Gen Xers are turning 50: Now what?


Is it possible that Gen Xers, whose very name conjures images of flannel wearing underemployed slackers, are reaching their 50s? As impossible as it seems, the oldest Gen Xers are reaching this milestone and are looking ahead to the next phase of their lives. Whether they are becoming empty nesters, ascending the corporate ladder or getting serious about retirement, they’re bringing their distinct Xer experiences and perspectives with them. Entrepreneurial, independent and resourceful to the core, Xers are looking to the future and — despite some challenges — there is light at the end of the tunnel.

Embracing the nest

As Xers enter this new decade of their lives, some are sending their children off to college and becoming empty nesters. While many Boomer parents encountered this stage with a sense of loss, often encouraging Millennial kids to return home post-college, Xers are too busy planning their next move. Though Xers have proven to be attentive parents, they’re nothing if not practical and kids away in college means more time to focus on their own pursuits.

This could mean digging their heels into an exciting new leadership role, getting serious about shedding those extra 20 pounds or finally getting around to exploring an untapped hobby or talent. Gen Z kids probably won’t be surprised when they return home to see that Xer parents have not kept their rooms intact, but have instead completely rearranged and redecorated to accommodate their latest hobby.

Leadership calls (at last)

The gray ceiling has proved to be quite resistant, much to Xers’ dismay. But as the Xers turn 50, the seemingly impenetrable layer of Boomer leadership is slowly showing openings and Xers are eagerly stepping up to the plate. Ten thousand Boomers are projected to reach 65 each day,1 and you can almost hear Xers across the nation breathe a collective sigh of relief. At long last, the leadership positions they’ve been coveting for some time now are becoming available and, by this point, Xers have more than paid their dues.

Not only will some of the frustrations of the gray ceiling be alleviated as Boomers move on to their next adventures, but Xers are also going to find themselves as highly prized workers. As a smaller generation when it comes to population size, Xers will become a valued commodity as organizations scramble to find talented leaders with years of wisdom and expertise behind them. When Xers settle into upper tiers of management and leadership roles, they’ll be looking to make the most of the much-needed increase in salary to continue to decrease debt and plan for eventual retirement.

The new retirement

The antiquated idea that retirement happens at 65 is one Gen Xers abandoned long ago. Knowing they won’t be able to rely on pension plans and Social Security, Gen Xers believe they’ll have to turn to their most trusted and reliable source — themselves and solid financial planning. Xers are worried about retirement because many don’t feel they have saved enough. Six out of 10 Xers are not confident they’ll have enough money to live comfortably in retirement.2 Too many of them are still working on current needs — like paying off debt, recovering from the Great Recession and simply trying to make ends meet.

Xers are using the well-deserved promotions, with higher incomes, to play the financial catch-up game in hopes of eventually reaching a point where retirement seems feasible.

To further complicate matters, many Xers have aging parents who may expect their assistance in helping them financially. Almost half of Xers, 46%, are concerned about the financial strain of caring for aging parents, and 22% are worried they will be supporting children with their retirement income.3

The bottom line is Xers aren’t kids on skateboards anymore. Many are sending their kids off to college, embracing new leadership roles at work and ready to tighten down the retirement planning process. As Xers turn 50, a financial advisor who not only understands where they are coming from but also where they are going will become critical.

1Taylor, P. and Cohn D. (2010, December 20) Baby Boomers Approach 65 – Glumly.

2Generation X and Retirement Readiness. (2018, March). Insured Retirement Institute).

3Retirement 2.0 Research Report. Generation X shares their vision for retirement. (2015). Ameriprise Financial.

This information is prepared in part by an unrelated independent third party, BridgeWorks, and is provided for informational purposes only. Ivy Distributors, Inc., believes the information has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but does not guarantee the accuracy of the information provided.