Reports about Boomers and Millennials seem to dominate headlines these days. But the first wave of Generation X hit a milestone of its own by turning 50 years old this year.
Americans born between 1965 and 1980 face a unique set of personal, career and economic circumstances, the combination of which often makes it tricky to plan for goals.
Here are five interesting financial facts you might not know about Generation X.
1. They have the most debt.
The typical member of Generation X has an average debt — including mortgages, credit cards, auto loans, student loans and personal loans — of $125,000, according to research from Experian, the credit-reporting agency.
That total far exceeds the national average consumer debt of $88,313 per adult.
Boomers and members of the so-called Silent Generation (born before the boomers) owe an average of $87,438. Meanwhile, Millennials, who tend to be much more averse to taking on debt, owe $52,120 on average.
2. They're stressed about being sandwiched in the middle.
Generation X members not only take care of their own children but frequently help support their aging parents. It also explains why half of Generation X say they're shouldering far more financial responsibilities than their parents did, and 39 percent feel they'll never have as secure a financial life as their parents' generation, according to TD Ameritrade's Financial Support Survey
…. Baby Boomers are worried about their retirement, but the financial planning and retirement concerns of Generation X have gotten less attention.
3. They are more pessimistic about their financial future.
Having to support family members — while dealing with the weighty mix of stagnant wages and a lackluster jobs market — has caused many members of Generation X to worry about their future.
Gen Xers seem to be grappling with many concerns, ranging from uneasiness about the stock market to uncertainty about how much they'll need to save for a retirement that's likely two to three decades away.
Research from Northwestern Mutual shows that 1 in 5 members of Generation X don't just see retirement as a distant dream; they say they'll never be able to afford to retire.
Another study from Allianz Life finds that nearly a quarter of Gen Xers (compared with 19 percent of boomers) believe "you can't save for retirement until you pay off credit cards."
But experts say Gen X consumers need to change that way of thinking and realize that eliminating credit card debt and saving for retirement are not mutually exclusive.
"It's been widely reported that Baby Boomers are worried about their retirement, but the financial planning and retirement concerns of Generation X have gotten less attention," Katie Libbe, Allianz Life vice president of consumer insights, said in the study. "While our study confirms that many Boomers still lack confidence about their future, it reveals alarming realities about the significant angst and pessimism Gen X feels regarding the current and future state of their finances."
"They're the next generation that's quickly approaching retirement and their hands-off approach to planning and preparation is alarming," Libbe added.
4. The 401(k) plan is their retirement savings vehicle of choice.
According to "Retirement 2.0," an Ameriprise study, 80 percent of Gen Xers are saving for retirement through a401(k) plan or other employer-sponsored retirement program, such as a 403(b) plan. That's why sometimes Gen X is referred to as the 401(k) Generation.
"For members of Generation X, a rite of passage that went with getting your first job was getting our first 401(k) package and enrolling in it," says Marcy Keckler, vice president of financial advice strategy for Ameriprise.
"They realize that saving for retirement is largely their own responsibility; neither their employer (through a pension) nor the government (with Social Security) is going to take care of it for them," she said.
5. They desire balance and flexibility.
As members of Generation X prepare for retirement, they're also clearly not envisioning the old "I'm out golfing all day or playing with the grandkids" kind of life.
Nine out of 10 Gen Xers surveyed by Ameriprise said they think their retirement wouldn't fit the traditional mold.
Even though they intend to work longer than their predecessors, those in the Gen X crowd expect their retirement work to be more flexible, fulfilling and rewarding — by providing them with a greater purpose as well as social interaction.
"Generation X says they want to stay active, physically healthy, socially connected and engaged," Keckler noted. "The majority plan to work in retirement, not for financial reasons but to remain socially engaged and intellectually stimulated."
Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, The Money Coach(R), is a personal finance expert, television and radio personality, and regular contributor to AARP. You can follow her on Twitter and on Facebook.