The majority of Gen Xers are currently at their peak productivity in both their personal and work lives, and are gaining valuable life experience along the way. Many are also facing the stresses that come with middle-age, however, from starting new families to helping young adult children to caring for aging parents. At the same time, they may be assuming increasing responsibilities at work. Such life stressors incurred by “sandwich generations” have been well documented.
The upside is that Gen Xers may be especially motivated by their family’s needs to make good choices and put plans in place that will help them live well into old age. Taking smart steps now through exercise, nutrition, community engagement and savings habits will lay the groundwork for good health, social connectedness and financial security in their later years.
Consider the following: A 45-year-old female non-smoker who reports being in excellent health has more than a 50 percent chance of living another 45 years to age 90, a 37 percent chance of living to age 95 and nearly a 20 percent chance of living to age 100, according to the Society of Actuaries. A 45-year-old man with similar characterstics has a 45 percent chance of living to age 90, a 27 percent chance of living to age 95 and an 11 percent chance of living to age 100.
Unlike their grandparents and prior generations, many Gen Xers will live for a few more decades, so it may be well worth their time and effort to make mid-life adjustments to give themselves the best chance of not just living long but living well. Employers, financial institutions and advisers all have helpful roles to play in the process.
Compelling scientific evidence indicates that living long and living well is most realistic for individuals who take steps throughout their lives towards optimizing three key domains: healthy living, social engagement and financial security. Members of Gen X in particular may benefit from assessing their current circumstances and resources to make well-informed decisions about:
- Maintaining and enhancing their job skills and contacts to maximize gainful employment for two to four more decades.
- Earning sufficient income in the next few decades to support their current cash-flow needs as well as a sufficient allocation for a longer retirement than previous generations.
- Exploring how they can build and maintain their social networks, particularly their extended family and community-based groups.
- Developing a savings and investment program for financial security in their retirement years, including setting a realistic, perhaps older age for eventual transition from the workforce.
- Protecting against potentially devastating health and disability events, as they move towards older age, where such risks increase significantly.
- Taking steps to improve their health and manage potentially rising health care costs for themselves and their aging parents.
- Investigating how they can finance their children’s college education without incurring significant debt and jeopardizing other financial goals.
With respect to the last point mentioned above, the Sightlines Project highlights the substantial student loan debt Millennials have accrued, which may be of significant importance to older Gen Xers whose children are approaching their college years.
The Stanford Center on Longevity’s Sightlines Project provides a helpful checklist of goals people can work towards or maintain. For a complete checklist, see the “Action Plan” brief. The sections below provide more details for Gen X on the issues for each of the three domains.