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Generational Financial Differences

Three generations


Summer is here and many families are getting together for reunions. Many generations celebrate their past while creating new memories. But although they all grew up in the same family, how they got to be who they are was not only influenced by family values and circumstances, but by the periods they grew up in. A person who grew up during the silent generation had a far different experience than the person who matured in the new millennium, especially dealing with financial issues. Instant credit didn’t exist and if you needed money, an ATM wasn’t an option; you had to wait until a bank opened to get it. Imagine what the conversation would sound like between these two family members if they were to discuss how easy ‘kids’ have it today.

This month, Apprisen takes a simplistic look at the different generational views on finances, lessons we have learned and steps to move forward towards a stronger financial future for everyone, regardless of the year you were born in.

The Silent Generation or Traditionalists – 1927-1946

Most individuals in this group grew up in hard economic times. There were wars going on and the economy was in crisis. High inflation and, often times, shortages in food and other supplies were a challenge for most families. This forced most people to live within their means and be frugal with their money.  

Lesson Learned: Be prudent in your spending habits and only buy what you need.

Baby Boomers – 1946-1964

Many in this generation watched their parents struggle to make ends meet, however, the post war economy allowed them to flourish.  Income levels were at their peak, and people were reaping the benefits. A majority of boomers got in the habit of instant gratification, instead of saving up for what they wanted, they put it on credit. Saving and investing were not a priority for many, leading to a financial downfall when the economy once again collapsed. According to the 2011 Associated Press and survey, 60% lost value in investments because of the economic crisis.

Lesson Learned: Use credit wisely and don’t spend more than you earn. 

Generation X – 1965-1981

Generation X came of age in an era of two-income families and rising divorce rates. This left many, as kids, home alone or in daycare which might have contributed to their independent nature. This is also the first generation who embraced entrepreneurism. They like the control of owning a business and watching it grow. Financial empowerment is important to the Xers. They are more likely to seek out information on financial matters than any other generation before them and are the first to be actively involved in planning for their retirement.

Lesson Learned: Financial education and knowledge is the key to financial success.

Millennials – After 1981

Millennials, the youngest generation in the workforce, face many economic challenges. Recently reported, one in two college graduates are either unemployed or underemployed. Couple that with record high student loan debt and high unemployment rates.  It’s no wonder that financial disaster might not be far behind. To further add to their burden, a recent Ohio State University study found a person born in this generation has credit card debt on average $5,689 higher than their parents at the same stage of life and $8,156 higher than their grandparents. However, they have the advantage of time and many more resources available then previous generations. With the advancement of information technology, they have all sorts of financial resources at their fingertips.

Lesson Learned: Control debt and spending and seek out resources to enable your financial health to improve. 

Each generation had their financial challenges and successes. But, ultimately, no matter the current economic situation, lessons have been learned and can be used to create a stronger financial future for us all. So at your next family reunion, look around the room and reflect on how each generation has been influenced by the previous ones. Start the conversation with your relatives regarding how their upbringing and the state of the world influenced their financial decisions. You just might be surprised what you find out.   


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