Baby Boomers are in the throes of retirement, and Generation X is only steps behind. According to Generations Apart—a new study from Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America—the vast majority of both groups believe the traditional definition of retirement is a “romantic fantasy of the past.” More than eight in 10 (84%) from both generations said they feel that a retirement starting at age 65 spent “doing exactly what you want” is now unrealistic.
Gen X respondents were much more hopeless about their ability to achieve retirement goals and about their overall financial situation than their Boomer counterparts, the study found. More than two-thirds (67%) of Gen Xers agreed with the idea that supposed targets for how much you need to retire are way out of reach versus less than half of Boomers (49%).
Significantly, more Gen X respondents also admitted to getting “bogged down with uncertainty when planning for retirement” (64% versus 43% of Boomers), believing it is “useless to plan for retirement when everything is so uncertain” (44% versus 31% of Boomers), and feeling that they will “never have enough money to stop working” (68% versus 43% of Boomers).
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, according to Katie Libbe, vice president of consumer insights at Allianz Life. “While our study confirms that many Boomers still lack confidence about their future, it reveals alarming realities about the significant angst and pessimism Gen X feels regarding the current and future state of their finances,” she says. “They’re the next generation that’s quickly approaching retirement, and their hands-off approach to planning and preparation is alarming.”
Perhaps it’s a case of the grass is always greener on the other side of the fence. The study found that each generation in the study feels their circumstances are tougher to manage. Both Gen Xers and Boomers think that their generation is burdened with more expenses (90% and 80% agreement, respectively), more uncertainty (86% and 72%) and more risk (78% and 64%) than their counterparts.
However, when it comes to jobs, money, and retirement, even Baby Boomers agreed that Generation X has it much tougher in a number of areas. A majority of both Gen Xers (86%) and Boomers (65%) agreed that Gen X has it tougher when it comes to planning for retirement. Gen Xers (89%) and Boomers (68%) say it’s harder for Gen X to save money. Respondents also agreed it’s harder for Gen Xers to:
- Keep a job – 85% of Gen Xers and 69% of Boomers agreed
- Stay out of debt – 90% of Gen Xers and 72% of Boomers agreed
- Get a job – 85% of Gen Xers and 73% of Boomers agreed
Next: Does financial anxiety lead to planning?
A Surprising Calm
The concerns about finances and the prospects of a comfortable retirement are quite clear, but both generations are disturbingly calm about planning for their financial futures. More than half of each generation agreed with the statement, “When it comes to retirement, I just have this feeling that everything’s going to work out.”
Nearly half of Gen X respondents (46%) said they would just figure out retirement when they get there, compared with just over one-third of Baby Boomers (36%). About half of Gen X (52%) also admitted they “just don’t think about putting money away for the future,” versus 32% of Boomers.
This “head-in-the-sand” approach to financial planning likely goes back to feelings of hopelessness these generations – particularly Generation X – have about their current situation, Allianz believes. Nearly three-quarters of Gen Xers (72%) and 60% of Boomers agree that it is “almost impossible to figure out what your (retirement) expenses are going to be.” More than half of Gen X respondents (52%) and nearly one-third of Boomers (32%) also agreed that with the amount of current expenses, they “just don’t think about putting money away for the future.” Present-day financial challenges mean that nearly half of Gen Xers (48%) and more than one-quarter of Boomers (27%) say they are not clear about how much money they’ll 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 says. “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.”
The Allianz Generations Apart Study, fielded by Larson Research and Strategy Consulting, was conducted online in November with 2,000 U.S. adults nationwide, ages 35 to 67, with a minimum household income of $30,000. Respondents were split evenly between men and women, and between Baby Boomers (ages 49 to 67) and Gen Xers (ages 35 to 48).
More information about the Generations Apart Study is on the website of Allianz Life.