Generation X: often ignored but not forgotten

Bernard Salt, Partner in Charge, Demographics

I feel sorry for Generation X. Aged 35 through to 50 they are right slap bang in the middle of the toughest part of life. Peak career, peak kids, peak mortgage, a tough time in life and Generation X are sailing through these years without any recognition at all. It’s all about the baby boomers, well over 50 or the baby boomers kids under the age of 35. But Generation X have suffered in silence.

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Bernard Salt


29 thoughts on “Generation X: often ignored but not forgotten

  1. As a gen ‘x’er I am grateful that I get to be living between 2 worlds – the age of the corporate dinosaur (we all know what that means) and the age of technology. I love this new world but am very aware that if I don’t, I will be left behind. Embrace it don’t waste it!

  2. The issue as an older Xer is I was brought up in the world of permanent jobs and pensions. I have not had a permanent job for the last 15 years. I have casual contracts and renovate / sub-divide houses for income. It is what I ended up doing to make a job. My wife has never had a permanent job, all casual or on own ABN.

    I am a 50, so i will never again have a permanent job, I am fit, look 5 years younger and have a wife of 39, we have 2 children 10 and 8. We live out of town in Tasmania, We are classic Xers, self employed, private schools for kids, health insurance, modest cars and shop mainly in Op Shops, except for underpants and socks all my clothes are Op.Shop, and about the same for my wife.

    We are to be honest poorer than the Tenured staff I work with, who are Boomers.

    I have had bouts of bitterness, but I have good Boomer friends and a Millennial sister in law, it is the way of the world today. The wealth divide between the rich and poor is getting greater both inside the nations and globally. (see Peter Nolan on China etc or Fourth Turning).

    We just plug along, more likely to be self employed, pragmatic rather than idealistic, hard bitten ( am happily married, but know if I had not lost a job and house in a recession my first marriage would most likely have worked).

    I fear the Fourth Turning is just getting into full swing now. We live on a few acres, had home reared goose for Christmas, with mainly our veggies; I feel like we are living like my grandparents, but with better technology. I think Mr.Salt should not hold his breath for Xers to plug any large Boomer financial gaps in retirement, I am not sure I have much money to pay that much tax on!!

  3. thanks Bernard, I always understood that X’s started at 1962 1963, I certainly am NOT a baby boomer. Don’t fit that demographic.
    And so agree with being the forgotten generation. Watched as management pale, stale male baby boomer skipped Gen X and went to the Y’s (why).
    At the end of the day, we all add value I am sure (and I see/hear it) the +65 yo feels forgotten. I choose to not let myself be forgotten.

  4. Generation X while you feel sorry for them – have had a pretty good run of it (from Treasury) – The average annual growth of real GDP is projected to be 2.8 per cent over the next 40 years compared with 3.1 per cent over the past 40 years. Average annual growth in real GDP per person is projected to be 1.5 per cent over the next 40 years compared with 1.7 per cent over the past 40 years.

    This is compounded with the fact that (again from Treasury) it is important to acknowledge that the past 40 years include an unprecedented 23 year stretch of unbroken economic growth that is continuing. (this is of benefit to Gen X). This has only been matched by one other advanced country, the Netherlands, which experienced close to a 27 year stretch of unbroken economic growth between 1981 and 2008.

  5. Dear Baby Boomers,

    Please know you have nothing to fear from Gen X. We’ll provide you with all the aged care and nursing home services you require in your twilight years over the coming decades because it is the right thing to do.

  6. Really Bernard, a very selective reading of history. And a little patronising. I know, it’s tongue in cheek. But GenX were never silent. Despite being squeezed, as you say, they were also active and influential. No complaints? Generation X have suffered in silence? Have you never heard Nirvana? Or Billy Bragg? or Tracy Chapman? Or forgotten the pro-democracy protests around the world against the World Trade Organization (sic) meeting in Seattle in 1999 and against the WEF in Melbourne 2000? Their actions changed minds. The steamroller of globalisation was slowed and had to be re-jigged and re-imagined as a result. Even Peter Costello – hardly a radical – had to acknowledge the protests. “If policy makers think that they can ignore public opinion, I think we would be making a rather large mistake,” he said, at the Melbourne WEF meeting.

    “We can talk about the benefits of an open trading system, but let’s remember that the last opportunity to put some detail on that was in Seattle and it was a failure.”

  7. Born in the wrong time

    - Edit


    I hate this labeling stuff. I am 34 so techincally not gen x but I have way more in common with them than other generations. I dont have facebook or twitter. I like talking on phone, not texting. I want to buy a home someday and am saving up to do so. But somehow I have more in common with gen y because my birthday was a certain time? Please, most of the young kids have mo social skills, cant hold a conversation, bury themselves in distractions, and then expect to be given stuff for showing up. I never got a participation trophy, and if i did my parents never gave it to me. But i did get championship trophys on teams because we worked hard and earned it. I walked to school everyday. I show up to everything at least ten minutes early. Labels are dumb.

  8. Bernard fails to mention that property ownership was far easier (cheaper) and that they’ve enjoyed the largest capital gains of any generation, leaving most of them millionaires.

