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The Forgotten Generation: How Generation X Can Plan for Their Unique Future

As a Gen Xer, I often feel like a part of the “forgotten” generation. One doesn’t have to look far to see the abundance of media attention paid to baby boomers retiring and millennials finally buying homes and having families. In 2019 the youngest Gen Xers will turn 40 years old, while their older counterparts have already reached their mid-50s. Gen X’s early retirees are likely to fly completely under the radar as they leave the workforce while the news still focuses on the aging boomers.

Let’s look back at some of the financial challenges and opportunities our “forgotten” generation has faced and explore how we can optimize our financial lives as we enter what could be our last decade or two in the workforce.

Housing

Many Gen Xers bought their first homes in the real estate frenzy of the late 90s and early 2000s, only to see home values crash when the financial crisis hit. Most of us weren’t home owners during the high-interest 80s — although we’ve all heard stories from our parents or others of mortgage interest rates well into the teens — rather, we’ve benefited from a decade of historically low interest rates. This has allowed us to save money through a mortgage refinance and/or buy a larger or nicer home to fit our growing families.

When it eventually comes time for us to downsize, there could be excess inventory of one-level living villas, condos and townhomes put on the market by exiting baby boomers for us to scoop up at attractive prices.

Investing

On the downside, we’ve lived through two of the most impactful stock market crashes in recent history: first, the dot-com bust of the early 2000s and then the financial crisis and Great Recession in 2008-2009. One might think this is extremely unlucky. But for Gen Xers with plenty of runway before retirement, in hindsight, it was a great opportunity to “buy low” for those who took advantage of it through payroll deferrals into 401(k) plans and other investing.

Looking forward, since most Gen Xers still have a decade or more left to work, now is not the time to let the recent stock market volatility shake your confidence in your long-term savings. Time still affords us the ability to be moderately aggressive in our investing and reap the returns the market has historically provided over long periods of time.

Transportation

The independence of traveling by car whenever and wherever you want has now benefited several generations. This freedom is hard to give up. Many of us have heard conversations between our parents, aunts and uncles about when to take Grandma or Grandpa’s keys away from them. We now have additional options such as Uber and Lyft, and mass-transit options continue to grow in urban areas. Will self-driving vehicles be on the roads by the time our children question our safety behind the wheel?

Career

As boomers exit the workforce in droves, Gen Xers should be primed to assume more leadership opportunities. While exciting, these can be stressful years. Since many Gen Xers waited until later in their 20s or 30s to have a family, work-life balance can feel like an unattainable myth right about now.

According to Business Insider,1 life satisfaction dips in middle age after first peaking at age 23 and peaking again at age 69. Exhausted from the demands of one’s career, Gen Xers chauffeur kids to their endless after-school activities, help with homework, stress over how to pay for college, and help care for aging parents — ending up with little time for themselves. Rather than dreaming about finally having some “me time” in retirement, which still may be years away, finding time to practice mindfulness and gratitude can help you get through this challenging stage.

So, I’ll offer three pieces of advice as we Gen Xers look ahead:

1. Save Early and Often

You’ve heard it before, but save as much as you can, as early as you can. As Gen Xers are climbing the career ladder, lifestyle creep can come into play and leave you with nothing left to show for your higher income. Increase your savings into your 401k and/or IRA and take advantage of “catch-up” provisions, which allow you to save even more after you turn 50. You’ll thank yourself later!

2. Don’t Assume Change Isn’t Coming

Don’t assume today’s low interest rates, low inflation and low tax rates will continue indefinitely. We’ve been spoiled with all three of these for a long time now, but it’s unlikely they will continue forever. Someone is going to have to pay for our government debt and the havoc we’re wreaking on our environment.

3. Plan for Longevity

Dr. Joe Coughlin, Director of the MIT AgeLab said, “We have a longevity paradox. Now that we have achieved what humankind has tried to achieve since it has walked — living longer — we really don’t have a good idea of what do to with all that additional time.”2 So pick up a new hobby or two (I know spare time is hard to come by, but it will help with the elusive work-life balance conundrum). After all, some Gen Xers could be around to see the year 2100,3 and you can bet we’ll be sitting around in our rockers reminiscing about how we used to party like it was 1999.

Need help planning for your future? Contact an advisor to start the conversation!

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The Forgotten Generation How Generation X Can Plan for Their Unique Future

Wipfli Financial Advisors, LLC (“Wipfli Financial”) is an investment advisor registered with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC); however, such registration does not imply a certain level of skill or training and no inference to the contrary should be made. Wipfli Financial is a proud affiliate of Wipfli LLP, a national accounting and consulting firm. Information pertaining to Wipfli Financial’s management, operations, services and fees is set forth in Wipfli Financial’s current Form ADV Part 2A brochure, copies of which are available from Wipfli Financial upon request at no cost or at www.adviserinfo.sec.gov. Wipfli Financial does not provide tax, accounting or legal services. The views expressed by the author are the author’s alone and do not necessarily represent the views of Wipfli Financial or its affiliates. The information contained in any third-party resource cited herein is not owned or controlled by Wipfli Financial, and Wipfli Financial does not guarantee the accuracy or reliability of any information that may be found in such resources. Links to any third-party resource are provided as a courtesy for reference only and are not intended to be, and do not act as, an endorsement by Wipfli Financial of the third party or any of its content or use of its content. The standard information provided in this blog is for general purposes only and should not be construed as, or used as a substitute for, financial, investment or other professional advice. If you have questions regarding your financial situation, you should consult your financial planner, investment advisor, attorney or other professional.
Jordan Lochner Mills
Jordan Lochner Mills

CFP® | Senior Financial Advisor

Jordan Lochner Mills, CFP®, is a Senior Financial Advisor for Wipfli Financial Advisors in Minneapolis, MN. Jordan focuses on personal financial planning and investment management for individuals and families, and also specializes in planning matters related to women investors and retirees.

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The Forgotten Generation: How Generation X Can Plan for Their Unique Future

time to read: 4 min