Gen X’s road to retirement looks bumpy, Pru survey finds

As Generation X prepares to enter their presumed final years of working, it turns out the 65 million Americans born between 1965 and 1980 are well, not so prepared for what comes after that: retirement.

That’s according to Prudential Financial Inc.’s latest Pulse research survey, “Gen X: Retirement Revised,” which finds that the group is coming face to face with a new set of financial challenges that are affecting retirement plans.

According to Prudential Vice Chair Rob Falzon, “Gen X faces one of the most complex landscapes for retirement readiness in decades, including the decline of defined benefit pension plans which supported prior generations’ retirement, as well as significant uncertainty about the economy and long-term Social Security benefits.”

He added that the survey’s findings highlight how important it is for Gen X to rethink retirement strategies and adopt a plan that is “designed to protect and grow their savings, and, when possible, translate their assets into reliable sources of future income.”

For some that may be harder than others. According to the survey results, 67% of Gen Xers have no strategy at all when it comes to retirement and nearly half (48%) don’t spend anytime during the week thinking about it. Of the majority without a plan, 48% are saving without intent while 19% are neither saving nor planning.

Great wealth transfer?
While boomers are expected to pass down more than $70 trillion, just 12% of Gen X respondents said an inheritance will be a source of retirement income. And, 84% are not planning to leave an estate.

As opposed to empty-nest syndrome, Gen X seems to have an empty nest-egg issue. Up to 30 million Gen Xers, nearly half at 46%, do not think they’ll have enough money saved for retirement to live comfortably. And according to Prudential, that reflects reality: 35% have under $10,000 saved and 18% have nothing at all.

When retirement comes for Gen X it will also look different than it did for the baby boomers who preceded them. Almost half (47%) said they expect to retire later than anticipated and 40% say they’re planning to work part time after they’ve retired.

While boomers have found success tapping into home equity as they enter retirement, the Pulse survey indicates that trend will not extend to Gen X, with just 16% saying they plan to use their home value to help fund retirement. Similarly, Gen X doesn’t intend to split time between locations once they’ve stopped working, with just 15% planning to adopt the “snowbird” lifestyle.

Blind spots
When it comes to health care, 38% of Gen X individuals are not factoring those costs into their retirement planning, while a whopping 75% are  not accounting for assisted living expenses.

And though Gen X, unfortunately dubbed the slacker generation, may not be “following a retirement strategy, saving enough, or accounting for long-term expenses and situations,” the group is also facing complicated scenarios that previous generations haven’t had to contend with.

According to the Pulse survey:

  • Despite projections that Social Security trust fund reserves could be depleted by 2033, more than half (58%) of Gen X say they will rely on it as a source of retirement income.
  • Reflecting the decline of pension plans, which according to the U.S. Department of Labor have dropped 73% from 1985-2020, when it comes to that benefit, just 20% plan to employ the source for retirement income and only 11% will mostly rely on a pension.
  • Inflation is also taking its toll, presently and with future implications, on Gen X’s retirement planning, with 68% concerned about being able to reach their savings goals due to its impact and 72% saying it makes planning ahead, beyond the day-to-day, difficult.

“Gen Xers are contemplating significantly different approaches than prior generations to achieve retirement security,” said Dylan Tyson, president, Prudential Retirement Strategies. “Together, we must find ways to incorporate the fundamental best practices of traditional pensions into today’s defined contribution–based retirement system. Strategies like protected accumulation and protected income planning are required to help Gen Xers avoid the potential hazards of longevity risk and market volatility on otherwise well-balanced financial plans.”