There’s a reason Gen X is known as the “Forgotten Generation.” Slammed between Baby Boomers—who, like anyone who does CrossFit or is vegan, won’t stop talking about how great they are—and millennials—who are just trying to keep their heads down as they get hate from Boomers and Gen Zers—Gen X is like the middle child not getting anyone’s attention.
And, speaking as a middle child, that’s not always such a bad thing.
Regardless of generational birth order, we all have our skills. Millennials are the most educated generation. And while millennials are carrying the bulk of student loan debt because of their higher-education goals, it is Gen Xers who have the highest level of debt among Americans, according to the Northwestern Mutual 2019 Planning & Progress Study, with an average of $36,000 in personal debt—and that’s excluding mortgages.
If you’re among those dealing with a substantial debt burden, whether student loan debt or otherwise, a debt payoff calculator can help you get a sense of whether you can save money on interest and how long it will take to unburden yourself.
Even if you’re saddled with debt, that shouldn’t stop you from investing—no matter how old you are. So, who’s better at investing: millennials or Gen Xers?
How Gen Xers and millennials invest
Perhaps surprisingly, Gen Xers tend to be more conservative than the generation before them—Baby Boomers—according to a Spectrem Group white paper.
Gen Xers tend to go with a ‘set it and forget it’ mentality when investing, while millennials may be more inclined to tinker with their investments (more on that later).
Members of the “Forgotten Generation” are more concerned than other generations about depleting their retirement funds too early. In the Spectrem survey, on a scale from 0-100 with 100 being “very worried,” the average worry for Gen Xers was nearly 49, compared with roughly 34 for every other generation.
Brand loyalty is a big factor for Gen X investors, according to a recent BlackRock study, while millennials are still developing loyalties and may look for incentives to choose a certain investment or platform to invest with. While both generations are looking for similar qualities, the younger group is more concerned with financial groups that are doing things the “right” way, like sustainable and eco-friendly investments.
Millennials think they’re good investors
Not to say that millennials are lousy investors—they just tend to be overconfident in their investing skills. (Not unlike how they tend to overestimate their tax knowledge, according to a recent survey about taxes.)
Millennials anticipated the highest average annual returns of any generation in the Schroders’ 2020 global investor study, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.
Gen Xers are more likely to work with a financial planner, while millennials are more “I can do it myself!”
Millennials are digital natives and lean more toward technological advancements around investing. About 80% of millennials say they’re likely to use a robo advisor, while just about half of Gen Xers said they would use one, per BlackRock.
Investing for the here and now
The YOLO mentality has millennials living more in the present than perhaps any other generation. They’re more inclined to plan for now than later. And their investing style reflects that. Many millennials anticipate working forever—be it because of the anticipated economy, the potential demise of Social Security, or their love of their careers—but prioritize a healthy work-life balance.
It’s hard to say that either generation is ahead of the other in terms of investing, as their priorities are different and they’re at different stages of their lives. But we’ll give the slight edge to millennials for their confidence and willingness to experiment (see: Dogecoin).
WRITTEN BYCasey Musarra