Why Aren’t More Gen-Xers On FIRE?

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We grew up with MTV, the Rubik’s Cube, Reaganomics, and “Who shot J.R?” Our parents were Baby Boomers and they were no strangers to tough times. They lived through international and national turmoil, staggering gas lines, Vietnam, and more. They sacrificed, they saved their money, and they wanted to make the world a better place. Welcome, Generation X!

us-iiGen-Xers, also dubbed the Sandwich Generation and America’s Middle Child is a small generation in between two behemoths: Baby Boomers & Millennials. The quintessential decade for Gen-Xers was the 1980s. The 80s were a time of flamboyance, excess, and image. This is evidenced by shows like Miami Vice and Dallas. As long as you looked good, no one cared how much was in your bank account. But youth is now fading and savings rates aren’t growing for most of the forgotten generation.

It’s true that Gen-Xers might not be saving as much as their younger cohorts, the Millennials, but there are BIG reasons for this. Their finances are being pulled in a myriad of different directions. Ultimately, their savings rate is suffering.

According to this chart, Mr. MMM and I have fallen within both categories in the past few years. My mother no longer lives in the house, but she did for about a year. Regardless of her current change of address, we still supplement her income.

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Aging Parents

Not all Boomer parents were well-prepared for retirement. We are in such a category. Mr. MMM’s parents struggle to make ends meet but have not yet needed any financial assistance from us. My mother, on the other hand, has not been so lucky. My mother and father were completely ill-prepared for the inevitability of growing old. Neither my mother nor father ever had a high-paying job. My mother stayed at home to raise four children, while my father worked full-time as a custodian to pay rent and put food on the table. I had a loving childhood, but my parents didn’t have the means or know-how to invest for their golden years. So they didn’t.

When my father passed away a few years ago, my mother was left with only social security, like so many other people her age. This means, any additional monies she needs for things like car repairs, health premiums, and even food has to come from somewhere else. That somewhere else is our bank account. Of course we are helping her, but it is yet another tug on our personal finances which inevitably slows us down.

Related: A Tiny Freedom Gift

Young Children

loloMr. MMM and I only have one child (so far). However, even with only one child, we are still taxed, financially, to give her a nice childhood with a few extras. We do not buy her toys incessantly. In fact, she only gets toys on special occasions. We do not buy her new clothes every time the season changes. We do not succumb to the pressure of our peers to throw extravagant birthday parties with invites going out to every member of her elementary class. No way. What we are trying to do is take her on vacations each summer to give her wonderful memories that will last a lifetime and save enough money to pay for a modest college education.

Related: What We’re Teaching Our Little Girl About Money

What’s Left?

Fortunately, Mr. MMM and I were both able to attain good jobs that pay well in order to offset some of the extras that are coming out for my mother and our daughter. We also need to maintain our household, including mortgage, utilities, insurances, food, vehicles, etc. In order for us to maintain our goal of early retirement AND field the additional caregiver costs, we live an extremely frugal lifestyle. We are able to have a savings rate hovering around 70% because we spend very little on most things. We don’t have a big house. We don’t do cable. And our entertainment budget is almost non-existent. See here a post about stuff we just stopped buying.

So Why Aren’t More Gen-Xers on FIRE?

I would love to know the answer to this question. Maybe Gen-Xers carried feelings of a carefree childhood into adulthood. Maybe Gen-Xers never thought they’d get older. Maybe Gen-Xers didn’t anticipate the skyrocketing costs of childcare or higher education for their children. Maybe Gen-Xers didn’t expect to also be helping their parents. Or, maybe it’s because there was little attention given to the importance of investing early in life before LIFE got in their way.

Millennials have the luxury of growing up in the information age. Anyone with Internet access can quickly and easily learn the ins and outs of investing and wealth building before even leaving high school. Gen-X didn’t have access to such information until they already had massive student loan debt and a high-interest mortgage.

Excuses? Maybe. Reality? Maybe.

I can say this for certain, Mr. MMM and I would probably already be early retired had we had access to a plethora of financial independence/early retirement blogs when we were in our early 20s, as opposed to our late 30s. Sucks for us – but we’re still enjoying the journey. Cheers!

Related: Early Retirement Will Take A Little Longer If You’re Total DIKs

What do you think? Are you an X-er, Millennial, or Boomer? How do your finances stack up against your peers? Oh, and bonus points if you actually know who shot J.R. without using Google ;)

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Mad Money Cat is not a Gen-Xer

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37 thoughts on “Why Aren’t More Gen-Xers On FIRE?

