Generation X is a generation of children born in the late 1960s and early 1980s. They experienced the AIDS epidemic, China’s economic reforms (and protests), 9/11, the Great Recession, wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, but they also witnessed peaceful revolutions in Eastern Europe and the Arab Spring.
Gen Xers’ entry into adulthood was marked by a recession in the 1990s, which made them “digital immigrants” — people who grew up with computers but without other technologies like cassette tapes or landlines.
Generation X has been called many names: “slackers” (because they work less than their parents), “latchkey generation” (because they were often left to themselves after school), “the MTV generation” (for coming of age during its golden years), “baby busters”.
But while Generation Xers may share certain traits and experiences, there is no universal definition of who belongs to this generation and what exactly defines their experience.
History of generations
History is always difficult because it tends to be very complex and to lack official definitions.
The term “Generation X” was originally coined in the early 1980s by Douglas Coupland, an author of novels that revolved around these young adults (Generation X: Tales for an Accelerated Culture).
This generational cohort includes many different age groups which is why defining it can be difficult.
The Lost generation
The Lost Generation was a term used to describe writers and artists in Europe in the post-WWI years, who produced notable works in the 1920s before succumbing to the Great Depression.
The term was popularized by Ernest Hemingway in his 1926 novel The Sun Also Rises.
The Greatest generation
The Greatest Generation is a term sometimes applied to those people who grew up in the years of America’s Great Depression and then fought in World War 2, many returning home to raise families of their own.
The term was first popularized by Tom Brokaw who, in his 1992 book of the same title, honored those Americans who came of age during the Great Depression and went on to fight in World War II.
The Silent generation
The Silent Generation is a term sometimes applied to those children born during the Great Depression and World War II who grew up in the years of abundance after the war.
The term was first popularized by an ad agency, Baker & McKenzie, in a report they did for General Motors on persons born from 1925-1942.
The term has been disputed as some say that the “Silents” had plenty to say, while others argue that while there was some apathy in the generation, it was actually a more vocal group than previous generations.
Baby Boomers are one of the largest generations in American history. The Baby Boomers are the generation born after World War 2 between 1946 and 1964 during the post-world war baby boom.
This generational cohort has been credited with many social changes, including counterculture movements such as the “hippie” movement of the 1960s (against the Vietnam War), in which they protested against various aspects of societal norms that had developed over time.
This generation is most widely known for their protest of America’s involvement with the Vietnam War. One of the most prominent methods that Baby Boomers used to voice their grievances was by burning draft cards and waving flags.
These individuals typically reside in urban or suburban areas and typically live very close to their families. Baby Boomers generally take good care of themselves and dress nicely, but prefer casual social gatherings rather than formal ones like other generations.
Generation X is a loosely defined group of people born in the late 1960s and early 1980s, squeezed between two huge generations. The generation includes those born from 1965 to 1980.
The collapse of the Berlin Wall, the end of the Cold War, and Bill Clinton’s election in 1992 ushered in a new era of relative peace on Earth.
Many Gen Xers came of age during this time, but they didn’t come to know anything other than peace and democracy. They started college when the first web browser hit the scene in 1993.
Gen X was born after it had already become clear that humanity’s path involved some kind of information revolution such as personal computers.
They had no reason to expect things would always be this way, but they did expect things to be different. This is why the advent of the world wide web didn’t seem particularly momentous to them.
There are around 65 million Gen Xers, while there are around 72 million baby boomers and millennials.
In 2001, people began talking about Generation Y as an informal group of individuals born between 1977 and 1994. In 2002, conservative commentator David Brooks wrote a column for the New York Times in which he had a talk with his wife about kids of their own.
In it, he writes that Gen Y is “a generation of rising narcissism” and that “like all generational generalizations, these can be backed up with some real numbers”.
Other people have also written about this generation. A 2005 article, by Neil Howe and William Strauss, discusses how Gen Y has come of age with the new “me” mentality and that they demand immediate gratification.
Gen X and Gen Y are two very different generations; one group is much older than the other. The Baby Boomers were born after World War II, which means there was a long period of time between this generation and Generation X.
In addition, the Baby Boomers were the last generation to remember life before television and personal computers.
Millennials are the demographic-specific group of people who were born from 1980 to 1999. They are typically classified as those belonging to Generation Y. Most millennials are the early Gen x children.
Millennials were children when the Berlin Wall fell, and teens when Bill Clinton was elected president in 1992. They entered adulthood as a result of a recession in the 1990s, and many of them came of age with the rise of the Internet.
The millennial generation has been credited with numerous transformations in society, including a decline in church attendance and a reduction in political party affiliation.
Millennials make up a larger proportion of voting-age adults than their baby-boomer or GenX predecessors ever did at that age. Millennials differ from GenXers most significantly on social issues, especially an increasing disaffection with organized religion.
The millennial generation is departing from the church in droves, and it has been cited as a reason for their lack of enthusiasm about attending college. However, many have said the trend is being exaggerated, partly because socially conservative Millennials can be reluctant to label themselves “atheist” or “agnostic”, because of the stigma associated with these labels.
Gen Z are Americans born around and after the year 2000, will enter adulthood in a very different world than their Generation X predecessors.
They are becoming teenagers as we speak. In the home, they live with tablets and smartphones which provide instant access to news and global events. When outside, they carry out conversations via Snapchat, Instagram, or Facebook Messenger instead of face-to-face.
Snapchat is the preferred medium among teens for daily sharing of pictures and video, which are inherently transient in nature.
This digital landscape is profoundly different from the one experienced by Generation X when they entered adulthood with many cultural analysts describing this phenomenon as a “digital divide”.
