12 Legitimate Retirement Fears of Gen Xers

Retirement should be exciting, but Generation X feels otherwise.
Updated May 8, 2024
Fact checked
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Born between 1965 and 1980, Generation X often gets squeezed between the Boomers and Millennials.

Nicknamed the "middle child" generation, they're entering their peak earning years, but many worry that their earnings will not be enough to secure a stress-free retirement.

Let's delve into the reasons behind Gen Xer's retirement jitters.

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Gen X hasn’t recovered from the Great Recession

pla2na/Adobe Tear off dollar as chart graph

The Great Recession resulted from the downfall of the financial industry, specifically the subprime lending crisis. Gen X lost 38% of its household wealth between 2007 and 2010, making it the hardest-hit generation during this recession.

Even if their finances and home equity have recovered, their confidence in the stock market and investing hasn’t rebounded. They're understandably worried about preparing for another recession or housing crash.

Their aging parents could need expensive care

Rido/Adobe grandmother with granddaughter at home

As people live longer, Gen X is worried about caring for their aging parents. A third of this generation hasn’t even discussed their parents’ retirement or financial plans.

Children are often tasked with arranging and providing care for their parents as they get older. This is a significant cost on their time and resources — not to mention the emotional toll it takes to watch your loved ones age.

Gen X is carrying more debt than boomers and millennials

Shisu_ka/Adobe asian man choosing card for payment

Gen X carries debt loads equal to almost four years of income — higher than boomers and millennials. Most people in this generation are homeowners with mortgages, car payments, personal loans, and several credit cards. 

Their higher income makes them able to qualify for credit products, and monthly payments support their lifestyle.

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Too many aren’t prepared for retirement

Cozine/Adobe hand saving pennies in retirement jar

Gen X is the first generation to provide their own retirement. As this group advanced in their careers, companies started freezing and ending pension plans — moving toward self-funded retirement accounts like 401(k)s. 

A typical Gen X household only has $40,000 saved, and they know that’s not enough.

Gen X income is peaking

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Gen X is in their peak earning years. They know their earning years are limited, and the clock is starting to tick. This can turn up the pressure to save for retirement while still trying to keep up with the rising living costs. 

With the oldest Gen Xers turning 59 this year, that still gives them a few years to earn a strong income.

Raising a family is expensive

JenkoAtaman/Adobe happy family playing around

Gen X is still raising families. In addition to worrying about their retirement, they still have children they are providing for. 

It’s not just minor children either — over 25% of Gen Xers had adult children 18-29 living at home. Gen X parents are likely to cover the majority of costs for their children at home, regardless of age.

Student loans are hurting retirement savings

terovesalainen/Adobe Man counting college savings fund

In an AARP survey, 38% of Gen Xers surveyed stated student loans prevented them from saving for retirement. 

This generation is being pulled in many directions when it comes to higher education costs — paying down their lingering student loans, contributing to their child’s education, or prioritizing retirement.

Gen X is not working with finance professionals

Flamingo Images/Adobe colleagues using laptop together at work

Less than 25% of Gen Xers reported working with a finance professional. A common belief is that you need to be wealthy or have amassed a certain amount of assets to meet with a financial planner. 

While that's no longer the case for most professionals, it could be a reason Gen X hasn’t sought professional financial advice.

They might need $1.1 million for retirement

sorrapongs/Adobe savings in jar with retirement label

Gen X will need an estimated $1.1 million for retirement. If they have only saved the average amount, around $40,000, they are more than $1 million short — with only 10 to 20 years to make up the difference.

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Gen X is worried about losing a steady paycheck

Andrey Popov/Adobe Businessman Opening Envelope With Paycheck

Over 84% of Gen Xers report worrying about not having a steady paycheck in retirement. Many are planning to continue working into the typical retirement age. Even in good health, working into your 70s can be a daunting future.

Rising health care costs could ruin retirement plans

utah51/Adobe stethoscope on banknote medical cost concept

Gen X is nervous about health care costs outside of an employer plan. Even with employer-sponsored health care, costs are increasing by almost 9% from last year. 

Besides being behind on retirement savings, this generation is worried that one major medical event could bankrupt them.

Social Security funds are not in good shape

steheap/Adobe social security card on white background

Social Security’s current funding structure is scheduled to run out by 2041. As it stands now, this generation won't have the same support as previous generations. 

Only 11% of Gen Xers plan to wait until 70 to start collecting their Social Security, so it’s never too early to start thinking about smart ways to supplement your Social Security.

Bottom line

Rawpixel.com/Adobe senior couple reviewing retirement plan together

According to the data, Gen X is clearly not feeling confident about retirement. Rather than panic, Gen Xers should work with the facts to build a retirement plan

While it’s best to start planning for retirement as soon as one enters the workforce, today is the next best time.

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Author Details

Holly Humbert Holly is a writer who recognizes that there isn't a one-size-fits-all approach to personal finance. She is passionate about entrepreneurship, women in business, and financial literacy. With more than four years of experience, her work has been featured on MarketWatch and The Ways to Wealth.

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