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Generations of Debt

Which Generation Is More In Debt?

The number of older Americans filing bankruptcy is growing and Gen X is no exception. Gen X represents one of the most vulnerable generations of debt and could be facing more financial trouble than Boomers, Millennials or Gen Z.  Although they have displayed many strengths and have overcome major obstacles, they’re managing longer-lasting financial challenges and have less time to come out of them.  They currently hold the most overall debt, and have had less time than younger generations to build a strong retirement portfolio. Many in this group are taking care of a large number of Baby Boomer parents. Many are also taking care of Gen Z children and continue to support older  Millennial children.


Long before Millennials, and following Baby Boomers is Gen X. Born 1965-1979, the Gen X group represents a quiet but impactful generation of caretakers, leaders and mentors to younger generations. Gen X chose to have fewer children, and are more educated than previous generations. Like Boomers, they entered the workforce and became financially independent at a young age. However, mid-career pensions were replaced by (401)k plans and social security was beginning to look grim. Although this group has some years left in the workplace, it may not be enough to compensate for what has been lost. Because they continue to care for  Boomer parents, Gen Z children and Millennial grown children, many plan to work after retirement. Although they have paid off large debts and have greatly contributed to the economy and other generations, recent statistics also indicate that they have the greatest amount of overall debt. Gen X is the group of population most at risk for future financial troubles, and appear to be in a more desperate financial situation than younger generations.

More About Gen X:

  • Last generation to enter workplace at young age & find indepence:
    Last generation to remember life before computers or cellphones
    Embraced technology & innovation as collaborators & adaptors
    Survived market crashes including major foreclosure crisis & modern recession


  • Highly educated, most comparable to Millennials:
    Many achieved degrees before online learning was an option
    Majority of student loan debts have been paid over time
    Many now have co-signed student loans for Millennial children


  • Although smaller in number, they’re influencers:
    Account for more than 50% of leadership roles globally
    Have more spending power than other generations
    Represent larger percentage of U.S. income vs their population


  • Carry the most Overall Debt:
    (401)k’s replaced pensions mid-career
    Social Security benefits not promising mid-career
    Caring for elderly Boomer parents & Gen Z children
    Supporting Millennial adult children

    Millennials (Gen Y)

    Millennials, born 1980-1994, and are smaller in number than the proceeding generation called “Gen Z.” Like Gen X, Millennials are an educated group with more women holding college degrees than men. Like Boomers, this group is more outspoken than Gen X. Several things make this group unique; their diversity, connection to social media, fast population growth, and initial delay entering the workforce. The impact of immigration has made this the most diverse generation in U.S. history. Some sources extend the term “Millennials” into two parts called (Y.1) and (Y.2) Doing this increases their population numbers, as well as the amount of debt. Extreme immigration influx could continue to expand this this part of the population and contribute to generations of debt yet to come. Currently, the main financial concern is student loan repayment. Following Gen X & Baby Boomers; Millennials have 3rd highest average debt amount. However, this generation has the potential to save the most. Millennials have much time and should be well-prepared for the future. They are young professionals working in a strong economy with historically more career choices and jobs.

    More About Millennials (GEN Y):

  • More prepared for future:
    Live at home longer & marry later than previous generations
    Never had pensions & never planned for social security
    Started investing & using (401)ks at onset of career
    Have more time & earning capacity to repay debts
    Investing more over longer period of time
  • Due to immigration:
    They are more diversified than previous generations
    Population & debt could continue to rise
  • More skills & opportunities:
    Using modern technology from beginning; tech savvy
    Socially connected; Facebook is most used social platform
    Enjoy a better economic environment than previous generations
    Many job opps in nursing, engineering, software, sales, etc.
    New opportunities in areas that involve virtual, social, and digital
    Only one main source of debt and that is student loans
    Education has more learning options & more careers available than before in U.S. history
  • Student Loan Debt:
    College continues to become more costly with each generation
    Millennials represent a larger, younger population in post-secondary education
    Some students are taking longer to graduate; more years attending college
    Some degree programs don’t equate to desired living wages
    Some are not paying loans; placing them in deferment
    More students starting and not finishing degrees; leaving them with loan debt

    Comparing Generations Of Debt

    Groups of people lead to generations of debt. Generational cohorts are the generational categories that mostly group populations by age. (Baby Boomer, Gen X, Millennials, Gen Z, etc.) Many sources go a step further using cohorts to explain the financial challenges, attitudes, trends, and other struggles that may change from one generation to the next. In recent years, much of the buzz has been about Millennials; most notably their struggle with student loan debt. Yet after sifting through a plethora of easily accessible yet differing facts and opinions, generations of debt exist. The problems are more complex than student loan debt in itself. Generations like Gen X, are impacted greatly by  those who came both before and after. It’s also important to note that generations as they are labeled traditionally represent populations that span anywhere from fourteen to twenty years. That is a long period of time with many moving parts and unique situations. People within the generational categories discussed in this article may or may not represent the general attitudes, problems or ideas of which they are labeled.

    Common Generational Characteristics

    Every generation from Baby Boomers, to Gen X to Millennials to Gen Z have more commonalities than differences. For example, each generation of debt has periods of progression, failure, unique circumstances, and challenges to overcome. All groups can note technical advancements, political unrest, family dynamics, shifts in culture, medical crises, world events, economic ups & downs, etc. Cost of education rises with each generation as do opportunities and new career fields. Characteristics of each generation of debt may have different complexities but in general, they deal with similar issues. Interestingly, research data will often compare “The Silent Generation,” (group previous to Baby Boomers), to Millennials to make a more drastic comparison. Yet the differences between each “back to back” generation continues to be less significant. Debt that leads to bankruptcy is never expected and can sneak up on anyone at any time. Population numbers will impact each generation, as will factors such as jobs, education and debt. The primary difference between generations is found within attitudes, expectations, and responses.

    Sources: Pew Research, Experian, Marketwatch, Statista, Inc, Washington Post, Breitbart, Forbes, Nerdwallet, Investopedia, USNews, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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