  1. I am one of those that straddles the generational names…

    My kids are much more savvy that I was, simply because my life is simply one big warning… LOL! My parents both retired in their 40’s and my kiddos are on their way to having good lives with frugal spending and much savings. Something was lost in translation between when my parents (spawning us kids in the 1960’s) were raising kids and when I was raising kids…

    I would like to think that I have remedied the hippie-chit that my parents passed on, where we were “free to make our own decisions” as opposed to showing us what really needed to happen. (My one set of Grandparents managed to retire with a wonderful nest-egg with only a 7th and 8th grade education.)

    I am not sure quite what happened, but it sure is painful to realize that no matter what you do at 50, that there is no “coming back” or “making things right.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Well, I think if you aren’t drowning in debt and you make a decent living, you can still save enough to retire in 10 years. That’s the Mustachian way of things, anyway.

      Something was definitely lost in translation for Gen-Xers. Thankfully, we saw the light and had the desire to change course. :)

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I think the fact that our parents didn’t have the knowledge or didn’t care to pass that knowledge is what has kept us (Gen X’ers) from being more frugal. I grew up poor and kept my lifestyle that way for a while because that is what I knew.

    Along come the day that I got sick and tired of being poor and I decided to do the needed research to get myself well above my fellow Gen X’ers and a lot of Boomers too.

    Today I enjoy a “bigly” increasing 401k balance, IRA balance and believe it or not a pension balance. I am lucky to work for a company that still offers a pension to go with the 401k. I plan to retire by the time I am 55 which is a bit far off but still visible.

    I talk to some of the younger peeps at work and they feel they have plenty of time and that is when I sit them down. We need to pass that knowledge to the younger generation and make our children understand how much easier it can be with just a little sacrifice. I did the same with my mother, now she has a growing 401k that with help supplement her Social Security.

    If I may offer any advice, get off the couch, cut the cord and get yourself a side hustle and pay off those debts. Most people are too damn lazy to jump on the FIRE bandwagon and that is sad.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I love that you used the word bigly. Made me laugh out loud :) I wish I had known about this movement or was smart enough to figure it out on my own before now. But, we’re still not too old so I’m happy we found our way. Totally agree on people not wanting to force a change. Some are too “lazy” while others just don’t want to feel any short-term discomfort even if it means long-term gains.

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  3. You have social trends and symbols in every generation. I decided to take control of my finances when I realized other so called financial planners were just a type of sales rep.

    So I educated myself on the Web, and never stopped being interested in financial freedom …. Because I just can’t stay in the matrix till I am 65 :-)

    Anyways keep sharing like this article.

    T

    Liked by 2 people

  4. I’m a millennial and I’m doing fairly well compared to my age group. I’m in the upper half of incomes, and only have a mortgage for debt. Going forward, I just need to stay consistent and build my wealth responsibly.

    To your point on Gen-Xer’s, I’m really not sure why. I think materialism may have taken off in the 80’s (just speculating) and a lot of people got into debt or make poor choices. Millenials now have so much information and can steer clear of some of these bad choices.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Congrats on your progress! Staying the course will guarantee your success. Two thumbs up! Speaking from my own experience, I think the lack of global information at our fingers has a lot to do with my generation’s lack luster savings rate. Thankfully, I found the FIRE community before it was too late :)

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  5. Breaking free of the mold seems to be part of the millennial generation. Baby Boomers did something similar in the 60s, just in a different spectrum. The Millennial generation is changing by not accepting the way of life that past generations have come to know, i.e. go to school, get a job, work for 40 years and retire. I think a lot of that has to do with coming of age during two significant financial crises when the job market was really poor. Many millennials had to find alternatives and plan for a future where their job might no longer be there in a few years.

    But, even though Millenials are saving more than any other generation, their financial literacy is still below that of others. Studies have shown that many Millenials think cash is the best investment and are afraid to invest in stocks because of a lack of knowledge. So while they are saving more, as a generation they are more scared to take risks when it comes to money.

