Forget millennials - the real financial time bomb in America is Gen X

Gen X jogging exerciseJaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty ImagesGen Xers may find themselves playing catch up in order to retire.Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images

  • Many Gen Xers are unprepared to retire in their 60s, according to an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey.
  • Almost half of Gen X respondents, defined as ages 38 to 53, said they have no money saved in a retirement account.
  • The Gen Xers were the least likely generation to say they would save or invest an extra $1,000, instead using it to pay outstanding bills and debt
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Retirement isn't looking rosy for Gen X.

The cohort closest to retirement age behind baby boomers is wholly unprepared to leave work one day, according to an INSIDER and Morning Consult survey. 

Of the 4,400 Americans polled, 1,131 identified as Gen Xers, defined as ages 38 to 53 (237 respondents did not select a generation). The margin of error was plus or minus 1 percentage point.

About half of Gen X respondents said they expected to retire before age 75 - 23% said between 56 and 65, and 28% said between 66 and 75. Meanwhile, 10% of the Gen Xers said they don't expect to retire at all - the highest share of any generation - and 19% didn't have an opinion.

The full retirement age for Gen Xers is 67, at which point they can begin to claim Social Security benefits. Whether they decide to retire then or not, delaying Social Security benefits to age 70 will increase the eventual payout by 8% each year it's delayed. But Social Security isn't enough to cover expenses for most retirees. Other income from savings and investments is usually necessary.

When should you start taking Social Security? Find out with this calculator from our partners:

And yet, 47% of the Gen Xers said they had no money saved in a retirement account, almost equal to the share of those who said they do. About 48% of the savers have under $50,000, the survey found, and one-quarter have more than $100,000.

Gen Xers may find themselves playing catch up in order to retire. Experts agree that one of the easiest and most beneficial strategies for saving for retirement is maxing out a 401(k) or individual retirement account (IRA) - the tax advantages are often unparalleled. In 2019, you can elect to contribute a percentage or dollar amount of your pretax salary to a 401(k) if your company offers it, up to $19,000, or $25,000 if you're over 50.


As far as investments go, only 17% of Gen X respondents said they have a brokerage account, and most have under $50,000 in that account as well.

These findings underscore a recent MetLife report, which found that 55% of Gen Xers said they were feeling either significantly or somewhat behind on their retirement-savings timeline and that 48% of Gen Xers were living paycheck to paycheck.

The Morning Consult and Business Insider survey also asked what respondents would do with an extra $1,000, and Gen Xers' priorities are clear. They were the least likely generation to put the hypothetical cash toward savings or investments. Most said they would pay outstanding bills (22%) or pay down debt (28%). 

While the type of debt wasn't specified, Gen Xers were the most likely generation to report having credit-card debt; about one-quarter are currently paying off student loans; and 70% have a mortgage, the largest share of any generation.

How close are you to being able to retire? Find out with this calculator from our partners:

Personal Finance Insider offers tools and calculators to help you make smart decisions with your money. We do not give investment advice or encourage you to buy or sell stocks or other financial products. What you decide to do with your money is up to you. If you take action based on one of the recommendations listed in the calculator, we get a small share of the revenue from our commerce partners.

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