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November 1, 2013

Retirement challenges for Generation X

Americans are living and working longer than ever before. The result is a current workforce comprised of multiple generations, each at different points in the career life cycle working side by side.

At one end of the spectrum are the millennials, the first group to come of age in the new millennium, now in their 20s and early 30s and typically in the formative stage of their careers

At the other end are the baby boomers, now in their 50s and 60s who are planning or have already begun their exit from the workforce. Situated squarely in the middle is the cohort most commonly known as Generation X, the roughly 50 million people born from 1965 through 1980 now in their mid-30s to late 40s and, in many cases, firmly established in their careers.

Because this 30- and 40-something group is poised to move from a supporting role to top leadership positions in every area of commerce and government, they have begun to attract serious attention. Policy experts have analyzed this cohort to determine the most compelling issues affecting them and how they are addressing those challenges.

Although the popular literature likes to portray sharp “personality” differences between Gen Xers and baby boomers, recent research paints a more nuanced picture. Employees across the two groups exhibited more similarities than differences, and the differences that did exist were attributed more to situational factors, such as age, family responsibilities and financial commitments, rather than generational distinctions.

The factors that play important roles in achieving success and happiness in life, such as the importance of interpersonal relationships, high career aspirations, work ethic and social, moral and family values were remarkably similar across generations.

One area, however, where there is a clear attitudinal difference between cohorts was that of retirement readiness.

Despite the fact that the economy has stabilized since the 2008 financial crisis, according to a 2012 Pew Research study, concerns about retirement finances have increased markedly since 2009 in every generation, with the most dramatic change occurring in the 35 to 44 age group.

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