    As for me, I was born in ’81. So depending on what publication you look at, I’m at the very end of Gen X or beginning of the Millennials. I’ve always saved and invested, but didn’t come across the world of FIRE until the last year. My wife and I are now all in and plan to be able to retire in about 8 years. All while most of my friends are trying to win the race on who can accumulate the most stuff.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I absolutely agree that Millennials are finding alternatives to a changing job force and have been taught not to accept the norm of getting a job and working until you’re old before retiring. The advent of readily available information has also helped that along. I’m in the same boat as you – I’m a young Gen-Xer and, depending on which stat you look at, could actually be considered a Millennial. I’m just thankful I came across the idea of FIRE before I got too much older :)

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  6. I’m glad you brought up this topic. I notice that a lot of the FI enthusiasts I read about are Mellenniels. As a Gen Xer, I remember having a cost structure similar to the FI folks I read about now. Then we had our son, and my dad and mother-in-law passed away. For us, that low cost structure in our younger years has gotten us through increased “sandwich generation” expenses, as well as two recessions. While we are not FI, we were also not victims of economic circumstances beyond our control.

    For us, the goal has been “financial stability.” While FIRE is a great goal, there are many factors in the future that could make a person want/need to go back to work. Returning to the workforce is not necessarily a bad thing, unless it’s done under duress.

    So, I guess I’d say that many Gen X folks are not FI because life happened. However, I bet there are lots of Gen Xers who are stable, helping the older and younger members of their family, and are happy. 😀

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep…I also started out VERY strong and then LIFE got in the way. My father passed away and that left me supporting my mother. And then I had my daughter and before I knew it I found myself a single parent. Crap happens. And the fact that Gen-Xers are sandwiched in between two groups of people (parents and children) competing for their resources, their savings is falling short. Again, this obviously isn’t the case for all of Gen-X, but it does present a very good reason for their generally low net worth.

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  7. I was always sort of opposed to the ‘millennial’ label, even though I definitely fall into the range being born in 1988. Part of this rejection was my opinion that millennials can’t just get along with the way the world is. They have a tendency to challenge the status quo and make waves by questioning the way things are done. Now that we are actively working to pay off our debt and become financially free, we welcome the label as we don’t want to be ‘normal’ anymore.

    I think right now, we are probably right at the same level as our peers. We still rent an apartment, have no kids, and carry a lot of student loan debt. Most of my high school friends have 1-2 kids, a mortgage payment, and plan to pay their student loans with the lowest minimum payments possible. We want to be ahead of the majority of our generation within a couple years, so we made a plan and are working to make it happen!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I do think Millennial is a way overused term – but then again – you guys are a huge generation :) I straddle both Gen-X/Millennial generations – but I definitely identify more with Gen-X.

      Because the world has changed, Millennials have grown up always seeking for a fulfilling path and not wanting to compromise. They’ll work a lower-paying job that makes them happy over the reverse. I feel that is not true of Gen-Xers, myself included. I do think it’s a good way to function in the world. And I LOVE you guys for introducing the “work-from-home” mentality. I just started doing it at my work and everyone is okay with it. They haven’t even questioned it. It’s fantastic.

      I know I’m generalizing. Not all Gen-Xers have a low savings rate and not all Millennials are on FIRE. But it was a fun article to write :)

      Liked by 1 person

      • My old accounting job, pre-CPA, allowed me to work from home 2 days/week. I loved skipping the commute and hanging out with our cats. Got a 30% raise with my new CPA job and I don’t get remote perk anymore, but 28 days PTO to start helps. And knowing the income boost will get us to freedom that much sooner keeps me motivated!

        Liked by 1 person

      • That sounds like an awesome deal! Congrats! You might not be offered work-from-home officially, but I bet you could make it happen. That’s what happened where I work. I’m in a major corporation and pretty much everyone has just started “working from home” whenever something isn’t convenient, like a child is sick, etc. I haven’t heard one person complain about it since the work gets done and management also likes the option. My opinion – Just Do It!

        Disclaimer: I’m not responsible for you losing your job in the unfortunate event your employer wouldn’t be happy :)

