Gen X: The “Middle Child” Generation! Unhappy, Unprepared and Overlooked?

Thursday, March 30 2023  |   Helen Acke McComiskey, Strategic Advisor

They were the first generation to grow up with personal computers. They popularized terms like “totally,” “chill pill,” “dude” and “yuppie.” And they are still trying to solve the Rubik’s Cube.

Born between 1965 and 1980, there are roughly 65 million Gen Xers in the U.S.; they are also known to many as the “middle child” generation because they are smaller in numbers compared to baby boomers and millennials. And, like many middle children, they have often felt overlooked by, well, everyone, including the financial services industry.

After plodding along through first-time home buying, student loan debt, at least one financial crisis and recession, and several reboots of their favorite ’80s shows, many Gen Xers are now facing a new set of financial challenges: college tuition for their children, financial assistance for long-term care for aging parents and their own retirement. However, this “forgotten generation” is feeling ignored and left to figure it out on their own.

Everyone from the large traditional banks like Bank of America and Chase to the new online fintechs are working hard to attract millennials and Gen Z consumers. Investment brokers and advisors continue to covet the baby boomers to make sure they get their fair share of the billions of dollars looming in the massive transfer of wealth that is likely to continue for the next several years. So, where does this leave Gen X? It leaves them unhappy and looking at other options to help them meet their financial goals.



Figure 1: From 2019 to 2022, the Very Satisfied rating from Gen X went from 23% to 17%, and the Dissatisfied rating increased two percentage points

Overall Service Satisfaction from Primary Financial Institution

Source: Raddon Relationship Survey 2019-2022

One of the biggest concerns for Gen X is retirement. This group has been focused on other priorities, and much to their surprise, some are within a decade of retirement age. That means their dollars need to work more quickly than those of the millennials and Gen Z kids.


Figure 2: Forty-seven percent of Gen X said they were either not very or not at all prepared for retirement. 

Regardless of Consumer Segment or Generational Segment, Most Respondents Are Only Somewhat Prepared for Retirement

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022 Deposits and Investments

When they say they are not prepared, this means Gen X does not have nearly enough money saved to retire, which in turn means their need for investments and deposits has increased. But shockingly – no one is asking for their business!



Figure 3: They are trying NOT to live up to the “slacker generation” definition, but Gen X admittedly does not have enough money to retire

Which of these statements best describes your retirement situation?

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022 Deposits and Investments

Ironically, Gen Xers have used or at least consulted a financial advisor the least. Why? One could surmise it is because the focus for business has been on the younger segments, leaving this generation to fend for themselves once again. Or it could be because this “latchkey generation” is by nature self-reliant, fiercely independent, and resourceful and will just figure it out own their own.



Figure 4: Gen Xers use financial advisors the least, even though they probably need them the most.

Do you have an individual that you consider as your primary advisor on your investments? 

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022 Deposits and Investments

Lack of focus on this generation has caused Gen X to look to “other” financial institutions as options to help them achieve their financial goals.



Figure 5: Gen X is not shying away from opening accounts online, especially checking accounts.

Have you opened any type of deposit product account (checking, savings, or certificate of deposit) while online in the last two years? 

Source: Raddon Research Insights, 2022 Deposits and Investments

Gen X is the smallest generation, next to traditionalists, but it would be a mistake for financial institutions to continue to ignore this group. Time has proved that this generation is extremely resourceful, and its members will figure out a way to meet their financial goals – with or without the help of their current primary financial institutions. What the data are showing is that these consumers are growing less satisfied, will leave and will take their business with them.

“Do or do not. There is no try.”

(Empire Strikes Back, 1980, Yoda)

When you get ready to help these often overlooked “middle children,” remember, they are:

  • Driven by relationships. They mean a lot to this generation – you would be wise to cultivate relationships with these customers.
  • In their prime earning years and are looking to invest – with or without you. Why not with you?
  • Tech savvy but NOT tech reliant – online financial services are in their wheelhouse.
  • The “OGs” of the work-life balance culture – they will figure out how to make retirement happen.


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