Amidst all of the commotion about Gen Z shaking up the workplace, millennials trapped in lifestyles they can’t afford, and boomers thriving, there’s the forgotten generational middle child: Gen X. And, like some fellow middle children, they might be suffering in silence right now.
In partnership with YouGov, Business Insider surveyed over 1,800 Americans across five generations in July, asking about everything from relationships to work to money. And while Gen Z is dealing with the brunt of growing costs, a changing definition of wealth, and the fallout of the pandemic’s boom-bust cycle, they’re not feeling as financially insecure as their parents or older peers.
In fact, 44% of Gen Zers say they felt somewhat or very financially insecure — a little bit less than millennials. It’s a mostly good economy for boomers, who have seen their financial wellbeing prosper over the last year. But half of Gen Xers — who are ages 43 to 58 — reported that they do not feel financially secure. They were also the least likely to report feeling somewhat or very financially secure.
So why does America’s generational middle child feel so financially insecure? Gen X is quietly drowning in debt, for one — and not amassing a whole lot of wealth. According to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, Gen Xers hold about 38% of liabilities, aka debt, in the US; they’re the group holding the most debt, at about $7.1 trillion. For context, the generation makes up around 20% of the US population, and about a quarter of eligible voters, per a Brookings analysis.
That’s not to say that Gen X is completely struggling: On average, they make $108,615 post taxes, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Surveys. And 70% of Gen Xers are homeowners, while just 30% are renters — far higher than their millennial and Gen Z counterparts. Gen Xers’ wealth rebounded from the Great Recession, something that wasn’t true for other generations. The pandemic’s economic impact for Gen Xers didn’t mean a big, flashy Great Resignation; instead, it meant sticking with the status quo — a strategy that may have paid off for them.
But Gen Xers are also the biggest spenders across generational cohorts, likely due to a life stage in which they could be paying a mortgage, parenting, and caring for aging parents all at once. On average, they spent $91,382 in 2022, per BLS, and they were the biggest spenders on housing and shelter.
In that sense, they might be struggling with something that their slightly younger counterparts — elder millennials — are also grappling with: They’re stuck in lifestyles they can’t afford. Much like millennials, Gen Xers saw their already-growing debt plateau and then pick-up in the wake of the Great Recession.
But if Gen Xers are contending with the same economic forces that loom over millennials — an often-scrutinized and discussed generation — and are so financially insecure, why aren’t they dominating headlines? Well, that might be part of their whole ethos: In the generational wars, Gen Xers have asked to be left alone, and, yes, ignored.
As one Gen Xer wrote on X (formerly known as Twitter): “Shhhhhh, let them think we are invisible. We don’t need their shit.”
Are you a Gen Xer who is struggling in silence? Contact this reporter at email@example.com.