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  • Writer's pictureLisa Silverman

GEN X: We Are True Grit

Don't look now post-boomers, you're about to turn 50 -- or even 60! Most people know us as Generation X – or Gen X, but many probably refer to our under-appreciated generation "the forgotten one." We're sort of the like the middle child - the Jan Brady of generations. That's ok, we're used to being neglected, overlooked, and being ignored. Baby Boomers were strong. They survived wars, they were children of the Great Depression, and they saved their money in mattresses early on before trusting banks again. Boomers began staying healthier with the introduction of Medicare in 1965 and luckily for us, their children, they’re living longer.

"We're sort of the like the middle child - the Jan Brady of generations."

Gen X is really just ‘X’ because we didn’t want to be defined by any one event or moment in history. We’ve made our way in life by true grit, determination, strong basic values adopted by our respected elders (at least I believe in respect), and we innovated. I could argue that we are also the most resilient and dare I say, most appreciative generation, in modern times. As of 2019, we are over 65 million members strong, 10 million fewer than Baby Boomers, but we aren’t exactly the lazy, Atari, Pong-playing, bong-smoking people you think we are. We are the doers, influencers, innovators, and leaders who still kick ass and take names.

"Gen X is really just ‘X’ because we didn’t want to be defined by any one event or moment in history."

We survived and thrived from being left at home at 8 years old with no babysitters and chores to do (known as latchkey kids by the house key threaded with colorful yarn that hung around our necks at school) while dual income parents or single mothers went to work. We played in street until after dark, drank water from dirty hoses, we walked to school and the store and rode city buses alone, or on our bikes, 5 miles to the beach every summer day.

Gen Xers loved all sports! We participated in multiple sports all year long and celebrated if we won and went home empty-handed if we lost. We understood the assignment, but win or lose, we would simply move on to the next sport and start the cycle all over again next season. If our shelf lacked a trophy, it had books and albums and that was ok with us. Equity was about fairness not feeling, and sportsmanship was learned and appreciated, or you didn’t play. Gen Xers were tough and fearless.

We were the first to witness the true birth of diversity following the Civil Rights Movement, we purchased the first personal computers, saw man walk on the moon with our parents, received more elementary and secondary education than any generation before us or since with the birth and roots of the Head Start Program. One of the most differentiating points of interest between Gen X and previous generations, was that the labor market required that most of us earn a college degree to complete for power positions and realize economic success. According to Pew Research, the average college graduate stands to earn a staggering $570,000 more in their lifetime than someone with just a high school diploma. Surprisingly, Gen X is virtually the highest educated generation in America: 35% of Gen Xers hold college degrees vs 19 percent among Millennials.

We were also the first generation that launched women into space – and into a more equitable labor force with 75% of Gen X women in the job force by the year, 2,000. Unfortunately, it was also Gen X that realized two incomes were necessary to sustain even a modest, comfortable lifestyle.

But with success, came debt! Gen X loves to spend! With 31% of America’s purchasing power, we also spend the most money, creating our own debt. Gen X holds the highest debt among all age groups as we purchased mortgages and bought or leased cars every 3-5 years. According to The Pew Charitable Trusts’ Survey of American Family Finances, 9 in 10 Gen X’ers reported owing on a home mortgage, car loans and/or tuitions. Some older Gen Xers are still paying their own tuitions off while trying to finance their offspring’s tuition costs.

"9 in 10 Gen X’ers reported owing on a home mortgage, car loans and/or tuitions.

As we move closer to the years of our own retirement, Gen Xers are still trying to grasp the work-life balance. We are still working to live, and we are laser focused on ensuring we’ll have financial freedom to enjoy in our own “golden years.” We’ll work harder and we’ll work longer than we should. As the proverbial social security carrot is pulled higher out of our reach, we must remember to live in the now for tomorrow is never promised, as they say. A work-life balance should be the goal. But remember, we are the true grit generation.

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