The Trials and Tribulation of the Most Overlooked Generation

 
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    About

     July 8 2018 09:07:44 AM

    The Gen X Mess is a blog devoted to discussing the financial plight of the most overlooked generation in America. For purposes of this blog, I am defining Gen X as those born in the United States between the years 1965 to 1975. These are not hard and fast dates. Some of the phenomena I intend to highlight affect people a little older and a little younger. Gen X is a time, place and attitude, not necessarily a date.

    I started this blog because of the lack of help (i.e. press coverage, legislation, professional services) available to help us navigate a treacherous and skewed American financial system. Back in 2012, I came to the realization that so many of the systems, and institutions in our society are geared toward serving older groups. As time goes on, I see more services for younger groups as well. What about us?

    The first step to solving any problem is recognition. 2012 was the year that I realized how much trouble we are in, as a group, as a function of timing, not personal performance. You, fellow Gen Xer, could be the most careful and prudent saver, investor, consumer etc. and yet, I see no way that you are not worse off than previous generations currently alive today.

    While that alone is an important fact to recognize, perhaps even more important is the role of personal responsibility and blame, rather than the inherent flaws in thinking and design of our institutions and systems. Some of the ideas that are impoverishing us and creating lowered expectations were put in place when we were teenagers. We are not even agents in our own downfall.

    Our leaders, both political and economic, are not fixing the problems. In fact, due to the outsize role of personal responsibility, I believe they have blamed ordinary people, instead of acknowledging the systemic nature of the mess that has been made.

    My hope for this blog is to raise and discuss important issues for Gen X as they relate to our financial future, past and present. I plan to have some posts that just showcase some of my ideas; others will comment on current events as they affect us.

    I hope this is information you can use, and discuss, with your other Gen X friends. I look forward to thought-provoking conversation.

      Gen-Xer Confronts the College-Industrial Complex

       July 8 2018 09:07:21 AM

      Remember the bad old days when we went to college?  Reagan was president.  Madonna was on the radio.  I want my MTV!  We still had cassette tapes.  We did not have the Internet!  And we did not miss it.

      You know, I remember some other things, too.  I remember that college tuition was costly but possible to pay for.  I think I knew one person who didn’t graduate in four years – she had one extra semester.  Did you know anyone who didn’t get a job after graduation?  Me, either.  Some people I knew didn’t go at all and still got jobs.

      32 years later, I run the gauntlet anew with my own son, a senior in high school.  I’m sad to say that a lot has changed, and not just because we have the Internet.

      I think the process has become a lot more complicated.  I know the tuition costs have virtually exploded — it’s much more expensive than in 1986.  If the millennials are any guide, our kids can graduate in a lot of debt, without a job, and in longer than four years.  These are simply the facts.

      My strategy here is the same one I am using to confront a whole bunch of social and financial problems that I didn’t cause.  Go cheap.  Be skeptical.  Make the kid live at home.  Save money.  If it costs more and is worth less than in our time, that is a bad deal.

      Above all, don’t pay Baby Boomer prices for Gen X product.

        Thoughts for the New Year 2018

         July 8 2018 09:06:34 AM

        I am not much a new year’s resolution maker, and this year is particularly difficult. As all of you savvy Gen Xers know, the new tax bill has been signed into law. I am a blue state resident and are concerned about the inevitable fallout from this.

        More problematic than my own selfish tax issues, are the additions to the deficit and absolutely no positive fixes in place for Social Security and
        Medicare, two issues that should concern you greatly if you are an Xer.
        Whatever your political persuasion, I simply do not think it is fair to force us to contribute when there is so much uncertainty as to whether, and what amount, we will collect.

        Just for fun, I went on the Social Security web site to plan for my retirement and found a link called Retirement Estimator. About halfway down the page, it notifies us as follows:

        “Your estimated benefits are based on current law. The law governing benefit amounts may change because, by 2034, the payroll taxes collected will be enough to pay only about 79 cents for each dollar of scheduled benefits.”

        So, if you are born in 1968, as I am, Social Security, as of now, will be paying less than the full benefit when I turn 66. I may be able to collect the full benefit for one year. After that… well, no promises. Of course, I contributed the full amount since, around 1982. I guess that’s my reward for hard work and honest tax compliance.

        Approximately 3 million other people were born here in the United states in 1968. All of you, like I, will not be collecting what we are entitled to.

        Sobering thoughts for a sobering time. Happy New Year!