Gen Xers are close to retirement—but most don’t feel they can afford it

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The first 401(k) generation is getting closer and closer to the traditional retirement age of 65—and survey after survey consistently show members of Gen X feel wholly unprepared for the next phase of their lives.

In fact, Gen X is the least likely of any age cohort in the U.S. to feel confident about their retirement savings, according to BlackRock’s ninth annual Read on Retirement survey, which polled almost 3,000 Americans about their finances. Around 60% feel on track, compared to 68% for baby boomers and 77% of Gen Z.

That’s more fodder for the growing body of research on the financial hardships plaguing Gen X. Previously, a Prudential survey found those around age 55 have median savings of $47,950—only about 10% of the $446,565 Prudential recommends having by that age. (The firm’s rule of thumb is having eight times one’s annual salary stashed away by 55.) A different study from the National Institute on Retirement Security, a nonprofit research organization, found the typical Gen X household had just $40,000 in retirement savings.

There are myriad reasons why an individual might not be saving for retirement—they might have other priorities, or not be able to cover all of their other expenses month to month, particularly in a time of high inflation. But for Gen X as a whole, financial experts point to the shift from companies saving for workers—via vehicles like pensions—to employees being responsible for saving virtually all of their retirement nest egg on their own, which really accelerated with this generation of workers.

In fact, while millennials and Gen Z have had more time to learn from Gen X and about saving and investing for retirement on their own, the older generation was the guinea pig for the shift.

The good news is while Gen X may feel the least prepared, they are also the most likely to actually be saving consistently, according to BlackRock’s survey. A full 80% report doing so.

The oldest Gen Xers are now turning 59 and a half, a milestone in retirement planning. For those who are able to, financial advisors recommend they take advantage of catch-up contributions, or the ability to invest more in retirement accounts like IRAs and 401(k)s after turning 50.

And they are also the generation first in line to benefit from the Great Wealth Transfer, when tens of trillions of dollars will be passed down from flush baby boomers to their younger spouses, children, and other heirs over the next decade or so. That could help boost their confidence.

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