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  • Writer's pictureMike V.

How 5 Generations See Their Finances

The Society of Actuaries asked millennials, Gen Xers, early and late boomers and Silent Generation investors how they were doing financially.

The Society of Actuaries, a global professional organization, released two reports Wednesday that look at the financial challenges and perspectives on retirement planning across five generations.

The findings are based on an online survey conducted by Greenwald & Associates in July among 2,001 individual Americans: 398 millennials, 399 Gen Xers, 403 late baby boomers, 401 early boomers, and 400 from the silent generation.

Five Generations

The first report examines how each generation is focusing on financial priorities and preparing for financially secure retirement.

Millennials are generally struggling to establish themselves financially. This generation has a unique set of financial challenges compared to other generations, which could affect their ability to achieve a financially secure retirement.

The challenges include being able to build up an emergency fund, save for a home and pay off their credit card debt and student loans larger than those of prior generations.

Gen Xers exhibit significantly more financial confidence, with a stronger focus on saving for retirement. Few report student loans, which enables them to concentrate on longer term planning. Eighty percent of Gen X respondents reported having access to an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Late baby boomers, the majority of whom are preparing for retirement, are the most focused on financial planning, with 51% reporting that their financial planning horizon is three or more years. These pre-retirees are targeting investments to grow their money and produce income both now and in retirement.

Early baby boomers are the most financially stable generation, with six in 10 reporting they can afford an unexpected expense of $10,000. They are also most likely to be working with a financial advisor. In addition, approximately three-quarters of early boomers report being retired.

Members of the silent generation, nearly all of whom say they are already retired, have fewer savings priorities and tend of think of their finances in terms of the rest of their lives. They are the group most likely to express a lack of financial stability, besides millennials, highlighting their overall financial vulnerability.

“This research demonstrates that consumers face unique financial priorities throughout all stages of life, and that even the oldest group we studied, the silent generation, is not free from vulnerability,” Anna Rappaport, chair of the SOA aging and retirement strategic research program, said in a statement.

“Millennials in particular should pay off student loans and other debt, so that they can take steps to focus on longer-term issues, such as retirement security. This is especially important knowing the challenges their predecessors still face and that they may face even tougher financial challenges due to the large student loan balances many have when they enter the workforce.”

Millennial Angst

The second report homes in on millennials’ unique financial challenges.

Thirty-four percent of millennials in the survey said debt was complicating their ability to manage their finances today. One in three reported student loan debt, the highest volume among the generations in the study.

Millennials expressed substantial retirement concerns. They were likelier than other generations to be concerned about the value of their investments keeping up with inflation, not being able to maintain a reasonable standard of living or depleting their savings in retirement.

Not surprisingly, 40% of millennials said they felt overwhelmed by their financial situation, compared with 22% of all other generations.

Fifty-six percent of millennials claimed that their generation had a harder time achieving financial security than their parents’ generation. Forty-four percent of boomers and the silent generation agreed.

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