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Remember Generation X?
Tuesday, January 17, 2017 6:40 AM

Doug Foister, Vice President of Research, Cornerstone Credit Union League

Even before Millennials and Baby Boomers captured the current generational spotlight, Gen Xers, those born between 1967 and 1981, were known as the forgotten generation. This age cohort, the oldest of whom will be turning 50 this year and the youngest 36, have also been labeled, among other things, as the latchkey kids and the middle-child generation. Consistent with these labels, many marketers have historically tended to neglect Gen X. Fortunately, this is beginning to change.

Why Credit Unions Must Not Overlook Gen X
As author Sean McDonald notes about Gen X…

  • Many are either getting married or have recently married.
  • Many are looking to buy a home.
  • The younger half of the demographic is starting families.
  • The elder half may be looking for a little financial assistance since their children are heading to college.
  • Gen Xers are in the midst of their working lives.
  • Gen X makes up a significant segment of social media users as well as online banking and mobile banking users.

Others point out that Gen Xers have become the influencers. They are taking management roles at work and mentoring their younger coworkers. They are in their peak earning and spending years. In addition, they are among the most highly educated generation in the U.S. In fact, 35 percent have college degrees versus 19 percent of Millennials.

Significantly, the Wall Street Journal reports, “Brokerages have been angling to prepare for a multi-trillion dollar shift of wealth from one generation to the next, in part by trying to make themselves more attractive to Millennials. But new research shows that Gen X… will be the main holders of wealth for decades before the Millennials get their turn.”

Gen X Has Its Struggles

Gen X faces some unique challenges that credit unions should bear in mind. Ana Sophia Martin, a Forbes contributor, relates that “although they have purchasing power (31 percent of U.S. income, but just 25 percent of the population), Gen Xers have less wealth than their parents did at their age, 25 years ago. This is partly due to lingering college debts. Also: the cost of caring for their parents and kids.”

It’s also true that many Gen Xers have not adequately saved for retirement. Clearly, these facts can translate into opportunities for credit unions to step in and help.

Marketing to Gen X
Journalist Amy Hubbard, herself a “proud member of Gen X,” encourages credit unions to “appeal to our sense of family, self-care, and our desire to play it safe. We grew up in uncertain times and want a financial institution that will be there to help us, not just offer us loans and credit cards. Provide us educational opportunities for financial planning, savings accounts with good interest rates and low monthly fees. We don’t respond well to hard sells, so show us how we can set goals for saving and overall financial stability… an institution can best engage us by being our advocate.”

Meredith Olmstead, a marketing consultant, suggests that credit unions should “stop selling and start nurturing Gen Xers with useful, accurate, and reliable information that can help them improve their financial lives… When we think of Generation X for our clients, we think of them more in terms of their pain points at their stage of life and their persona.”

Summing It Up
Meeting the financial needs of Gen Xers can not only produce increased growth and profitability, it can provide much needed help to an important and influential segment of your members. It will be wise not forget the “forgotten generation.”   

About Cornerstone Research
From statistical summaries to community feedback and even comprehensive economic profiles, the Cornerstone Credit Union League is committed to expanding your credit union's knowledge and wisdom through the sharing of extensive research. We devote a great amount of time in researching the environment for you and reporting on it through the use of studies, presentations, and white papers. For more information, please contact Doug Foister at