I found this in my spam e-mail box today. It’s not spam, it’s marketing from Charles Schwab. The message is interesting enough for me to post because it brings up a nuanced topic: personality categorization. When the media invokes the term “Generation X,” they’re referring to a certain age group in which everyone has enough in common with everyone else to justify generalizations.
According to Wikipedia’s entry on Generation X, this particular group of individuals invoke the descriptions of “apathetic, cynical, disaffected, streetwise loners and slackers.” The entry goes on: “Generation X was generally marked early on by its lack of optimism for the future, nihilism, cynicism, skepticism, alienation and distrust in traditional values and institutions.” The outlook doesn’t seem very positive.
The Charles Schwab study doesn’t attempt to group all of Generation X into one category. They managed to find six separate groups pertaining to attitudes towards life and money. Here’s what they found. I left out some of supporting statistics, but they are interesting
Money Mindset One: Paycheck to Paychecks. By far the largest group representing 25 percent of Gen Xers, members of this predominately female group are extremely stressed about their personal and professional lives. They are less confident than any other group about having a bright future, and are twice as likely to be unsettled and pessimistic about their financial situations.
Money Mindset Two: Spend Now, Pay Laters. Seventeen percent of Gen Xers fall into this category of predominately city dwellers that tend to be optimistic, yet somewhat unrealistic about their futures. Overwhelmingly male (77 percent), this group is incurring significant debt, and believes that Social Security will be there for them when they retire.
Money Mindset Three: Confident and Risk-Tolerants. Representing 15 percent of the overall Gen X population, members of this group have high incomes, active lifestyles and high levels of engagement in their financial future. They are more likely to be married, and believe that by taking risks they can reach lofty financial and lifestyle goals.
Money Mindset Four: No Money, No Worries. This group represents 15 percent of the Gen X population. They are at the bottom of the earnings spectrum yet are very optimistic about life. They are more likely to be single, consider investing risky, and have the fewest number of credit cards. This group also has very little trust in financial firms or advisors.
Money Mindset Five: Cautious Savers. Approximately 14 percent of the Gen X population, this group tends to be financially conservative and concerned about money, highly educated and financially secure, yet is late to adopt new products. They are also more likely focused on home and family than they are on having active social lives.
Money Mindset Six: Overwhelmed but Optimistics. Predominately female, these Gen Xers have significant debt, adjustable rate mortgages, and high rates of financially-induced irritability or anxiety. Despite this, they manage to stay positive about their futures. This group represents 13 percent of the Gen X population.
Six categories are better than one. I think they’ve managed to capture all attitudes, but it would be more interesting to compare the findings with categorizations of different age groups. Is Generation Y different?
Image credit: aaronmerrell
Supremely Confident to Super Stressed: Landmark Gen X Study From Schwab Uncovers Six Distinct Financial Mindsets [Charles Schwab]
Updated February 6, 2012 and originally published February 12, 2008.