Gen X is actually more worried about retirement than boomers

What used to smell like teen spirit has turned to a mid-40s funk. But angst is nothing new to the oft-overlooked generation known as Generation X, which is going through growing pains usually associated with adolescence as they battle through milestones of adulthood. The prospect of retirement is especially angst-invoking for the one-time “slacker” generation, now known as the “sandwich” cohort, as they navigate the trying tasks of taking care of their children, parents, and own finances. 

When it comes to leaving the workforce, Gen Xers are a bit more nervous than generations before them. So found the Mather Institute in the first year of a five-year project that surveyed more than 2,500 Gen Xers and 2,500 boomers. Currently shouldering the caretaking weight of both younger and older relatives, our sandwich generation is spread about as thin as a layer of mayo on a hoagie. Add to the mix concerns about social security being drained by boomers and the waning offering of pensions, and Gen Xers are feeling bleak about their chances of retiring. 

“My generation is going to have a harder time than boomers. Boomers, they had pensions,” Don, age 50, tells Fortune’s Alicia Adamczyk. 

Gen Xers are more worried about their retirement finances than boomers (46% vs. 36%), according to Mather Institute. While boomers are plagued by the prospect of maintaining their post-retirement independence, Gen X is busy worrying about financial independence. Studies like the Schroders 2023 U.S. Retirement Survey found that over 60% of non-retired members of the generation feel insecurity in their ability to meet their retirement goals. That’s compared to 49% of millennials and 53% of boomers. 

Despite their dire retirement prospects, the picture isn’t just one of doom and gloom. In fact, most Xers (61%) have generally positive views on aging and generally high levels of contentment regarding their family, work, and well-being. That’s not to say that there isn’t a considerable amount of juggling that Gen X is doing to stay afloat during a high-pressure point in their lives. And Gen X has climbed the corporate ranks to the middle-manager role and is feeling the heat accordingly. While 42% of Gen Xers feel burnout at work, that number drops to 25% for boomers.

Grappling with high student loans while saving up for retirement poses a tricky balancing act for Gen Xers. Then of course, is the issue of simultaneously providing for multiple generations. Boomers once felt a similar squeeze but now only 5% qualify for the title of sandwich generation, compared to a third of Gen X survey respondents. Though they’re carrying a considerable amount of stress, 68% of Gen Xers report feeling that “they are successfully balancing the needs of their parents and children.” 

Still, it’s not  sustainable long-term. While 55% of Gen Xers claim to be prepared to support their children’s financial needs within the next five years, that number dwindles to 35% when it comes to the needs of their aging parents. It’s a bigger ask too, as many Americans are living longer and, at times, outlive their savings—a fear for 40% of retirees according to a recent survey from Clever. 

And as younger generations struggle to navigate a tricky housing market, immense student loans, and a volatile economy, many are depending on their parents perhaps for a longer amount of time in order to get by. It all leaves 81% of Gen Xers reporting feeling financial stress at least sometimes. 

 What’s more, with the price tag of a comfortable retirement surpassing $1 million, Gen X is looking at the long road out of the working world with some understandable trepidation.

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