While Millennials already are gaining a reputation as savers and planners, Gen X-ers seem to be paralyzed by the unknown when it comes to saving for their future.
More than 64% of Gen-Xers — those between the ages of 35 to 48 — say the lingering cloud of uncertainty that accompanies retirement planning keeps them from taking any action to help secure their financial future, according to a study by Allianz Life Insurance. The inaction by Gen X-ers is despite the fact most doubt pensions, Social Security and Medicare will be there for them and feel they will never have enough saved to retire.
“Many Gen X-ers live with their head in the sand and their dreams in the clouds about retirement," said Brent Dickerson, owner of Trinity Wealth Management. "And when it comes to thinking about retirement, there are those who believe that it is too late now to start saving, so why bother.”
Dickerson — a member of Generation X himself — said many Gen X-ers are in a precarious situation with their retirement planning, because many they refuse to accept reality. After 9/11, so much changed with society and the markets, but Gen X-ers never adapted.
“The world changed on us, and we have not done well to adapt,” Dickerson said. “We believed then that retirement was for older people, and besides money was basically growing on the proverbial tree known as Wall Street. So why start saving?”
Millennials, on the other hand, understand the world is a hard place, and they are more apt to embrace the concept of saving for a rainy day, because so many of them see the devastation poor planning can bring to a family when things crash, Dickerson added.
The study adds that almost three-quarters of Gen X-ers say it’s nearly impossible to figure out what retirement expenses will be and that more than two-thirds feel retirement targets for how much is needed are way out of reach.
Hannah Ubl, a generational expert at BridgeWorks, said while Gen X-ers are sure saving is important and necessary, much of their motivation to save is trumped by higher priorities — such as taking care of financial and familial issues in the present.
“They have too many financial obligations in the present,” Ubl said. “While 57% of [Gen X-ers] have recovered from the recession, that doesn't account for everyone. Still roughly half of X-ers see credit cards as a survival tool and carry revolving credit card debt.”
Gen X-ers also are a skeptical generation — as they've seen two recessions and possibly suffered from both of them, Ubl adds.
“From 2007 to 2010, median net worth of Gen X-ers fell by 45%, whereas Boomers' equity fell between 25% and 28%,” Ubl said. “They have seen the rise and the fall of the market, so while it may seem smart to have a mindset of ‘slow and steady wins the race,’ that just never rang true for this generation. What they do know is that they can trust themselves.”
Ubl said that may be the main issue with Gen X-ers and saving for their future.
“Gen X-ers know that, at the end of the day, there's one person to rely on — and that person is themselves,” Ubl said. “The entrepreneurial and independent mindset of this generation makes them confident in their own skills and abilities to get by in the future. Gen-Xers don't even flock to financial professionals to manage their money.”
Erin Albert, a 44-year-old Gen X-er who is a health outcomes pharmacist and associate professor at Butler University in Indianapolis, said she certainly isn’t counting on any outside sources of income -- especially Social Security or Medicare, which may not exist when retirement comes for her.
However, instead of being overwhelmed it makes her take her finances into her own hands.
“This actually forces me to save as much as I can for retirement,” said Albert. Still, however, she said that doesn’t mean she wouldn’t like some help as she plans for her golden years.
“I don't think the maximums are high enough for us under tax law currently to save enough in retirement vehicles,” she said, adding the maximum of $5,500 for a Roth IRA and $18,000 in a 401(k) is too low.
“The government could help us out here by raising the amounts we can sock away in these plans so we don't panic and we do have enough to retire on,” Albert said.