Get Back To Work, Slackers! Generation X Will Probably Never RetireTracey Gaughran
Having recently crossed over the 40 year old mark, I’ve been faced with what at first blush seemed like a fairly grim reality. That being, that at the rate I’ve been earning (and therefore saving) through my life thus far, I’ll probably never be able to retire.
Like many in my age cohort born in the years between 1965 and 1981, I’ve lived through some pretty desperate financial ups and downs since reaching adulthood, including at least 3 recessions (the last and current one seeming more and more Officially Depression-like), and brutal tech and housing bubbles (my house is currently underwater, howabout yours?). The grinding financial realities my generation has faced have been tempered only by the brief but glorious Clinton era of prosperity, puppies, and unicorns, which unfortunately I was in graduate school for most of and therefore personally benefitted less from directly. But I’m not whining or complaining, mind you. There are those who have it much, much worse (I’m looking at you, Gen Y) (sorry, dudes). And I shudder to think of the economic future that the children of Gen Xers will face.
Because the financial realities facing my generation seem, overall, fairly dire and only worsening. A cycle of famine or famine, sans the once anticipated feast. The ‘new normal’ is financial flux, instability, periods of recession and personal financial regression, unemployment and regular underemployment, and unstable jobs that last on average about 3 years — this compared to the relatively secure life-long careers our parents enjoyed. In such a relentlessly hostile economic climate, it’s not surprising that only one-third of Xers are confident about their retirement prospects, and that less than half of us have even tried to figure out how much we’d need to actually retire. Presumably we haven’t tried to figure any of this out because we simply assume there’s just no way it’s ever going to happen.
But is that necessarily a bad thing?
Maybe this is a Pollyanna-ish attempt at trying to see a half-empty glass as half-full, but in light of studies showing retirement’s negative health effects and correlation with depression, maybe what seems like a loss really isn’t one. And since many of those from the Boomer generation are now looking at having to delay retirement until at least age 70, whether it’s good or bad seems a moot question, really. The time when retirement at age 60 or 65 was something most adults could expect is… well, kind of just over now. Retirement will rapidly become a luxury reserved exclusively for the upper classes, it seems. And the sooner we in the younger generations all realize and accept this, the less disappointed we’ll all be in another, oh, 25 years or so.
Or… maybe not?
I’m not sure what could turn things around for Gen Xers, outside of some massive financial boom that seems laughably unlikely at this point, but I suppose it’s possible. What do you think? Are the generations following the comparatively prosperous Boomers going to see retirement rapidly become a thing of the past (perhaps along with Social Security)? Do you think you’re solidly on the path to retire yourself? Speak up, Xers, don’t slack! (heh)
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