Generation X Workers: Retirement Reality Bites Unless Answers Are Implemented
August 2014 | Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies
August 2014 Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies

“But the question remains... what are we going to do now? How can we repair all the damage we inherited? Fellow graduates, the answer is simple. The answer is... The answer is... I don't know,” Lelaina Pierce, Reality Bites, 1994

Generation X (born between 1965 and 1978) are facing formidable uncertainties about their future retirement in the aftermath of the Great Recession. Generation X Workers: Retirement Reality Bites Unless Answers Are Implemented is a research report that sheds light on the current state of retirement preparedness among Generation X at a time when they are at great risk, but often overshadowed by Baby Boomers and Millennials in news headlines.

Gen Xers entered the workforce coincident with the introduction of 401(k) plans and the decline of defined benefit plans. They started saving at a younger age than previous generations; however, 401(k) plans were new at the time and lacked the innovative features, education, and investment guidance that are standard today.

Since joining the workforce and starting to save, Generation X has endured the roller coaster of the financial markets. Gen Xers have enjoyed the irrational exuberance in the late ‘90s followed by the dot-com bust and post-September 11 market declines. They rode the equity markets up in the recovery through 2007 -- and suffered steep declines as the markets spiraled into the worst recession since the Great Depression. Many lost their jobs, some lost their homes.

In 2015, the first Gen Xers will begin turning age 50. Most are saving for retirement but many have not saved enough. Questions about the future of Social Security loom for them. The first Gen Xers will start becoming eligible for full benefits at age 67 in the year 2032, just one year before the Social Security Trust Fund’s forecasted depletion.

Unlike in the movie Reality Bites 20 years ago, the answer to the question, “How do we repair the damage?” cannot be “I don’t know.” Individuals, families, employers, policymakers, and the retirement industry must work together to help Generation X achieve a financially secure retirement. With concerted efforts now, much progress can still be made before they reach retirement age.

The research report is based on findings from the 15th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey which surveyed more than 4,100 workers in 2014.