Turning 40 Friday wasn’t just a awakening for me, it really speaks to where my generation is. Oh, by the way, I’m part of Generation X. You remember “Gen Xers”? We were the hip and cool generation about a decade ago. Gen Xers are described as those born after the Baby Boom, between 1965-1980. We grew up with MTV, video games and were the first to make computers part of our daily lives.
Now we are ages 27 to 43 … while those who were born after us have become the “cool and hip” generation, we have become the parents and the movers and shakers in society. We make up the largest part of the work force and we are the demographic group that marketers crave. We are also a generation in financial trouble.
As article in this morning’s USA Today paints a rather depressing picture for people in my generation. We are the first group which not only has to save money for those rising costs of education for our children, we also have to pay our massive student loans. While are salaries remain flat, at best, the cost of everything from gas to groceries is going up. Perhaps the most frightening thing of all? Our generation’s life expectancy will surpass our parents, but we are woefully prepared for retirement. Nearly half of the people in Gen X are not saving for retirement … and some of us are actually tapping what we have saved to make ends meet.
All this, while we continue to live in a society where we want the best, the biggest and we want it now. We are told by advertisers we must have the latest cell phone, the latest HD TV and the newest car. Peer pressure only adds to the volatile mix which could see many of my generation not only not prepare for retirement, but living a lifestyle that is much less affluent than it is now.
I know it’s not easy for us to save and put money away. Heck, there are plenty of people who make upwards of $100K who still can’t afford a home. However, the challenge for us as a generation is to somehow plan for an uncertain future in these uncertain times. That means putting away money as best we can and prioritizing our expenditures.
I think I will take Kelly’s advice for the summer. When I asked her about her plans for summer vacation, she told me about something called a “stay-cation”. I think you all know what she meant. It’s not a bad idea and maybe a start to getting control of our lives and our finances until this economic spiral stops. Another idea, which you can do here in Pittsburgh because the housing market is relatively stable, is down-size. Sharon and I did that when we sold our home and moved into a town home. Just the money saved on lawn care and external maintenance made it worthwhile.
I just hope my generation will be able to enjoy the good times in the near future and prosper. While we may not – and may never be – “the Greatest Generation” like the boomers, we can still be great and enjoy the economic promise of this country.