    1. Realist – I bought my first property when interest rates were at the highest they have ever been in this country and was earning $35K when I was 24 and the economy was difficult. So I don’t accept that comment for one minute – I worked hard and saved – it wasn’t easy or cheaper.

  9. Thank you for a heart warming article! I have often thought about this. We are the “middle”… those that came just after the beatles and peace and love, smack in the middle of Wham and the amazing mobile phone and now living through justin bibier and make you dinner via a 3d image!! and here we are handling it so so well for a “before and after” generation! Three cheers Generation X!

  10. I do recall just recently Bernard referred to Generation X as the “Bitter” generation…just wonder what if anything has changed his opinion. Underappreciated is at least an improvement in the right direction.

    1. I’d say “bitter” is a fair comment. As a Gen Xer, I can say that bitter, is a fair characterization at times. We have not universally been “celebrated” as the Millenials are. Our contributions have been often overlooked, we’ve been somewhat taken for granted with our ability to bridge the technology gap by adopting it and moving it forward without actually being raised with a ton of it as kids entering the workforce now are.

      I got my first computer ever, in 1997. I’ll take underappreciated, are you ready to hand it over to the Gen Y/Millennials to run?

      good luck

  11. You forgot to mention that gen x had kids before the baby bonus and bought a house while there was a hiatus with the first home buyers grant

  12. Generation X has a lot more to do with the current mess the world is in than they think. The Boomers may have messed things up, but Gen X are the one teaching Millennials that self-obsession is the highest mark of cultural capital while oblivious to their own level of privilege. Even in this lighthearted post, Bernard is talking about a peak mortgage (good luck getting on the property ladder in your 20s and 30s now), peak kids etc – things many Gen Y’s want but through no fault of their own, can’t achieve. It’s not all golden for people of any age and I am sure Gen X’ers have their struggles – but the funniest thing here was the irony. Congratulating Gen X’s for simply being born within a specific time frame while managing to make plenty of cultural and ageist assumptions. I laughed at the video and it is funny, but there’s more than a little bit of underlying fear that the times they are a changin’ and perhaps that’s scaring some Gen X’ers who maybe aren’t as on the pulse as they once were? ;p

    1. Faye – I’m a Gen X’er and I can’t relate to the “fear” you say I should feel. I’m actually quite content with my lot in life at present despite all the “peak” features and the challenges they bring and I also realise that there are countless people across the world who would happily trade places with me. To me this article is really about Baby Boomers acknowledging they are getting old and “passing the baton.

  13. I am in Generation X and … yeah…. I don’t want any pity. Generation X gets less recognition because the demographic is smaller than the Boomers and Millenials – but this is mainly due to how the generations are defined. Boomers were born between 1946-1964 (19 years). Millenials were born between 1981-1998 (18 years). Generation X was born between 1965 – 1980 (16 years).

    The main differences I see between Generation X and the Millenials is 1.) how the two generations were parented; and 2.) the technology the X’ers grew up with (PCs) vs. Millenials (internet connected devices).

    Generation X’ers were the latch-key kids. This is when divorce rates were very high and women were entering the workforce in large numbers. Generation X would often come home from school to a parentless house, and the older siblings often took on the role of parent to the younger siblings during late afternoon/early evening hours. The Generation X children were not the center of attention.

    Generation Y had hovering helicopter parents. Life revolved around the children and their activities. It was quite a different parenting style, and this of course would cause differences between the generations. The stereotype is that Generation X is more independent and aloof but also more innovative and creative. Millenials are more social and team oriented. They are also better multi-taskers – maybe due to all of the activities they participated in as children and also due to the technology that was available.

  14. Pingback: ‘Can I get you a pillow, Gen Y?’ - My Express

    1. Agree with the above comment, I have felt this way all too often. Like a middle child, we (Gen X) are the ones between two generations (Boomers, Gen Y or Millennials) that spend a lot of time and energy focusing on themselves.

  15. As a member of GenX, I recognise what Bernard is saying, but I doubt many of us see ourselves as suffering. We have strong memories of what our parents and grandparents had to live through, and I think our generation is just grateful we actually live relatively serene lives by comparison. I think we’re the thankful generation.

      1. Agreed. Generation Y or the Millennials do get a lot of the attention but we Xers just carry on. Personally I am happy to be invisible and just get on with it, our generation are just happy to get on with it as we’re not very motivated by self promotion unlike the Boomers and Yers. Or maybe I’m just hopeful! 😉

        Either which way my parents as those who lived through the war, reconstruction and the family years of the 70s and 80s had it tougher as did their parents. I tip my hat to them!

    1. I agree with this as a Gen Xer. The aspect of this article that is almost condescending is the assumption we deserve pity. The reason we are so “silent” as you put it is that we don’t need or want pity and are happy to get on with our lives whatever they bring.

  16. It seems every generation feels much maligned. Perhaps if we stopped putting people into boxes, and levelling the playing field, there would be less whinging. Every generation has new and different challenges and opportunities. Regardless of the generation, respect for each other is the key.

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