Earlier this year, the insurance company Allianz Life released the findings of the Generations Apart Study that examined the financial outlook and attitude of 1000 Generation Xers (1965 to 1979) and 1000 baby boomers (1946 to 1964).
At the time, USA Today cited some specifics of the aforementioned report released by the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies that found 84 percent of people in both age demographics believe that stopping work at age 65 and retreating to a life of leisure was not possible. Sixty-seven percent of Gen Xers and 49 percent of Baby Boomers feel that the current financial targets for retirements are unrealistic. Moreover, 36 percent of boomers say they will "figure things out" when they get there as opposed of 46 percent of Generation Xers.
Other findings as they related to Gen Xers were:
64 percent of Gen Xers admitted feeling "bogged down" with uncertainty when planning for retirement.
89 percent argued that it was difficult to store away money for retirement.
85 percent stated that it was difficult to keep a job in this tenuous economy.
90 percent argued that it was difficult to avoid falling into debt.
85 percent believed that it was difficult to get a job after losing a previous one.
72 percent believe that it is impossible to gauge how much they will need to be secure for retirement.
52 percent argued that putting away money for the future was not an option at the current moment.
These results were intriguing as well as somewhat disheartening. Nonetheless, such news should not be all that surprising. The fact is that Generation Xers have experienced sporadic and dramatic downturns in more than a few fickle economies, divorced parents and, for many, divorce and single parenthood situations themselves. Enduring uncertainty about one's financial future is just one of a long litany of adverse experiences that have been a part of the lives of more than a few of the 46 million Americans who fall into this age demographic. Adversity has been a distinctive part of life.
Despite such a less than promising outlook, many Generation Xers polled believed that, whatever roadblocks they encountered along the journey, things will eventually work out for them when all is said and done. It is this combination of understandable cynicism coupled with an unprecedented level of tenacity and fortitude to successfully tackle the many recurring obstacles that have presented themselves in our lives that have made more than few Gen Xers persevere and keep moving forward in spite of whatever curveballs are thrown their way. The fact that many of us take nothing for granted can be an asset when it comes to dealing with the realities of life.
The former latchkey, MTV-watching, largely iconoclastic kids of several decades ago have an undeniable spirit of ingenuity and ample amounts of fierce independence, resourcefulness and resiliency that has served many of us well as we continue to move even deeper into the often-challenging and unpredictable journey of adulthood. Hopefully, such traits will serve us well as we move further into the future. Time will tell.
Elwood Watson, Ph,D. is a professor of History, African Studies and Gender Studies at East Tennessee State University.