        Liked by 1 person

  8. This post pretty much sums me up. As a fellow Gen X- er I can totally relate to being the ‘middle child’ of the generations. Im not sure if thats a good or bad thing though?! My parents had a hard life but they seem to be doing so much better in their retirement years than the Millenials are right now. Everything seems to be so doom and gloom for anyone born in the 90’s onwards. All I can do is keep on following the road to financial freedom the same as you’re doing. Work hard, invest more, spend less. And maybe retire early one day. Good luck to you and all fellow Gen X-ers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Nice to meet a fellow Gen-Xer! I obviously agree with you. It is interesting, though, to see the landscape of the workforce change before our very eyes. I guess things are always changing, but you don’t necessarily pay attention to it the way you do as a full-fledged adult with responsibilities. Good luck with your journey and thanks for stopping by!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’m also a Gen-X’er, and I agree with your point on access to knowledge. We did not have the benefit of the internet during those crucial early years when views on personal finance could have had the most impact. My parents were old school and didn’t talk about money much, and they believed in a traditional path with respect to working. Our environment conditioned us to go to school regardless of debt load, find a job, and work until your 70s. Those of us who are on a path to financial independence got there despite our mistakes, and through trial and error. Better late than never!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I couldn’t have said it better. There is no doubt we would closer to retirement, or even in retirement, had we had the Internet back when we had all the time in the world. Oh well, you start where you start. We’ll get there :)

      Like

  10. Technology, or lack of, has definitely hindered financial progress for many of us baby boomers too. Kudos to you for helping your mother financially. It’s gotta be somewhat difficult to absorb those extra expenses but hopefully you were prepared for that.

    Of course I know who shot JR. It was Kristen, darlin’.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. As an older Gen X’er I think it is because when the internet age hit, we were a little past the age where we took to it immediately. I was lucky because I am in tech but I know a lot of people that think tech is just Facebook ! Also the jobs people had and planned to retire from just don’t exist anymore. The time of staying at a company for 40 years is long gone and I think that Gen X’ers weren’t prepared. Just a thought. Nice post.
    -Brian

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I agree. I’m fortunate (or unfortunate depending on your vision) to actually have one of those jobs that can support a 40-year career WITH a pension. But this type of job, as you’ve stated, is a dying breed.

      Like

  12. We didn’t have the internet and FIRE blogs to read from, but we did have Jane Bryant Quinn, Jonathan Pond, and Sylvia Porter books at the library. I ate those books up when I was coming out of college into the workforce. I retired last year (@49) and am 100% a Gen Xer, having been born in 1966. I have a lot of friends that are targeting age 55 for early retirement for a lot of the reasons you mention – kids at home, trying to still pay off the house, etc. Needless to say, investment returns for our generation weren’t quite as high as they were for the Boomer generation either.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yeah, I started out strong with reading stuff like Rich Dad Poor Dad and The Millionaire Next Door. Unfortunately, I allowed life to get in the way and didn’t realize how much my decisions along the way would affect EVERYTHING. Thankfully, I’m back on track and will still have the option to leave corporate American in the dust in my 40s :) Awesome job on your part, btw! I love following along on your journey!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I think a lot of it had to do with the materialism/commercialism explosion of the 80-90s, like others have said. Add Baby Boom parents that didn’t really talk too much about money and a general lack of info overall. We certainly weren’t lucky enough to have truth sayers like Mr Money Mustache and other blogs. All that said, I still feel fortunate to have discovered this community when I did and feel very fortunate to be in the position we’re in.

    Like

  14. My parents are just like yours. Financially unprepared for getting older. Plus the early eighties saw a big economic depression which saw lots of families being frugal in the eighties but splashing the cash when the good times started rolling in the nineties and naughties. We had this massive change in our lives that made us delight in spending. Educational opportunities have evolved a lot since we Gen-Xers were in school. My school didn’t even want to teach economics to girls. The career guidance counsellor never mentioned computers or IT or engineering to any girl – millenials have the best opportunity because they have the perfect storm around them: wealth, technology, education and equal rights.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agree. Agree. Agree. The wealth (no pun intended) of knowledge that is available to young people today blows our resources in the 80s and 90s out of the water. Things would likely be very different if I had access to the Internet during that crucial time in my life. At least we’re on the bandwagon now ;)

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  15. The problem is that people dont fully realize that there are other options in life.

    Comfort creates non-progressive action.

    It takes a great deal of courage and effort to pursue anything that is ‘uncomfortable’.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are so right! It’s definitely against the grain to opt for an alternative path. But, I do believe we, as a society, are becoming more open to non-traditional trajectories. Thank goodness. :)

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  16. My mother is estranged. but it normally happens for about 3 years and she will come popping back into my life needing something. I am waiting for the moment she returns to tell me that I need to take care of her. But you are right, there is the responsibility of house, our own children, etc.. It can be a lot to manage.
    as far as not being fired… well, i am started getting my {financial} head on straight. but am doing so.

    Like

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