Almost daily there are new articles explaining that Gen X isn’t saving enough for retirement. The financial elites and professionals lament how terrible this is and remind Gen Xers that they need to try harder because every year that passes things get more dire.
Do they really think Gen Xers aren’t keenly aware that they are in trouble regarding their retirement?
There is a reason why Gen X is in trouble and it isn’t because they buy a coffee at Starbucks every so often or take their kids on a cheap family vacation once every few years.
A significant portion of Gen X can’t save because they have nothing to save.
Generation X Struggling to Achieve Middle Class
The average middle class life was generally defined as saving for a rainy day, paying your bills, sending your kids to college, saving for retirement, taking a family vacation once a year, owning a home, etc. That middle class life in America today (adjusted for location) now costs $130,000. How many Gen Xers are bringing in $130,000 a year? How many Gen Xers are making even $100,000 a year?
Neal Gabler lifted the curtain on his own financial struggles in The Secret Shame of Middle-Class Americans in The Atlantic. In this eye-opening piece and the video below, he chronicles his own financial difficulties. If you are struggling to get by and are finding saving for retirement to be almost impossible, you must read this article and watch this video.
Gabler said in the video that one email he received from a reader said, “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Now I know I am not alone.”
No, that reader is not alone. And neither are you if you are reading this and struggling to make ends meet, let alone save for retirement.
Gen Xers Fighting Through Financial Storms
There are two key statements in the video that apply to Gen Xers saving for retirement. Everyone has a story about what has happened that has derailed their financial life, but most of the stories boil down to one of these two sentiments.
“We live within a storm” (8:15)
“We thought it was just a rough patch. It turned out to be our life.” (14:00)
Most Gen Xers who are struggling are not struggling due to a series of poor or extravagant choices. They are struggling because you can only weather so many financial storms before the water starts getting in the boat faster than you can get it out. They are also struggling against a system that is horrifically ruined in so many ways (as is evidenced by the information in the links below).
Generation X is Struggling to Save for Retirement
The “middle class” members of Gen X are going to have to be extraordinarily creative when it comes to retirement. I put “middle class” in quotes because many Gen Xers have the education and drive to achieve a middle class life, but the financial situations in this country work against them in almost every possible way.
Charles Hugh Smith from Of Two Minds has done an excellent job in outlining the difficulties over the years. I started reading his blog many years ago – before the housing bubble. Here is a sampling of the posts he has written regarding why the middle class is ruined and is struggling to basically maintain a working class life, even with a college education.
- America’s Concealed Crisis: Fifty Years of Economic Decline, 1969 to 2019
- How Many Households Qualify as Middle Class?
- What Does It Take to Be Middle Class?
- Misplaced Pride: Most of the “Middle Class” Is Actually Working Class
- Financial Storm Clouds Gather
Some people might find this reading depressing. In a way, it is. But I also find it helpful because I realize that our struggles are not unique. Yes, there are people who waste money. But there is a systematic failure on many levels that is making it terribly difficult for the average Gen X family to get by, let alone save for retirement.