Generation X is broke

What’s going to happen to my generation?

I was chatting with an older associate yesterday who spoke of his upcoming retirement adventures. He said he was excited at the opportunity, which was provided to him, in part, by his good fortune to have invested in Apple when it was a young company. This was the second person I had recently heard about who was well-off due to investing in Apple early on.

When Apple was founded, I was 3 years old. Needless to say, I did not get in on the action when it was lucrative. Or ever. In fact, I have never invested in the stock market, other than to, at one time, briefly have a 401k. And while that was not a choice at the time, I now choose not to participate in the stock market because I think it is legalized gambling that no longer benefits society, save corporations and the chosen few.

I do not think I am alone in my generation. I’m on the line between when there were pensions and when there were no pensions. Guess where I lie.

I grew up with little financial literacy. We were basically subsistence farmers in a rural state. I spent my 20’s trying to survive living in an expensive state with a stale economy and few lucrative opportunities for someone who’s a late bloomer… and a woman.

I have little savings (although more now than in the past). I haven’t contributed to my IRA since I opened it 10 years ago. I was going to contribute in 2014, but then I moved and was more worried about feeling comfortable today with my savings, etc.

My plan is to contribute every year for the next 30 years, but that isn’t going to be enough. So, what are all us Gen Xers going to do when we reach that age? Or worse, what happens if the bottom of the world drops out before then? How will we live? Those with means will be fine, but how will my generation live? The fate of social security is dubious, at best, and being self-employed makes it seem like I make much less than I really do, which makes matters worse.

I think this is part of the impetus behind the tiny house movement. We want security, and we don’t see any other way to get it while retaining our sanity. Plus, we want freedom from participating in a wasteful, soul-sucking system we disagree with.

But I will say this, to all the naysayers who think we’re just cheap or broke: we’re living. And we want to keep doing that without getting caught up in the rat race. We’re embracing diversity. We’re embracing humanity. And we don’t want to be mindless drones playing the credit score game. We want to be humans and have a human experience that is meaningful and rich.

Stock markets, credit, ownership… these are all shared illusions that we participate in as a society. And these shared illusions (or delusions) have caused wars and oppressed peoples (and continue to do so). I think we need to go back to the drawing board. (Full disclosure: all my money is in a non-profit credit union.)

So, what’s going to happen to my generation? We just will. Gen Xers are resourceful, and we will always find a way.


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