Members of Generation X are still a few decades away from retiring, but we are already being told that we have made too many financial mistakes. It seems a lot of commentators lately want to harp on the financial woes of Generation X: the new "Lost Generation." A recent article by The Street suggests Gen-X'ers are making the mistake of not saving enough for their retirements knowing we could receive 25 percent less from Social Security. With as cynical and skeptical as most Gen-X'ers are, I think we are better prepared for financial challenges such as the total collapse of the Social Security system. A financial wellness assessment study of the different generations suggests the most immediate economic threat to baby boomers is their retirement readiness, while Gen-X'ers deal with competing financial priorities.
Being prepared for the worst
It's possible the lawmakers will decide to cut Social Security in half for the older baby boomers while creating a completely new and better retirement savings plan for younger generations. It's just as possible Gen-Xers will have to supplement their Social Security income with personal retirement savings plans because the system collapses. After living through the Great Recession, most of us have learned to put money aside. The fact that Gen-X'ers aren't saving as much for retirement isn't a "mistake" as much as a financial reality.
Erring on the side of caution
If the stock market crashes, experts will say Gen-Xers should have known better than to risk their money in equities. If the bull market lasts for a decade, experts will say the younger generations were too cautious and missed out on all that growth. When my grandmother was in a retirement home, I met a lot of senior citizens who became wealthy by being cautious. They paid off their homes, practically hid their money under mattresses and avoided paying for anything with credit. I might not retire with several million, but I won't be homeless either.
Focusing on survival
Instead of figuring out how I can make more money to buy nicer things, I'm more focused on financial survival. My husband and I are paying down our home in our 40s. We aren't as concerned about having no mortgage when we are retired as much as having no mortgage in case of a job loss. We are also intent on paying off our car loan for the same reason. Instead of spending tens of thousands of dollars to send our children to a private university, we paid cash for community college.
My theory is than Gen-X'ers don't need as much wealth since we aren't as focused on material things, which is convenient since we are living in the age of pay cuts instead of pay raises. It seems absurd to blame any generation for "financial mistakes" that are outside of our control. We didn't ask to buy homes during the housing bubble or to start investing when stocks were at higher levels. The truth is that Gen-X'ers will overcome their financial obstacles by the time they retire because we are survivalists.
More from this contributor:
- Investing Education
- Retirement Benefits
- Generation X