Boomer, Gen-X, or Millennial? It affects how you see retirement

Why It Matters:

  • Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials have different visions for retirement.
  • Seventy-six percent of workers believe their generation will have a harder time achieving financial security in retirement than their parents' generation.
  • Three in four workers worry if Social Security will be around for them.

Chase Squires tkc.profilePicture Written by: Chase Squires | Transamerica
Feb. 25, 2020

6 Min readClock Icon

Disruption is a term often applied to new technologies. Think ride-hailing apps, online banking, video and music streaming.

Now think retirement.

A new study from the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® finds longevity — the years added to our lives as we live longer —is a new disruptor, changing the way Americans envision their retirement years.

The 19th Annual Transamerica Retirement Survey of Workers took a closer look at how different generations think about retirement. As you might expect, Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials have their own visions of retirement — but they all go beyond a hammock in Florida or a golf course in Phoenix.

Today’s workers dream of an active retirement. Sixty-seven percent of 5,168 adult workers surveyed said travel was a retirement dream. A quarter of survey participants said they planned to volunteer, and three in ten workers imagine working in retirement, including pursuing an encore career.

And today’s longer lifespans may have changed workers’ perceptions of “old.” The study found today’s workers overall consider a person to be “old” at age 70 (median). This perception differs among each generation, Millennials consider a person to be old at age 65 (median), Generation X considers a person old at age 70 (median), and Baby Boomers don’t consider someone to be old until they’re 75 (median).

Three generations, three outlooks

Baby Boomers, Generation X, and Millennials have common worries about having enough resources for retirement and are heading towards that landmark with different financial tools.

Baby Boomers
(born between 1946 and 1964) grew up with some access to pensions and were the first to have access to workplace retirement accounts such as a 401(k) but have had less time to use them. Many were affected by the Great Recession and have had less time than younger generations to financially recover before they retire. Forty-two percent of Boomer workers expect Social Security to be their primary income source in retirement.

Gen Xers
(1965 to 1978) went to work just as pensions were fading and the responsibility of retirement saving shifted to them. While their retirement confidence is lacking and many are behind, they should know they still have time to catch up. Only 14% are “very confident” they can retire to a comfortable lifestyle. Unlike other generations, they were the first to have access to 401(k) plans for most of their careers.

(1979 to 2000) worry Social Security will not be there for them in retirement (80%) and thus, they are the most likely of the three generations to expect self-funded savings, such as 401(k)s, 403(b)s, IRAs and/or other savings and investments, to be their primary source of income in retirement. Many Millennials (71%) are already saving for retirement through employer-sponsored plans and/or outside the workplace, but they need to learn more about investing. And one more thing: almost 1 in 5 believe they will live to 100 or beyond.

There are some common threads. Three in four workers are concerned Social Security won't be there for them in retirement, and 76% of workers believe their generation will have a harder time achieving financial security than their parents' generation.

What next?

In the study, nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies offers recommendations for improving retirement security for all workers, with the support of employers and policymakers.

Start contributing to a retirement account as early as possible and save consistently. Take full advantage of employer matching contributions. And take care of your health.

Offer a retirement plan for workers. Extend plan eligibility to part-time workers. And structure matching contribution formulas to promote higher salary deferrals.

Policy Makers:
Preserve and enhance existing incentives for workers to save for retirement, such as tax-deferral. Encourage automatic enrollment in retirement plans. And require retirement plan statements to go beyond lump sum totals by illustrating account balances in terms of lifetime income.

To learn more, the entire study, “What Is “Retirement”? Three Generations Prepare for Older Age” is available online.

The Social Security Administration offers a variety of tools to help calculate retirement income and needs online.

Things to Consider:

  • If you can, make sure you’re taking full advantage of your workplace retirement plan.
  • Employers can help by extending workplace retirement plans to include part-timers.
  • Only 14% of surveyed workers say they are “very confident” they can retire comfortably.

NonprofitTransamericaCenter for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) annually conducts a national survey of U.S. business employers and workers regarding their attitudes toward retirement. The overall goals for the study are to illuminate emerging trends, promote awareness, and help educate the public. Now entering its 20th year, the survey has grown to be one of the longest running and largest national surveys of its kind.

Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) is a division of Transamerica Institute®, a nonprofit, private foundation. Transamerica Institute is funded by contributions from Transamerica Life Insurance Company and its affiliates and may receive funds from unaffiliated third parties.

TCRS and its representatives cannot give ERISA, tax, investment or legal advice. This material is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as ERISA, tax, investment or legal advice. Interested parties must consult and rely solely upon their own independent advisors regarding their particular situation and the concepts presented here. For more information please visit

Statistics provided in this article are taken from “What Is ‘Retirement’? Three Generations Prepare for Older Age,” nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies®, April 2019

Transamerica Resources, Inc. is an Aegon company and is affiliated with various companies which include, but are not limited to, insurance companies and broker dealers. Transamerica Resources, Inc. does not offer insurance products or securities. The information provided is for educational purposes only and should not be construed as insurance, securities, tax, legal or financial advice or guidance. Please consult your personal independent advisors for answers to your specific questions.



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