After all, it is very likely that your parents or even your grandparents do not know what an emoji is.
Gen Z has a strong desired to learn about social security, personal finance, and financial planning, and are opening saving accounts at a much earlier age than other generations.
Generation Alpha (or Gen Alpha for short) is the demographic group that follows Generation Z.
According to researchers and popular media, the early 2010s serve as the starting and mid-2020s serve as the ending birth years.
Generation Alpha, named after the first letter of the Greek alphabet, is the first generation born entirely in the twenty-first century.
The majority of Generation Alpha members are Millennials’ children.
Gen Xers specifics
Gen X is one of the most stressed generations that we know today. In 2021, 22% of Gen Xers admitted to daily stress, followed by Millenials (17%), Gen Z (14%), and Baby Boomers (12%).
A significant source of stress is the responsibility of caring for multiple generations. Many Gen Xers are responsible for their aging parents as well as their children who are just starting out in life.
Additionally, Gen X was the first new generation that experienced both parents working at the same time.
It is said that Generation Xers are the first “digital natives” of the world. Many people claim this means they know technology better than their parents (the “digital immigrants”) do. This isn’t really true, though; digital natives understand technology differently than digital immigrants, but not necessarily better.
Generation X is a generation of immigrants who have acquired a second nationality without ever having lived in their “native” country or culture. The internet was already being used by university researchers when Gen X came into the world.
When Gen Xers were children, the first video games hit the market and it wasn’t long before adventure games like The Secret of Monkey Island appeared, in which the hero is a computer game pirate.
The Digital Revolution began when Gen Xers were already in their adult years, meaning that they have always been used to technology being a part of society. So much so, in fact, that Gen Xers don’t really see the Internet as a “new” technological advancement.
This may be because they began to have access to technology while it was still being developed. People born after the mid-1970s were old enough to take advantage of this new market and did so en masse, creating a huge demand for computers and other technological devices.
However, the cultural references remain the same generation after generation. For instance, a middle-aged individual might still refer to a Hotmail account when discussing email accounts.
Or they may still remember dialing “9” to get an outside line from a phone booth or even using floppy disks which were the preferred storage mediums before the arrival of USB flash drives.
Generation X has grown up in a world with instantaneous information and constant connection to friends, family, and colleagues. However, it is difficult to define this generation by the technology they use, because many people from older generations have been using these same devices since their introduction.
Generation X is defined by their experiences with this new technology. For example, members of Generation Y may be active users of Facebook to keep up-to-date on friends and family members, but it is Generation X who was able to use this social network during its development.
Hip-hop, Atari, Quentin Tarrantino, Tiger Woods, punk rock rebirth, are all part of this generation.
One of the reasons Gen X is so self-sufficient and self reliant is that it is the generation most affected by divorce.
It “went through its all-important, formative years as one of the least parented, least nurtured generations in American history,” according to a 2004 marketing study.
People in Generation X grew up when the generation gap was so much bigger than it is today.
It’s easier now to understand what people in the older generation are experiencing because life is so different than it used to be.
Generations are more alike now than they have ever been.
We share many of the same references for pop culture, music, and technology.
And there are more of us reaching out to help people from the older generations figure out how to use new technology–scrolling through Instagram or watching YouTube tutorials on how to text someone new on Facebook.
The struggles of this generation
In the 2020 U.S. Trust Study of High Net Worth Philanthropy, it was discovered that Generation X has $40 million in assets saved for philanthropic purposes. That’s only 10 percent of all high net worth individuals’ philanthropic dollars in 2020, suggesting that they are not as generous as boomers or millennials.
When Gen Xers were just starting their first jobs, the economy had yet to experience a recession.
During the Great Recession of 2008-2020, they lost 40 percent of their wealth and never fully recovered due to the more conservative investments (savings accounts for example) that they put money into.
According to Northwestern Mutual’s 2019 Investor Survey, Gen Xers are the most concerned about having enough money for retirement, while millennials are least concerned.
They also have lower net worths than previous generations at the same life stages, including their parents.
In the 20th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers, which was released in 2020, Gen X, baby boomers, and millennials were compared. Among the findings are:
When compared to millennials (77 percent) and baby boomers (73 percent), Gen Xers believe they will have a significantly harder time reaching financial stability than their parents (80 percent).
Generation X is much more likely to have credit card debt (52 percent), millennials are significantly more likely to have student loans (26 percent), and boomers are likely to be debt-free (25 percent).
When compared to millennials (42 percent) and baby boomers (45 percent), Gen Xers are the least likely to utilize a financial advisor (37 percent).
The waiting room
Generation X is in between two very large generations that are both delaying starting families because of financial concerns.
This has resulted in a higher median age for first marriages and a lower number of children being born.
In fact, Generation X is the smallest generation since the Silent Generation.
According to Pew Research Center’s population projections, Gen X will have fewer people living in 2060 than members of any other generation, which means that they will have a smaller impact on our society and economy.
While Generation X is not as big and powerful as the baby boomers or younger generations, Gen Xers still have massive potential for economic and social contributions.
A Greater Des Moines Partnership 2018 study found that there are 540,000 people between the ages of 30-44 living in Iowa, which means this group of people has a lot of purchasing power.
One way they can better influence the future is by taking financial advice into their own hands and diversifying their investments beyond just retirement.
If most members began to think about how to be generous with what they have, this might contribute greatly to the state’s economic growth. For example, some Gen Xers are following in the footsteps of baby boomers by donating to their own alma maters.
Generation X’s growing population already presents significant opportunities for economic growth, but if more members began to think about how to be generous with what they have, this might contribute greatly to the state’s economic growth.