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Insights & Education

Don't you forget about me

65 million strong and quickly marching towards retirement, Gen X is a generation that should not be overlooked, discounted or forgotten.

Research from Corebridge Financial reveals important insights about Gen Xers’ financial capabilities, concerns and retirement planning priorities.

Gen X: The often forgotten generation nears retirement

While the Boomers that came directly before them and the Millennials that came directly after garnered significant media attention over the years, Generation X has largely slipped below the radar. And today, all the buzz seems to be about Gen Z. But with retirement approaching for Gen X, it’s about time they get the attention they deserve.

The 65 million Americans who make up Gen X are at a critical stage in their retirement planning and savings journey. Currently between the ages of 44 and 59, they are in their prime earnings and savings years, but with a smaller window of time to save for retirement than Millennials and Gen Z. As they become empty nesters, Gen Xers can also turn more serious attention to planning for retirement.

Feeling the pressure

Among all generations, Gen Xers are surprisingly the least confident in their financial abilities and their financial future.

  • Managing day-to-day financial priorities: Less than half (44%) are very confident in their ability to manage their day-to-day financial priorities.

  • Covering unexpected expenses: Just over a quarter (28%) are very confident in their ability to pay for unexpected expenses, such as a medical emergency.

  • Preparing for the future: Only about a third are very confident in their ability to save for retirement (34%), plan for a successful financial future (32%), and manage their retirement money to provide income for as long as they live (32%).

And while they may lack financial confidence, Gen Xers make up for it in other areas. They are widely known to be highly educated, resilient, independent, and pragmatic.

Response totals shown above reflect extremely or very confident.

Gen Xers top concerns about living a 100-year life

1. Serious health problems: 66%

2. Quality of life: 64%

3. Running out of money: 63%

4. Independence later in life: 61%

5. Being a burden on family: 56%

6. Being lonely: 43%

Response totals shown above reflect extremely or very concerned.

More concerned than excited about longevity

Americans are living longer—and while that’s great news, some are less excited about it than others. In fact, only 52% of Gen Xers say they want to live to 100, compared to 53% of Boomers, 59% of Millennials, and 63% of Gen Zers. However, when thinking about living a very long life, such as to age 100, Gen Xers say the top benefits are continued meaningful relationships with family and friends (69%), more time to explore and have new experiences (65%), and witnessing new discoveries and watching the world evolve (56%).

If they were to live to 100, Gen Xers are more concerned than any other generation about serious health problems, quality of life, independence in later life and being a burden on their family. These concerns—and their worry about not being prepared—may explain why Gen X is least likely to say they want to live to 100.

Not thrilled about the idea of working longer

While Gen Xers recognize they may need to work longer than they originally anticipated, they are not excited about the possibility of adding too many years to their working life. Half are extremely or very concerned about being able to retire when they want. Interestingly, the generations closest to retirement—Gen Xers and Baby Boomers—are the most likely to say they will need to work to age 70 or later before they can retire.

If they were to live to 100, more than half (51%) of Gen Xers would find it extremely or very concerning if they had to add 10 or more years to their working life, underscoring the importance of taking action on their retirement planning now.

One way that Gen Xers can boost their retirement security is to work part time at something they enjoy after retiring. Continuing to collect income can help them accumulate additional retirement savings, while also delaying the need to draw from their savings. Many retirees also find that staying active and engaged adds to their overall health and satisfaction. The same may hold true for Gen X.

Most significant financial challenges facing Gen Xers today

1. Inflation: 67%

2. Rising cost of healthcare: 51%

3. Financially unable to save more: 40%

4. Generating lasting retirement income: 38%

5. Managing current financial needs: 32%

6. Stock market volatility: 31%

Facing financial obstacles but getting priorities in order

Gen Xers must quickly and delicately balance today’s financial realities with tomorrow’s financial needs.

Near-term financial needs and economic pressures are hindering Gen Xers’ ability to focus on long-term savings. Two-thirds (67%) say inflation is one of their most significant challenges, and half (51%) point to the rising cost of healthcare. What’s more, a majority (58%) say their daily living expenses have increased over the past three years, and a quarter (26%) say their non-mortgage debt has increased.

With inflation and rising healthcare costs cited as top concerns, and nearly one-in-three worried about stock market volatility, it will be important for Gen Xers to look for ways to keep their money invested to help capture the long-term market growth potential they need, while also managing downside market risk as they get into the critically important years just before and after they retire.

Looking for lifetime income beyond Social Security

Most Gen Xers know they cannot rely on Social Security as their sole source of retirement income. More than half (54%) are extremely or very concerned that Social Security benefits will not be enough to cover their living expenses in retirement. A significant majority (62%) are also extremely or very concerned about whether Social Security will even be available when they retire.

For Gen Xers, lifetime income solutions will likely play an important role in their retirement portfolios. However, only 27% say they have a pension, and less than 10% have an annuity. Moreover, one in 10 Gen Xers say they do not have any retirement savings vehicles.

The good news is that in addition to ramping up their retirement savings, Gen X is also ready to take action to secure lifetime income. In fact, securing lifetime income is their top financial priority. And nearly two-thirds (64%) say having protected income for life in retirement has become more important in the past year.

Gen Xers top financial-related priorities

1. Secure lifetime income: 94%

2. Increase or begin retirement savings: 90%

3. Financial planning: 88%

4. Start or grow an emergency fund: 84%

5. Pay off debt/buy or increase life insurance: 80%

6. Create an estate plan: 68%

Moderate, high or highest priorities

For Gen X, all is not lost but action is required

When it comes to preparing for retirement, all is not lost for the forgotten generation. Although Gen Xers may lack confidence in their financial abilities and their financial future—and they face some key planning challenges—their financial priorities suggest they clearly know what’s missing and they know what they need to do next. Now is the time to conquer inertia and put priorities and plans into action.

While many in this generation take well-deserved pride in their sense of independence and self-reliance, seeking out professional financial guidance may be a game changer for them. Working closely with a financial professional can help Gen Xers get closer to where they need to be as retirement nears.

Our “8 Retirement Action Steps for Gen X” makes it easy for Gen Xers to take action for the future.

Action is everything.

At Corebridge, we believe that great things can happen when people take action.

We’re committed to helping Gen X actively plan and prepare for retirement through the resources, tools and solutions we offer—and through the financial professionals and institutions we proudly partner with.