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Here Are the Top Financial Goals of Every Generation

Workers from different generations at an office
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Everyone goes through different stages in life. Financial goals morph to reflect that and are influenced by economic trends, cultural changes and individual needs. What’s important to someone in their 20s isn’t always the same as someone in their 40s.

Empower, a financial services company, surveyed more than 2,500 working Americans between the ages of 18 and 70 for their latest annual retirement plan participant study. Their findings show just how much financial goals can vary by generation and circumstance.

A major influence on financial goals today is inflation, pushing 35% of Americans to make plans to increase their retirement account contributions. However, members of Generation Z are saving 43% less than baby boomers.

Another example of how financial circumstances differ by generation: Millennials are more likely to be hindered by child care costs than Gen Zers or baby boomers when saving for retirement.

Read on for a breakdown of each generation’s top financial goals, according to Empower’s survey.

Generation Z

Generation Z at work
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How the survey defines this generation: People born in 1996 or later

The financial goals most often cited by survey respondents in this generation are:

  1. Paying off debt (cited by 37%)
  2. Saving for retirement (28%)
  3. Making ends meet (26%)

Empower notes that Generation Z is entering the workforce at an economically difficult time, pushing retirement down on their list of priorities. This generation is also furthest away from retirement, but bringing down their debt and getting their everyday finances in order can help them get there.

Millennials

Couple discussing finances
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How the survey defines this generation: People born between 1983 and 1995

The financial goals most often cited by survey respondents in this generation are:

  1. Saving for retirement (cited by 41%)
  2. Paying off debt (37%)
  3. Making ends meet (25%)

Millennials are all about planning ahead, with a big focus on making sure they’re set for retirement. In fact, they are more confident in their retirement readiness than any other generation, including older generations.

Generation X

Woman working a computer
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How the survey defines this generation: People born between 1965 and 1982

The financial goals most often cited by survey respondents in this generation are:

  1. Saving for retirement (cited by 58%)
  2. Paying off debt (42%)
  3. Building an emergency fund (23%)

Gen X has an even greater emphasis on saving for retirement than millennials. And being more established in the workforce, they are more focused on building a safety net than they are on life’s basic expenses. In fact, they are the only generation for whom building an emergency fund is a top financial goal.

Baby boomers

Older man making a list and working on his laptop at home office
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How the survey defines this generation: People born between 1946 and 1964

The financial goals most often cited by survey respondents in this generation are:

  1. Saving for retirement (cited by 74%)
  2. Paying off debt (34%)
  3. Preserving existing investment savings (24%)

More experienced with fiscal responsibility, this generation puts the most importance on safeguarding what they’ve worked so hard to build, compared with the other generations. Diligently focusing on protecting their wealth will help them achieve their No. 1 goal.

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