Money Management

Millennials Shout Loudest About Their Financial Burdens, But Gen X Are Carrying More Debt

By  Karen Banes

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If you follow the topic of personal finance online, you’ll find a lot of Millennials voicing their financial concerns. It’s so common to hear that their generation have it hardest financially, most of us accept it without question. We believe the rhetoric. The Millennials have a problem. The Boomers ruined it all for them. Their education costs more. Their wages are stagnant. They’re more likely than others to live paycheck to paycheck. Their housing costs are astronomical. They’ll never be able to buy a property of their own.

As a member of Gen X, I’m often just glad that I’m not the focus of Millennial anger and frustration. They direct it mainly at Baby Boomers and pretty much leave me and my generation out of the conversation. Gen X are known as the forgotten generation, sometimes literally. We were the first latchkey kids. Born long before helicopter parenting was a thing, but after the time when parents were strict and controlling with their kids. We kind of raised ourselves, which may explain why as a group, we’re not great with money.

Even as a personal finance writer, I was surprised to find out that according to extensive data gathered by Experian, and carefully analysed by CNBC, Gen X are deeper in debt than any other generation. Gen X are carrying an average of $135,841 of debt, compared to the average debt balance of a Millennial at $78,396.

At first glance it seems like there are good reasons for this, but these too may be affected by the rhetoric. Millennials will no doubt assume that their lower debt burden is due to being unable to get onto the property ladder and therefore having no mortgage. But the study looked at mortgage debt separately from other debt, and found that the gap between the two generations, when it comes to the amount outstanding on mortgages, is pretty small. While Gen X do have the highest mortgage debt on average, at $238,344, Millennials are very close behind them, with average mortgage debt of $224,500.

Gen X also have the highest credit card debt, the highest auto loan balance, the highest amount of debt in home equity lines of credit, and even the highest amount of student loan debt. The only thing different about Gen X is they don’t seem to be talking about it as much. We’re just struggling on, it seems. Raised, perhaps, to take responsibility for our own actions, make our own snacks, and clear up our own messes. Or maybe, tragically, hiding our financial burdens because we assume our peers are doing fine and don’t want to look like failures.

If your peers buy nice things and drive a nice car, it’s reasonable to assume that they can afford it. If they’re Gen X, though, chances are they aren’t exactly affording it, as such. They’re paying for it with an auto loan of $21,570 (on average) and credit card debt of $8,215 (again, that’s just an average). Conspicuous consumption doesn’t mean you’re rich. It often means the opposite. If you can see how much money someone has, that usually means they’ve spent it.

It’s time for Gen X to talk about money. And maybe it’s time for personal finance writers to talk to Gen X. It’s not too late for us to sort out our finances. And Millennials (and younger Gen Xers) can learn from looking at those averages. While debt is a normal part of life for most Americans (of any generation) debt management needs to perhaps become a more widely discussed topic, especially for the forgotten generation.

If you’re Gen X (or any other generation) and you’re struggling with debt, you may need to think about credit counselling, or taking advice from a financial professional. Find out who does what to help you work out what you need.

Karen Banes

About the Author

Karen Banes

I’m a freelance writer specializing in online business, personal finance, travel and lifestyle. I also work as a content creator for hire, helping brands and businesses tell their stories, grow their audiences, and reach their ideal customers. I’ve lived, worked and studied in six countries, across three continents. Stop by my blog TheSavvySolopreneur.net to learn how to run your own (very) small business on your own terms. You can also connect with me at my website KarenBanes.com or follow me on Medium.com

Disclaimer: In order to make Wealthtender free for our readers, we earn money from advertisers including financial professionals who pay to be featured on our platform. This creates a natural conflict of interest when we favor promotion of our clients over other professionals not featured on Wealthtender. Learn how we operate with integrity to earn your trust.

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