Retirement Guidance Needs More Focus on Gen X

Allianz Life Insurance Company says Generation X has their “heads in the sand” when it comes to planning for retirement.

Two-thirds (64%) of Gen Xers find themselves frozen by uncertainty whenever they think about retirement, according to the Generations Apart study, commissioned by Allianz Life Insurance Company of North America.

This paralysis means they don’t take any positive actions to secure their financial future, despite their skepticism about Social Security and Medicare. In addition, nearly three-quarters of Gen Xers (72%) say they do not think it is possible to figure out what their future retirement expenses will be, and 67% believe the supposed targets are way out of reach.   

At the same time, Gen Xers are generally dubious (92%) about the country’s retirement system, expressing doubt that  pensions, Social Security and Medicare will be there for them, and feel they will never have enough saved to stop working. In fact, most (94%) believe it is up to them to build their own retirement nest egg.

Despite these feelings, Gen Xers express some delusional attitudes about retirement. More than half (55%) say they see themselves having a relaxed, easy time in retirement, and 46% report they will just figure it out when they get there.

This ambivalent mindset calls for empathetic, nonjudgmental financial planning, according to Allianz Life. “Gen Xers may not be ready to retire yet, but they’re reaching a pivotal time in their life where it’s crucial to accumulate assets for the future—and it’s worrisome that they’re simply not doing that,” says Allianz Life Vice President of Consumer Insights Katie Libbe. 

NEXT: The type of guidance Gen X needs

Generations Apart found that the best strategy to employ when working with Gen X on financial planning is to be empathetic and nonjudgmental. Sixty-four percent of Gen Xers want recommendations that reflect their actual life and choices, not some ideal. And more than one-third (34%) seek a professional who does not judge their financial choices, even if they are indulgent.

Not only are Gen Xers stressed about planning, some are also afraid they’ll feel shame when discussing their finances, especially when it comes to credit card debt. Nearly half (49%) feel that credit cards function as survival tools for most people. They don’t want someone to wag their finger at them for past financial decisions. Some say they’d be embarrassed about carrying a lot of credit card debt, and want to work with someone who completely understands why they might have credit card debt.

Gen Xers are looking for assistance with planning, setting and achieving long-term financial goals, Allianz Life says. The study revealed that the majority of Gen Xers (67%) are willing to delegate some of their financial decisions and plans to a professional.

Financial guidance should first help Gen Xers manage their everyday financial issues—such as building savings or paying off debt. Half of Gen Xers describe themselves as more “live for today” than “save for tomorrow,” and 44% say they will splurge on something they want. Some Gen Xers also make investment decisions based on their gut.

When immediate financial concerns are solved, it can open the door to the next phase, such as retirement or having a lifestyle less dependent on work, says Libbe. Gen Xers need to begin facing their financial planning issues head on, she adds.

The Allianz Generations Apart Study was conducted online by Larson Research + Strategy in November 2014 with 2,000 U.S. adults ages 35 to 67, with a minimum household income of $30,000.