April 30, 2013

Some of the X generation slight difference

Members of the "slacker generation" have just as much stability and responsibility as their baby-boomer parents, a new study finds, but some Gen Xers point to subtle differences.

It seems the so-called slackers of Generation X didn't turn out to be underachievers after all. In fact, as they approach midlife, Gen Xers aren’t all that different from their baby-boomer predecessors, according to a new study from the MetLife Mature Market Institute gift & premium.

The study examined members of Gen X – the 50 million Americans born between 1965 and 1976 – and found that they closely resemble baby boomers at the same age in terms of stability, responsibility and financial security.

Among the findings: 70 percent of Gen Xers live with a spouse or partner, 74 percent have children (an average of 2.5) and 82 percent are homeowners.

Those statistics ring true for Kimberly Dudley, 36, who says she definitely identifies with Generation X and describes herself as "a true '80s kid.” Dudley and her husband have a 10-year-old daughter and own their home in Greensboro, N.C.

Family is at the center of their busy schedules, and "we have a ton of things that make our lives very full," she said.

The term "Generation X" was popularized by author Douglas Coupland in his 1991 novel, "Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture."

"The perception of Gen Xers was of unfocused 20-somethings, lacking drive and taking an extraordinarily long time to grow up," the study reads. Think Ethan Hawke and Winona Ryder in the film "Reality Bites."

Dudley, now a real estate agent and the owner of a political consulting company, said it did take her time to find her way. She dropped out of college and moved back home with her parents hong kong gifts and premium.

"I became bored my senior year," she said. "I became restless and thought I could get by on my street smarts. I realized that wasn’t the case. I went back."

Jenny Shah, on the other hand, says she didn’t fit the description of the slow-to-mature Gen Xer.

"I was always fairly motivated," the 36-year-old scenic designer said. "I was applying myself pretty seriously most of my life."

Shah and her 43-year-old husband are also homeowners and parents – they have a 17-month-old daughter and live in Forest Hills, N.Y. Her own parents are classic baby boomers, born right after World War II, but Shah said that although her life today does resemble her parents’ lives at this stage, her parents were married with children by 25, not 35.

"I got settled much later in life in terms of having a family," she said. "I may have the same stability they had, but I have a toddler, not an 8-year-old, or a 9-year-old, or my third child. Five years ago, I didn’t know I would have the home life I have now."

As for their professional lives, the study found that 43 percent of Gen Xers have stayed in the same field throughout their careers, and many have remained with the same employer for more than a decade. Seventy-five percent are currently in the workforce, either full or part time, and most are members of dual-income households, like the Dudleys.

Kimberly Dudley’s husband is the dean of a community college and just finished his Ph.D. In addition to her work in real estate and political consulting, she’s also studying for a graduate degree gift and premium fair.

"I’ve taken on more than I thought I would at 36," she said.

Dudley says she sees her peers working harder than ever, but also taking more risks than her parents’ generation and embracing more circuitous career paths. Her own father worked in real estate for 40 years, and she said, "I can’t imagine doing anything for 40 years. My grandfather did the same thing for 60 years. I feel like I have the opportunity to do something new and pursue passions."

Shah also discussed how committed she and her own husband were to developing their careers, but pointed out that although they are successful professionals with economic stability, "we’re not going to outearn our parents."

"When I compare myself to my parents’ generation, I still feel that, in my family at least, it’s the first generation that’s not going to exceed the economic position of their parents."

According to the study, many Gen Xers worry about their financial futures – 76 percent said they’re not confident that Social Security will be there to provide benefits when they retire.

"I feel like I’m going to be working," Dudley said. "We don’t really see ourselves going into a type of retirement where we’re vacationing. Maybe retirement to a different type of work. I don’t think we will ever stop working. We love what we do."

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