Supremely Confident to Super Stressed: Landmark Gen X Study From Schwab Uncovers Six Distinct Financial Mindsets

Study Also Overturns Common Misperceptions About Gen Xers

Monday, February 11, 2008 5:30 am PST



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SAN FRANCISCO--(BUSINESS WIRE)--Charles Schwabs Gen X Money Mindsets Study, a segmentation study of more than 5,000 Americans aged 25-40 found that younger investors generally fall into six distinct categories based on their mindsets and attitudes toward money. The study also overturned some commonly held beliefs about Gen Xers and their attitudes toward finances, investing, and achieving the American Dream.

One of Schwabs primary goals is to better understand and serve Gen Xers, who are facing some real financial challenges, said Jonathan Craig, vice president at Charles Schwab. The generation is challenged by rising costs of healthcare and education, diminishing defined benefits through employers, and uncertainty around the future of Social Security. We wanted to dig deeper to uncover this groups attitudes when it comes to money, and better understand how these attitudes guide their behaviors.

Different Mindsets, Different Needs

The Schwab Gen X Money Mindsets Study identified six distinct Money Mindsets, each with its own lifestyle goals and financial attitudes:

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.

  • More than any other Gen Xers, Paycheck to Paychecks live on a strict budget with nothing left over to save (85 percent vs. 47 percent for all Gen Xers).
  • More than the other groups, 48 percent report financially-induced anxiety (vs. 18 percent of all Gen Xers).
  • Eighty-one percent stress about the direction of their personal lives and 67 percent are worried about the direction of their professional lives.

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.

  • While almost half (48 percent) say they have enough money and dont worry about saving for the future, 67 percent say they have too much debt to think about investing.
  • This group is almost twice as likely as any other segment to believe Social Security will be a big part of their retirement income (57 percent vs. 26 percent of all Gen Xers).
  • Sixty-one percent more than any other segment dont worry much about money and think its all going to work out.

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.

  • Almost all (96 percent) are confident their future is bright, compared with 65 percent of fellow Gen Xers.
  • More than three quarters (76 percent) are confident that someday most of their income will come from investments, versus 36 percent of Gen Xers overall.
  • Nearly eight in ten (79 percent) say that many of their successes have come because they have been willing to take risks, compared with 55 percent of fellow Gen Xers.

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.

  • While 57 percent make less than $50,000 per year, this group doesnt worry much about money.
  • On a typical day, nearly seven in ten (69 percent) spend more time thinking about their weekend plans than the state of their finances (vs. 45 percent for all Gen Xers).
  • This group is more likely than any other group to say they dont have a financial advisor because you cant trust them -- four in ten (41 percent) wont trust a broker to take care of their financial needs.

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.

  • More than eight in ten (82 percent) say they plan for the future rather than live for today.
  • Nearly seven in ten (69 percent) try to minimize risk and uncertainty in their lives (vs. 59 percent of all Gen Xers).
  • Only 16 percent think they will be in debt for the rest of their lives, compared with 35 percent of Gen Xers overall.

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.

  • Eighty percent live on very strict budgets with nothing left over to save. More than any other group, they think about their finances daily (87 percent, compared with 66 percent of all Gen Xers).
  • More than a quarter (26 percent) report financially-induced anxiety (vs. 18 percent of all Gen Xers).
  • This group is future-focused, with three quarters (75 percent) saying they have a vision of where they want to be in ten years (vs. 59 percent of all Gen Xers)

Some Common Traits

In addition to the six mindsets, the Schwab Gen X Money Mindsets Study identified several key characteristics that are held by the majority of Gen Xers. The study reveals that many Gen Xers are not characterized by skeptical attitudes, and instead favor a more traditional outlook on life and financial aspirations.

  • American Dreams: Gen Xers have often been labeled as slackers and were assumed to have rejected the traditional working-class lifestyle. However, almost two in three (64 percent) say they are focused on attaining the American Dream of family, homeownership, and financial security. Almost two in five (39 percent) would like to attain the lifestyle enjoyed by the financially successful people who surround them.
  • Drowning in Debt: Gen Xers are saddled with debt. Almost 45 percent say they have too much debt to even think about saving or investing, and more than a third (35 percent) think they will be in debt for the rest of their lives.
  • Financial Anxiety: Most Gen Xers are worried about their financial futures. Two-thirds (66 percent) admit to thinking about their finances on a daily basis, and nearly half (46 percent) also worry about the finances of their parents and siblings.
  • No Savings: Many Gen Xers report an inability to save, with nearly half (47 percent) reporting they live on a very strict budget with nothing left over to save. When asked if they are more proactive in saving for a vacation or retirement, 43 percent say they focus on saving for a big trip.
  • Little Faith in Financial Firms: Many Gen Xers do not believe financial firms can help them. More than half (51 percent) think that investment firms dont care about people like them those who dont have a lot of money. And 46 percent feel that by turning to firms and advisors, they might end up spending more money than they make.

About the Study

Few generations have been so thoroughly scrutinized and misunderstood as Generation X. The members of the MTV Generation have been consumers almost since birth, but their importance grows as they transition into investors, homeowners and parents. To provide fresh insights into this generation, Charles Schwab conducted The Gen X Money Mindsets Study it incorporates more than 2,000 online and face-to-face interviews nationally and an additional 3,000 interviews in Americas largest cities. This effort produced six unique profiles of Gen X attitudes and mindsets toward life and money and toward understanding how those mindsets guide the groups financial behaviors.

A segmentation study creates profiles of a population by using statistical analysis to define groups of individuals around certain characteristics.

About Kelton Research

Kelton Research is a full service market research consultancy with offices in Los Angeles, New York, and Washington DC. Kelton serves as a strategic partner to both Fortune 500 corporations and smaller companies, utilizing a wide range of qualitative and quantitative methodologies to drive tactical recommendations for clients. For more information about Keltons services, please call (310) 479-4040 or visit

About Charles Schwab

The Charles Schwab Corporation (Nasdaq:SCHW) is a leading provider of financial services, with more than 300 offices and 7.0 million client brokerage accounts, 1.2 million corporate retirement plan participants, 262,000 banking accounts, and $1.4 trillion in client assets. Through its operating subsidiaries, the company provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. Its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC,, and affiliates offer a complete range of investment services and products including an extensive selection of mutual funds; financial planning and investment advice; retirement plan and equity compensation plan services; referrals to independent fee-based investment advisors; and custodial, operational and trading support for independent, fee-based investment advisors through its Schwab Institutional division. The Charles Schwab Bank (member FDIC) provides banking and mortgage services and products. More information is available at (1107-8837)


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