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Financial Attitudes: Charles Schwab’s Categorizations of Generation X

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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.

fight apathy, or don'tAccording 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.

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About the author

Luke Landes is the founder of Consumerism Commentary. He has been blogging and writing for the internet since 1995 and has been building online communities since 1991. Find out more about Luke Landes and follow him on Twitter. View all articles by .

{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar 1 Anonymous

I think these above categories represent just about every American Generation available. I know Boomers, Y’s, and Millenials in each of those categories, too. I’m an X’er and I think the total generalization of American Generations into group is crap – people are who they are based on personalities. Sure we are all shaped by events that take place in our lifetime, but I strongly believe that there has only been one significant eceonomic event in modern American History and that was The Great Depression. Other than that generation (which is disappearing rapidly), the rest of us have very similar, steady economic experiences.

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avatar 2 Anonymous

Give us a few years. I wouldn’t be surprised to see similar percentages for Gen Y. Or am I Gen Y?

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avatar 3 Anonymous

I agree with KC…

How many money mindsets are there? Don’t those six pretty much cover everyone of everyone generation?

If not I’d like to know what ones are left out.

Interesting that two of the mindsets reference females and not positively….i find that interesting in that I am a gen x er and find most of the females in my group more grounded than the men…but that is my personal experience….

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avatar 4 Anonymous

I think they got me figured out pretty well: Money Mindset Three. I have loft goals, I’m optimistic that I will achieve them, and I think investing aggressively is the way to get there. I’m married, socially active, [reasonably] high earning, and engaged in my financial future.

I can pretty easily categorize all of my friends into one of those six buckets.

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avatar 5 Anonymous

I would think that those 6 apply to any age group. You can see that every generation has those same groups of people in them.

It’s interesting that they are trying to target Gen X specifically, but maybe that’s because Gen Xers have the money now and are doing something about debt and other things like that.

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avatar 6 Anonymous


What was the intent of the email? To get GenXers to use their products? Just curious as I didn’t see that in your post. Thx.

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avatar 7 Anonymous

I would also add to #1 – No confidence the Social Security will be there for them!

I know…that’s me!

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avatar 8 Anonymous


As always, you have a great post. I personally know one of the web marketing guys at Charles Schwab up in San Fran. I am going to be visiting with him this weekend and I’ll ask him to find out whether or not they have similar categories for Gen Y’s. I would also imagine they’re beginning to set their sites on the screen-ager generation who will eventually inherit a world economy that exists in 0’s and 1’s and that runs strictly on plastic and digital payments.

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avatar 9 Anonymous

Those work for everyone. If anything, they just added to one they did for Baby Boomers. Credit was nonexistent for most of them. 5 years from now they’ll add “move in with and mooch off parents” for Gen Y.

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avatar 10 Anonymous

I get tired of these characterizations of Gen X by prior generations who are responsible for the predicament we’re in now. I would say that because the Baby Boomers were selfish, don’t retire to let us move up, raise prices on rents and mortgages, and used marketing and tricky credit deals, that is why we are skeptical and mistrusting. Don’t forget the state of the environment which I would blame mostly on them.

I wrote a blogpost about it a while back. Just Google “generation x is not selfish”. My post is the first search result.


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