They're tough, aggressive and starting to push aging Baby Boomers not so gently onto the sidelines of the fast track, both on the job and off. Originally referred to as "Generation X" because they lived in the shadow of their elders and once appeared to have no identity of their own, Gen Xers today know who they are and what they want as they're making their move onto our society's center stage.
Just as the Baby Boomers dominated and shaped the final quarter of the Twentieth Century, these men and women are the first generation of the Twenty-First Century. They are the future, and the time is coming for them to begin planning for their own futures.
By the way, forget the term, Generation X. This is the New Power Generation, who face wonderful opportunities and unique challenges.
Who are the members of the New Power Generation: They are loosely defined as anyone born between 1961 and 1981.1 They are the men and women from their early 20s through their early 40s.
They were once thought to be value-less; hence the anonymous name. Well, that may have been true when they were rebellious youth, something that can be said of any generation. However, now in their 20s, 30s and 40s, this new generation does in fact have clearly defined opinions, values and beliefs, according to a Lewis Harris & Associates survey, "Generation 2001." In fact, reports one researcher, they "appear to be alive with idealism, optimism and a vision of a better world."2 For example:
- Eighty-six percent believe in God; 70% attend religious services.
- They believe in traditional values, especially family. However, having lived through and learned from the relationship problems and high divorce rate of their parents' generation, they are marrying later, at an average age of 26.
- They are big on community service, with 90% saying it is important to help others, and 73% indicating that they actively volunteer their time to schools, charities and religious organizations.
They are practical and have respect for money and education. More than half are either enrolled in or have completed college. Of those out in the workforce, more than 40% are already investing in mutual funds, while many are actively contributing to their retirement plans at a pace well ahead of Baby Boomers at that age.3
They also face a world of opportunities: Educated and ambitious, this up-and-coming generation is in line to step into the shoes of the Baby Boomers and pick up the reins of business. Jobs are there now, and they will increase in number over the next decade. Between now and 2010, the number of jobs in the US is expected to rise by 15%, or by about 22 million, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This, coupled with retirements from the larger Baby Boomer generation, means there could be a serious labor shortage. As a result, this New Power Generation of educated, motivated workers will pretty much have their pick of jobs.4
However, they have a problem: As a group, many members of this generation are concerned about their financial futures... and with good reason. For one thing, they have college bills coming due — something Baby Boomers did not have to deal with. Plus, they realize that it's probably going to take two incomes and long hours to realize their dreams of marriage, family and lifestyle.5
Most of all, they see the Baby Boom generation as that proverbial 2,000 pound gorilla that does whatever it wants in their lives. In other words, they are very concerned about their own ability to retire someday, since the massive Baby Boomer generation will be demanding ever-increasing expenditures to ensure their own comfortable retirement needs. As one frustrated member of this New Power Generation aptly phrased the problem: "More of us believe we will see a UFO than a Social Security check with our name on it."6
For members of this New Power Generation, the future is here. They have opportunities and challenges. Especially when it comes to their financial futures — protecting their families and saving for their own financial security — now is the time to begin laying the foundation.
1 "What is Generation X?" at www.cc.colorado.edu.
2 "Gen Xers Represent Best of American Values," AgeVenture News Service, at www.demko.com/genx.htm.
3 "Generation X: Facts and Figures," at www.cc.colorado.edu.
4 "Where the Job Machine Will Be Cranking," by Billy Cheng. BusinessWeek Online, July 9, 2002, at http://story.news.yahoo. com/news?tmpl=story&u=bw/20020709/bs_bw/where_the_job_machine_will_be_cranking.
5 "Generation 2001" survey.
6 "Generation X: Facts and Figures."
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