have $250,000 or more saved for retirement. This total, IRI notes, is the bare minimum needed to cover a key income gap for retirees.
“A 53 year-old purchasing a deferred income annuity today would need $250,000 to produce $30,000 of annual retirement income, the amount needed to fill the gap between current average annual retiree expenditures and the average Social Security benefit,” the report states.
The survey strikes a cautionary note on other measures of Gen Xers’ financial preparedness for retirement. Among them:
Economic satisfaction among Gen Xers has dropped over the past five years. Six in 10 survey respondents report “feeling satisfied” from an economic standpoint, as compared to more than eight in 10 in 2011.
64 percent of Gen Xers have money saved for retirement, the same as in 2013, but down from 72 percent in 2011.
58 percent of Gen Xers have not tried to calculate how much need to have saved by the time they retire. Of those who have, 34 percent did not factor in health care expenses.
41 percent of Gen Xers believe health care expenses will consume 20 percent or less of their retirement savings. But research suggests that health care represents a third of expenses for those ages 60 and older.
67 percent of Gen Xers believe it is important to leave an inheritance to loved ones, yet only 24 percent are highly confident they will have enough money to support themselves throughout retirement.
71 percent have not consulted a financial professional. Of those who have, 81 percent have discussed retirement with their advisor and 71 percent have had their advisor develop a retirement plan.
If money runs out in retirement, 65 percent of Gen Xers plan to return to work if they are able. And 60 percent plan to downsize to rely solely on Social Security for retirement income.