Generation X Particularly Pressed on Retirement

The top financial concern among each generation is not having enough money in emergency savings, a new survey suggests, but for Generation X, not being able to retire on time is a close second.

A recent financial wellness survey conducted by Harris Poll on behalf of the Million Dollar Round Table (MDRT), a national association for financial professionals, finds Americans face a diverse list of financial challenges. The research shows 84% of Generation Y (those 18 to 34 years old), 83% of Generation X (35 to 54) and 66% of Boomers (55+) have some type of serious financial concern, ranging from retirement unpreparedness to high levels of credit card debt.

According to the survey, the top financial concern among each generation is not having enough money in emergency savings funds, cited by 51% of Gen Y, 50% of Gen X and 34% of Boomers. A close second for Generation Y and Boomers is not being able to pay off monthly bills, while almost half of Generation X fears not being able to retire when they want.

In an important finding for retirement specialist advisers, very few survey respondents from any generation said increased workplace financial education would improve either their emergency fund or retirement plan savings. Instead, the study reveals 38% of Gen Y, 40% of Gen X and 29% of Boomers feel debt reduction strategies would make their financial outlook most secure. The rest are split among a variety of other approaches. 

Brian Heckert, MDRT’s first vice president, says the research results show many Americans feel daunted by the notion of putting enough money away for retirement. Some feel they won’t be able to put away enough to make retirement successful, so they do not feel compelled to start the effort and fall further and further behind their peers who are actively saving.

“Saving just 5% on a monthly budget across all expenses could save the average family making $60,000 a year about $3,000 per year or $250 per month,” he explains. “That sum saved over a 10-year period would amount to a very nice fund for college or an addition to a retirement program.”

When asked about the most helpful piece of financial advice they have received, many in Gen Y pointed to messaging around the importance of saving/investing early and making a formal financial plan. Their older counterparts most often noted paying off high-interest debt as the key to financial success. Interestingly, while close to half of Generation X said not being able to retire is one of their top financial concerns, a mere 9% of this generation say the message that sacrificing a small amount of income today can make retirement much more comfortable is the most important piece of financial advice to know.

MDRT says the survey results suggest there is something of a disconnect between what savers want to accomplish in the long term, and what they’re willing to do today to move in that direction. Case in point, according to the study, is that 50% of Gen Y, 35% of Gen X and 25% of Boomers say they have not done anything at all to prepare for retirement or address their long-term financial goals. And just 10% of Millennials say they have spoken to an adviser to prepare for retirement, compared with only 7% of Generation X.

“The hardest part of a financial plan is finding the time to get started,” adds Mark J. Hanna, MDRT’s second vice president. “The new year is an excellent time to take control of your finances—and your future—with a financial plan, and stick to it.”

The study was conducted online from December 29 to 31, among more than 2,000 U.S. adults ages 18 and older. Additional survey results and more info on methodology, including weighting variables, are available through