Born between 1965 and 1980, Gen Xers are in their early 40s to late 50s. With just 65 million among them, the generation often gets lost in the shuffle, sandwiched between the multitudes of millennials (83 million) and bountiful baby boomers (75 million).
But no one can ignore their collective wealth.
According to Visual Capitalist, the baby boomers own half of America’s $156 trillion in privately held assets — but Gen X owns 30%, the next largest share and more than the Silent Generation and millennials combined.
Same as any other generation in American history, much of their wealth is concentrated at the top in the hands of a few very rich households — and the members of those well-off Gen X households have a lot in common when it comes to how they’re not willing to waste their money.
According to the Education Data Initiative, Gen Xers carry the highest average student debt balance at $44,290 per borrower.
Saddled with nearly 57% of all combined outstanding student loans, Gen X holds more college debt than any generation and the majority of the country’s $1.63 trillion college loan balance.
That’s mostly because of when they came of age.
According to the Indeed Career Guide, “For many Gen Xers, a college education was a necessity rather than a luxury. The rise of Generation X leaving for college coincided with a decline of manufacturing jobs in the workforce. This generation used college as a means for professional advancement.”
But those who went on to build true wealth often chose nontraditional paths to intellectual betterment.
“Wealthy Gen Xers often allocate resources to experiential education for themselves and their families,” said John Browning, a 30-year Wall Street veteran, founder and CEO of Guardian Rock Wealth and author of “Build a Life, not a Portfolio: A Guide to Your Financial Future Based on Your Personal Values.”
Browning continued, “Instead of solely focusing on traditional academic pursuits, they invest in travel, cultural experiences, and skill-based workshops. This approach nurtures a holistic learning environment, fostering a well-rounded perspective that extends beyond conventional education.”
Many Gen Xers were children or came of age during the fitness craze of the 1980s. Since the demographic’s emergence coincided with the rise of the modern gym, Gen X naturally gravitated toward fitness club memberships, which tend to be expensive and often go mostly unused.
But according to Browning, the wealthiest among them opt instead for what he calls “intentional spending on health and wellness technology.”
“Health and wellness are paramount for wealthy Gen Xers, but their approach goes beyond conventional fitness memberships,” he said.
“They strategically invest in health and wellness technologies, such as personalized genetic testing, advanced fitness trackers and cutting-edge nutritional supplements. This personalized approach to well-being aligns with their commitment to long-term health and vitality.”
According to iDonate, more than half of Gen Xers — 59% — give to charity, with an average annual donation of $732.
The wealthiest among them are similarly inclined toward charitable giving, but they hitch their generosity to the pursuit of ROI that far outpaces what you’d get from a modest tax write-off of a few hundred bucks.
“Beyond traditional philanthropy, wealthy Gen Xers engage in impact investing as a form of strategic philanthropy,” said Browning.
“They invest in projects and businesses aligned with their values, contributing not only financial resources but also leveraging their influence to drive positive social and environmental change. This approach reflects a commitment to making a meaningful impact while growing their wealth.”
Studies show that Gen X remains the prime generational target for advertisers because it’s the highest-spending demographic in America, with average annual expenditures of between $80,000 and $85,000.
The top three categories involve status symbols and looking good — clothing and shoes, beauty products and electronics. But the richest middle-aged millionaires are more likely to bank their money than to wear it.
“Well-off Gen Xers avoid a couple of money mistakes — keeping up with the Joneses and blowing cash on fancy brand names,” said Rob Whaley, finance specialist at Horizon Finance Group.
“They’ve figured out that trying to match what everyone else has can empty your wallet for no good reason. Instead, they focus on being smart with their money and investing in things that grow in value. It’s all about finding value and thinking long-term, understanding that showing off or buying pricey brands doesn’t make you truly well-off.”
That pattern extends to bandwagon spending, too.
“Wealthy Gen Xers tend to avoid frivolous spending on trends or fads,” said Rory Donadio, CEO of Tribeca Capital Group. “They are more focused on saving and investing for the future.”
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