Generation X, I see you: 5 financial tips for a forgotten generation

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Congratulations, Generation X. It looks like you’ve figured out all your financial puzzles. If you were born somewhere between the mid-1960s and 1980s, by now you should have plenty of savings, no debt, and a solid retirement plan.

No?

Of course not. But it seems the financial advice community is mostly focused on helping Millennials and Gen Z, those born after 1980. And then there’s the older generation of baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. , who are receiving notable attention from websites and books as they navigate the retirement and health insurance maze.

Caught in between, Generation X (of which I consider myself a proud member) has been somewhat overlooked. If you’re a person of color within this demographic, you may feel downright ignored. I know this because I am part of the problem. My work doesn’t always focus on the financial needs of Americans in their 40s and 50s. When I have highlighted this cohort on my podcast or in articles, I notice an increase in engagement and a few extra “thanks”.

For one thing, Gen Xers have managed to keep their financial heads above water more than older and younger generations. Between 2007 and 2010, after the bursting of the housing bubble, the median net worth of Gen Xers fell 38% and baby boomer households saw their wealth drop 26%, according to Pew Research.

In the aftermath, some Gen Xers lucky enough to hold on to their assets and continue working were able to recoup their losses — and more — long before retirement.

We also paid less for college. In 1995, the average annual cost to attend a four-year institution was just over $10,000, compared to $28,000 today. And chances are we didn’t go into a deep recession after graduating.

Yet the journey has been anything but linear for Gen Xers. While we may not need as much guidance on how to consolidate our student loans, life events and responsibilities — getting married or divorced, raising children or not, caring for aging parents and more — leave many in this demographic struggling at critical times.

We could use personalized financial advice and original strategies.

“We are really at the point in our careers and our lives where everything is happening, whether it’s in our jobs, in our relationships… I don’t want to be depressing but… it’s a lot,” explains the editor Margit Detweiler. Detweiler is the founder of TueNight.com, a storytelling platform for, as she describes it, “adult female Gen Xers.”

Financial advice for my Gen X peers could span several books, so I thought I’d start with these five steps and promise to dedicate more coverage in the future.

1. Career: Not too late to step up

If you’ve been progressing in your career for a decade or two and wondering what’s next, be inspired by the many examples of people who have made great strides in their careers or turned to entrepreneurship. in their forties and fifties.

While Gen X is currently enjoying its best earning years, the best may yet be to come. Julia Child, for example, wrote her first cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cuisine, at age 49, after years in advertising. Viola Davis spent decades working as a performer before her career took off in her early 40s when she starred in the film Doubt and was nominated for an Oscar for her role.

2. Retirement: Boost your savings

Don’t kill the messenger, but some investment firms suggest having around three times your annual salary saved in a retirement account by 40 years. At age 50, this recommended factor increases to five. This may seem like an exorbitant sum to achieve, but it’s fair to say that saving for retirement is entirely the responsibility of the individual these days. With pensions (mostly) dying out and the fate of Social Security uncertain, saving for our future has never been more critical.

If you have access to a workplace retirement account like a 401(k) and have reached age 50, know that you can catch up by contributing an additional $6,500 this year. IRA savers age 50 and older can invest an additional $1,000.

Finally, now might be a good time to rethink your retirement age. If you were to work part-time or full-time throughout your 60s and into your 70s, what would your ideal role be? Early strategic planning is never a bad thing.

3. Debt: Don’t worry about paying off your mortgage

The thought of retiring mortgage-free sounds like a relief, but in reality, it may mean making extra payments each year to make it happen. Is it worth it? If you have many financial goals competing for your attention right now – whether it’s saving for retirement, sending a child to college, or supporting an aging parent – then don’t worry about paying off your mortgage (which probably carries a low interest rate) just yet. Focus on financial moves that will yield a higher rate of return, such as investing, or those that are more immediate in nature.

4. Family finances: discuss money with your parents

Talking about money with our parents can be awkward, but it can be beneficial for both parties.

When she joined me on my podcast, Cameron Huddleston, author of Mom and Dad, We Need to Talk, talked about her mother’s battle with Alzheimer’s and how she wished she had discussed money with his mother before the diagnosis. “When I saw that she was having memory issues, all of a sudden it wasn’t a hypothetical type conversation anymore. It was like, ‘Oh my God. It’s happening. It’s happening. ‘is why people need to have these conversations as soon as possible… so they can talk about hypothetical situations with this?'”

A wise way to start the conversation, says Huddleston, is to use a personal story from someone you know who went through a tough time because they didn’t talk about money with a relative. At this point in life, “you’re bound to know someone who’s already started dealing with issues,” she says.

The most important details to consider, suggests Huddleston, are whether they have a living will or trust, and whether your parents have appointed a power of attorney, someone who can step in to make financial decisions if they don’t. are unable to do so.

5. College for kids: you’re not a bad parent if you don’t pay for it

Really, you are not. If your child is college bound and you do not have saved for this expense, Do what you can. But also remember that students can do a lot on their own to ease the cost burden. Sacrificing your own retirement or withdrawing emergency savings, while tempting, can come back to haunt you — and your adult child — if you struggle to replenish those funds down the road.

An essential part of planning for college is discussing all affordable pathways with your child – and there are many, such as merit-based scholarships and grants, work-study programs, attending a local community college in first, part-time work to pay for college credits, or consider a career where student loan forgiveness is a potential option. And remember that college may not be the ideal path for everyone. Vocational school, coding bootcamps, and apprenticeships are all valid alternatives these days.

If your child is still a long way from college, consider the following: Open a 529 college savings account where your money can accumulate and, depending on your state, you may qualify for tax relief.

About Hubert Lee

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