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Debunking Whiny Gen Xers: The Real State Of Gen Xers' Financial Health

A Snarketing post by Ron Shevlin, Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors

Wanna get an article published? Here’s the formula:

  1. Start by saying that you’re a Gen [your-Gen-letter]er and discuss the sorry state of affairs in the world and how your generation has been screwed over by previous generations.
  2. Spew a bunch of statistics to make your case. Don’t worry about whether or not these stats are relevant or correct, because there’s only one asshole on the planet (the author of this blog) who will call you out on it.
  3. Submit article for publication.

The latest example of this that I’ve come across is an article on Daily Finance titled Dear Gen X: It’s Not Your Fault You Suck at Saving.

Like we really needed another article about how nothing that we do, or that happens to us, is our fault, our doing, our responsibility, or our accountability.

But in this particular article, the author makes a number of statements that cry out for debunking.


DailyFinance: “Gen X is said to have entered upon the world stage in 1967 — and our timing couldn’t have been worse. Annual inflation from 1967 through 2013 averaged 4.3 percent, running more than 34 percent ahead of average rates over the past century.”

My take: First off, comparing the inflation of the past 45 years to the “past century” without looking at the rise in income of the same period is ridiculous. In 2010, the median household income for a working couple in the US was 80% higher than it was in 1967 (Source: US Census). In addition, US household net worth grew from about $4 trillion in 1967 to nearly $55 trillion in 2009, and that accounts for the decline that occurred as the result of the financial crisis (Source: Federal Reserve Board).

The second problem with the statement in the article is the starting point. The first Gen Xers are those folks born in the 1964-1965 timeframe. So, whatever the inflation rate was in 1967 — and for the next 15 years or so — is irrelevant to Gen Xers, as they were not working adult members of the economy before the mid 1980s.

As the following chart shows, inflation in the US exceeded 5% from the early 1970s through to 1980. By the mid-80s, however, the rate had dropped to below 5%, and grew above 5% for only two brief periods in the subsequent 25 years.

Recalculating the inflation rate from 1985 to the present, instead of from 1967, paints a very different picture. Point debunked!


DailyFinance: “Gen X somehow got saddled with paying for a lot of stuff of very little use to us. Wars in Afghanistan and Iraq come to mind.”

My take: Yeah, protecting our freedom and way of life is “of very little use to us.”

Unfortunately for the author of the article, the broader Gen X community doesn’t share his sentiments.

In a consumer survey I’ve just completed, just 17% of Gen Xers say that taxes (“increased taxes” to be more exact) is a big reason why they don’t save more money.

More importantly, there’s absolutely no evidence that Gen Xers have paid a disproportionate share of the tax burden than any other generation.

According to the Tax Foundation, consumers between the ages of 35 and 45 (roughly Gen X age) account for 22% of the total adjusted gross income generated by consumers and contributed 21% of the total taxes paid. Oh, and by the way, among consumers in my age range (45-55), 27% didn’t pay taxes. Among the Gen Xers (35-45), 37% didn’t pay taxes. Debunked again! 

Claiming that Gen Xers are the ones who have been “saddled” with the cost of the two wars is not a supportable assertion. Claiming that fighting the wars have been “of very little use” to Gen Xers is something I’d like to see Mr. Gen-X-Big-Mouth say directly to the members of our military.


DailyFinance: “Here in Gen X, we’ve been waiting for things to turn around for 20 years or so, but have finally come to the realization that life isn’t always fair. So no matter how bad things get with the economy, really, it’s all downhill from here.”

My take: Again, the voice of a broader set of Gen Xers suggests something different.

Back to the survey: 13% of Gen Xers considered the health of their financial life to be “excellent” in 2010. One in five consider their financial health to be “excellent” today. No other generation experienced that level of improvement. Adding in the 40% of Gen Xers who consider their financial health to be “decent” puts the majority of Gen Xers in solid financial health.

Since 2010, 37% of Gen Xers have seen their credit score improve — just 17% have seen it drop. And 40% of Gen Xers say they’re saving more money than they did three years ago because they’re spending less. In another sign of improving financial health, 43% of Gen Xers pay off their credit card bill in full every month — up from the 30% who did so five years ago.

Strike three, whiny-boy!


I’ll be publishing a report on How Have Consumers Rebounded From The Recession? based on the survey mentioned here. Will let you know when it’s out. Hopefully, it can put a dent — I know it won’t end — the whining of some Gen Xers.

Ron ShevlinRon Shevlin is Director of Research at Cornerstone Advisors. Get a copy of his best-selling book, Smarter Bank: Why Money Management is More Important Than Money Movement. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter at @rshevlin.

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  1. Devin Selte says:

    I love it when you blog angry.

  2. DS: You really don’t want to argue with me. I get nasty. Have no qualms about insulting someone’s lack of intelligence or their mother’s reputation. 🙂

  3. Me too re: angry blog.

    Excellent points. I’m Gen X, save a ton, have excellent credit and couldn’t be more supportive of our military and the way they protect our country. Another problem with this article is the high demand for content and low bar for entry along with the dearth of fact checkers and editors.

  4. Great debunking Ron! What I love most about these kind of articles are the stated “stats”… But, hey don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story… Lol

  5. Dave Frey says:

    Oh where do I start……first, MY generation (Boomer) was left “paying” for the Vietnam war and perhaps even the Korean War If tis guy was born in ’67 or ’72 or even ’78–he got out of college in the late 80’s early 90’s and if I recall, economically, those times were not that “tough” yes there was a recession in ’90 (I know, I was unemployed and yes, I got a job in 1990–even though there was a recession) Also, I read the article and he cries the blues about student loan debt. Again, people going to college in the late 80’s and early 90’s might have taken on SOME college debt, but the real explosion of that sector was over the last 5 to 10 years–not 20 to 25 years ago This guy just wants to piss and moan because more than likely he is a Gen Xer that didn’t save and expected everything to be handed to him on a silver platter and he didn’t get it so he’s blaming everyone else

  6. Chris Fleischer says:

    I propose a new generation delegation … Generation US … those of us that believe in personal responsibility, appreciation of lessons learned in failure – to try, try again – and that success is best enjoyed with others. Generation US, with I in the middle, is simply … Genius!

  7. Hey, way to go, but you have your work cut out debunking these stupid articles that pander to the masses without any real fact checking. One thing though, it is going to take more than one asshole on the planet who will call people out on this drivel, it is very prevelent

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