The Verus Team

"I'm Gen X. I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn."

“I’m Gen X.  I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.”

Written by: Derek Majkowski, Partner. Any opinions are those of Derek Majkowski and not necessarily those of RJFS or Raymond James.

“I’m Gen X.  I just sit on the sidelines and watch the world burn.”

This was a line from Keenan Thompson who was playing a game show host on a SNL sketch called Millennial Millions. Here is the sketch for your viewing pleasure - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ATTMB4gH3sU

As both a member of Generation X, as well as a planner in the financial services industry who deals with clients of all ages, I was entertained obviously; but like most SNL sketches - humor is used to satirize reality, and this 5+ minute sketch jabs at a number of realities for each demographic.

The premise of the sketch is to parody and highlight the excesses, challenges, and exaggerated “truths” of the Millennials and Baby Boomers. Smack dab in the middle is the Gen X talk show host poking sarcastic fun at his entertained indifference with what is happening around him.

There is plenty to address with regards to both the Baby Boomers and Millennials, and their financial realities as parodied in this sketch; but in today’s post I wanted to focus on my contemporaries – the Gen Xers. I’ll share more on some of the financial realities specific to Boomers and Millennials in future posts.

As a member of this demographic, I’m often amused by the reference to the “Forgotten” or “Middle” Generation - sandwiched firmly between the Boomers and Millennials. Both are huge in population size by comparison, and mutually have such societal impact financially. This is both in what we anticipate in wealth transfer, and the potential stresses on some of our country’s social programs – notably Social Security, healthcare, and student debt.

While humorously portrayed in the sketch, there are some general sad truths behind some of the lines Keenan Thompson’s character uses to define Gen Xers. There is a sense of being a “bystander”, and while appearing to be the most “put-together” in the sketch (relatively speaking), he highlights the impending chaos and lacking any interest in getting directly involved, or having any real control. While we would like to laugh, there is a sad implication that there is this undercurrent of potential disaster where Gen Xers play a minor or insignificant part.

Appreciating the humor, and the thought of remaining comfortably indifferent and generally uninvolved, I’m afraid that part isn’t reality. Whether we like it or not, our “Middle” position has us dealing with the issues of aging Boomer parents, and the impending realities of the potential stresses facing the generation behind us – or even younger – which may include our own children.

The sheer numbers are daunting, and we have long heard the demographics don’t work in its current state. Aging populations, or more potential stresses on our Government programs, only means we need to expect to burden more of the costs and risks on our own.

How does that translate?

Well, it means generally, we need to grow up and get our own respective financial houses in order. It means we do need to begin connecting the dots between our assets, to how best we should be utilizing those assets over the short, intermediate, and long-term.

We need a plan.. Oh - and then we need to be prepared that the plan could completely blow up because of something outside of our control. (Here is where I will insert potential issues brought on by our ability to earn a living, or situations that could arise with our parents and / or children).

This idea of needing a plan is true of any generation, but when you are sandwiched between two significant demographic groups, there is a higher likelihood of Government and Corporate resources being allocated toward them. As we are seeing with the current political environment, there is great attention being placed on student loans and prescription drug prices. These are two key topics that speak directly to Millennials and Boomers, not Gen Xers.

Here’s the irony, despite being “forgotten”, especially over the next 10-20 years, we’re going to be needed by both generations indirectly and directly. This is not necessarily out of want, but by need. On a macro level (indirectly) we are needed to continue contributing to the system and being productive in society, and on a micro level (directly) we will be needed to support our older and younger families in some capacity.

The timing on getting organized, and being needed in some way, is aided by a few other generalizations. We are in our prime earnings years. We are equipped to deal with the physical and mental issues that arise with aging parents, and we have the general life experiences and resources to assist the younger generation.

Here’s the problem, generally speaking we are not entirely prepared to tackle the issues we could potentially face financially. We have been incorrectly conditioned to think that doing it a certain way is the correct way, and taught that certain programs to help will be available when we may need them, without risk.

To combat those potential problems, there is a need for education and guidance. It will be important to identify the different risks we could face, and the opportunities available when compared to those of both our parents, and what our children may have at their disposal.

As a fellow Gen Xer, I also know we are generally skeptical / “do-it-ourselfers”, and would often prefer to seek answers on our own via the internet, than reaching out to someone to assist. I also get that the “Great Recession” that hit in 2008-2009 impacted us, and we still don’t completely trust the markets, the Government, big business, and the financial services industry.

I get it!

Here’s the catch. Our future financial sustainability as a generation, and for the benefits of our families (older and younger), require us to be better informed, better financially prepared, and actually more directly involved. We also have to navigate the environment that includes the Government, businesses, and the tools we use to invest, grow, and protect.

Although smaller by comparison to both the Boomers and Millennials, there is a window of opportunity for the Gen Xers to have impact and influence. In order to avoid “Watching it Burn”, I’d rather like to see us own it and prosper.

No one is expecting that from – “The Slacker Generation” - - another term they like to use when describing our generation.

But rather than let Keenan Thompson’s depiction represent our Generation’s current state, maybe we should harken back to Judd Nelson’s “walk-off, fist-in-the-air” pose at the end of “Breakfast Club” - as a better way to represent our sentiments heading into the years to come.

I decided to not include that clip ;-) – but I did go and watch it again. Generationally, often underestimated – and misunderstood, but in a powerful position with huge potential impact.

 

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