By JONATHAN BERR, who has written for national media outlets for more than 15 years.
Much ink has been spilled detailing how Baby Boomers are not adequately prepared for retirement. Few people, though, are aware that Generation X is in a similar predicament.
Nearly 23 percent of respondents in their 30s and 40s stopped contributing to their retirement plans because of the economic downturn, according to a recent study by Insured Retirement Institute. Another 15 percent made early withdrawals from their 401(k)s.
Interestingly enough, 78 percent of respondents said they were extremely, very or somewhat confident that they expect to have enough money to live comfortably in their retirement.
A separate report from the Investment Company Institute found that households headed by younger people are less willing to take risk with their investments. Increasing numbers of these investors are also taking out loans from their 401(k)s, though the overall number is about 30 percent.
"Folks do tend to pay back their 401 (k) loans," says Sarah Holden, ICI's Director of Retirement Research.
Unfortunately, many Gen Xers have no clue about what it will take to make their retirement years truly golden. The financial advisory and mutual fund industries have their work cut out for them. Only 37 percent of Gen Xers say they have consulted a financial advisor. That figure decreases to one-fifth among single people in their 30s and 40s.
"While three-quarters of Gen Xers have money saved for retirement, only 41 percent have tried to figure out how much money they will ultimately need to save," according to the report. "Among those who have saved, many have set aside an insufficient amount ? half of GenXers have saved less than $100,000."
Education is key to addressing the issue. Investing talk, though, makes many people's eyes glaze over. This seems to be a problem with women. IRI found that 54 percent of female Gen Xers claimed that they had "little to no investment knowledge" as did 37 percent of male Gen Xers.
That's particularly depressing given the plethora of free financial news available on the Internet. It's important to remember, though, that the audience for this type of information is small. CNBC attracts a viewership of less than 400,000, according to the New York Times, which by is small by the standards of cable TV. These viewers tend to be well heeled, which is why advertisers like the network. Hit cable shows such as "Jersey Shore" or "Pawn Stars" attract audiences in the millions.
Baby Boomers will continue to garner most of the headlines because of their impact on the growing federal deficit. That generation will be first since the 1930s that will be worse off when they are older than their parents, according to the Huffington Post. The 70 million Gen Xers should not be forgotten either.
"The recession impacted their ability to not only save for retirement but also for their childrens' education, compounding the financial pressures they will face in the years to come," says IRI President and CEO Cathy Weatherford in a press release. "However, with the proper preparation and with guidance from an advisor, GenXers can get back on track, build their nest egg and gain confidence in their ability to achieve their retirement goals."
That's easier said than done.
January 31, 2012
Copyright 2012© LRP Publications