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How Different Generations Are Saving for Retirement

Employer-sponsored plans are popular investment choices for millennials, Gen Xers, and baby boomers.

The year before Abraham Lincoln took office, businessman Milton Bradley introduced what today is called The Game of Life. Maybe you played it as a child, whizzing your tiny plastic car across a colorful gameboard, making decisions about grown-up issues like college, careers, marriage, children, and investing. The game ends at retirement and, depending on luck and strategy, your journey could take you to Millionaire Acres. If you’ve amassed more money than the other players, congratulations! You’ve won The Game of Life.

When it comes to real-life retirement, Millionaire Acres is just a board game fantasy for most. But millions of Americans across the generations are working to create scalable versions of that dream by investing in a 401(k) or similar long-term savings plan to help fund a secure, comfortable retirement.

How Different Generations Are Saving for Retirement

In its 19th annual retirement survey, the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies looked at the attitudes and savings behaviors of three generations of full- and part-time workers: millennials, born between 1979 and 2000; Generation Xers, born between 1965 and 1978; and baby boomers, born between 1946 and 1964. In all groups, individuals said they expect to live and work longer.

Find out how workers are preparing for their golden years with these key takeaways from What Is “Retirement”? Three Generations Prepare for Older Age:1

Millennials

“Millennial workers … are a digital do-it-yourself generation of retirement savers. Millennials are getting an early and strong start with their retirement savings. Seventy-one percent are saving for retirement through an employer-sponsored 401(k) or similar plan and/or outside of work. They began saving for retirement at age 24 (median), an age that is younger than prior generations,” write survey authors Catherine Collinson, Patti Rowey, and Heidi Cho.

“Among those who are participating in a 401(k) or similar plan through their employer, millennials are contributing 10% (median) of their annual salaries. More than half (53%) expect their primary source of retirement income to be self-funded through retirement accounts (e.g., 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs) or other savings and investments. Millennials have saved $23,000 in all household retirement accounts (estimated median).”

Generation X

“Generation X … entered the workforce in the late 1980s just as 401(k) plans were making their first appearance, and defined benefit plans were beginning to disappear. Generation X workers are the first generation to have had access to 401(k) plans for the majority of their working careers; they have relatively high plan participation rates, but many should be saving more. For better or worse, some have taken loans and early withdrawals. Their retirement confidence is lacking, and many are behind on their savings. However, they can still improve their long-term prospects by saving more, investing wisely, and engaging in retirement planning,” the authors say.

“Seventy-seven percent of Generation X workers are saving for retirement in a company-sponsored 401(k) or similar plan and/or outside of the workplace. They started saving for retirement at age 30 (median). Among those who participate in a 401(k) or similar plan through their employer, they contribute 8% (median) of their annual salaries. … Generation X workers have saved $66,000 in all household retirement accounts (estimated median). Only 14% are ‘very confident’ that they will be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle.”

Baby Boomers

“Baby boomers … have rewritten societal rules at every stage of their life—and retirement is no different. They are at the forefront of defining retirement as a new phase in life that can bring freedom, purpose, and enjoyment. Seven in 10 baby boomer workers (69%) either expect to or already are working past age 65 or do not plan to retire,” according to the report’s authors.

“Many baby boomers were already mid-career when the retirement landscape shifted from defined benefit plans to 401(k) or similar plans, so they have not had a full 40-year time horizon to save in 401(k)s. Currently, 78% of baby boomer workers are saving for retirement in a company-sponsored 401(k) or similar plan and/or outside the workplace, and they started saving at age 35. Among those participating in an employer-sponsored 401(k) or similar plan, they are saving 10% (median) of their annual salaries. Baby boomers have saved $152,000 in all household retirement accounts (estimated median).”

Start Your Journey to Retirement

It can be discouraging to measure your progress against another’s. Remember, savings abilities are tied to every individual’s income and expenses, so there’s no investment template that suits all needs. Because it can sometimes feel like you need a finance degree to navigate investment choices, chartered financial analysts and other finance professionals can help educate you and devise, implement, and monitor strategies to grow your nest egg. But as the key player in your real-life version of The Game of Life, you’re at the wheel, setting and adjusting savings goals as you travel your career path.

“When it comes to saving, it’s all about getting into a habit, and about that habit becoming automatic,” says Dian Vujovich, financial author, lecturer, and publisher at AllAboutFunds.com. “At first, the dollar amount isn’t as important as the habit. But as you earn more money, the dollar amount needs to get higher and higher.”

A Finance Degree Can Help You Help Others

If you’re passionate about helping retirement-savers make smart investment decisions, you may want to consider an online graduate degree program.

In Walden University’s MS in Finance degree program, you’ll gain hands-on preparation for the Chartered Financial Analyst (CFA®) exam, Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)* exam, or Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) qualification exams. Depending on the specialization you choose, you will take a simulated certification exam as your capstone project.

A finance degree also can prepare you for a wide range of professional and management positions, including:

  • Budget analyst
  • Financial analyst
  • Chief financial officer 
  • Financial manager
  • Investment banker
  • Treasury manager  

The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) forecasts steady to strong job growth in many of the finance career fields through 2028. It projects businesses will add 104,700 financial manager jobs to the economy2 and 20,300 financial analyst jobs.3

An online MS in Finance program can help position you for meaningful work in an expanding profession and help you chart your course to a rewarding career.

Walden University is an accredited institution offering an MS in Finance degree program online with three specializations. Expand your career options and earn your degree using a convenient, flexible learning platform that fits your busy life.

1Source: https://transamericacenter.org/docs/default-source/retirement-survey-of-workers/tcrs2019_sr_what_is_retirement_by_generation.pdf
2Source: www.bls.gov/ooh/management/financial-managers.htm
3Source: www.bls.gov/ooh/business-and-financial/financial-analysts.htm

*CERTIFIED FINANCIAL PLANNER™ and CFP® are certification marks owned by Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (“CFP Board”). Walden University’s MS in Finance program is not a CFP Board-Registered Program and is not in any way sponsored or endorsed by, or otherwise affiliated with, CFP Board.

Note on Certification

The MS in Finance with Certified Financial Planner™ (CFP®)* Certification Emphasis is a specialized program with coursework that is aligned with the content covered in the competency-based CFP® exam. Walden Enrollment Specialists can provide general information relating to CFP® certification exam requirements; however, it remains the individual’s responsibility to understand, evaluate, and comply with all requirements relating to certification exams for the state in which he or she intends to practice. Walden makes no representations or guarantee, however, that completion of Walden coursework or programs will permit an individual to obtain CFP® certification. For more information about the CFP® exam, students should visit www.cfp.net/become-a-cfp-professional/cfp-certification-requirements.

Walden University is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, www.hlcommission.org.

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