Generation Invisible

(As originally appeared on Switch and Shift)

I have an observation. I’ve noticed that people of my generation, the 50ish generation have been hit harder by the recession and the subsequent fallout more than anyone else.

Here’s the common thinking about other generations :

•    The youngest people, the Millennials and their younger siblings iGen, are unemployable, which leaves them SOL.
•    The older generation, or Baby Boomers, can’t retire—so they are also SOL.

A stressed out businessman

A stressed out businessman

And while there’s truth to both of those statements, here’s another  truth:

•    My generation has the worst of both worlds.

It’s typically called Gen X, but I propose that this generation should now be called Generation Invisible.

My parents also feel small and invisible. They’re part of the Traditional or Silent generation, wedged in between the WW2 generation and the Baby Boomers. But despite some lost savings due to the recession, people of this age are retired and many of them are receiving pensions—a token of a bygone era.
The members of Generation Invisible, who have always valued their status of being weird and unique, wedged in between Baby Boomers and Millennials, are singing a very different tune right now. While many of my friends have recuperated, there is a silent mass of people in our country that are still burdened with massive amounts of debt, bad credit reports, failed businesses, and joblessness. And I believe if you looked at the bell curve, you’d find the peak of the pain curve around 50 years old.

We are screwed!
•    We are too old to get the really cool new jobs.
•    We are too young to retire.
•    People our age earned more three decades ago than we earn now.
•    We created social media, but now we can’t get jobs using it.
•    We are drowning in debt.

The Invisible Generation is the generation that lost our homes, our jobs, and our stability at a time when we needed it most. And it is not over yet.
Here’s proof from two major news sources:
A recent study by the Center for Work-Life Policy revealed
“Gen Xers to be the chief victims of the Great Recession. They’re working harder—a two-parent family worked 26 percent more hours in 2010 than in 1975— and making less.”

From Bloomberg.com
“Baby boomers have decided to postpone retirement. Gen Y is laying claim to the social-networking bonanza. But what of those born between 1965 and 1978? Well, they’re underpaid, overworked, guilt-ridden, and deeply indebted.”

So, what do we do?
Here are some of the things that I see my peers doing:
•    Work really, really, really hard for a lot less money then we need in order to keep their heads above water.
•    Downsize. Own less stuff. Move into “cheap” rentals. Drive a clunker… etc.
•    Yoyo their credit card debt while ignoring that they have NO savings, NO retirement, and little to NO assets.
•    Start a business with no savings and no credit, and hope that it doesn’t create more debt and bankruptcy.
•    Fight clinical depression.
•    Drink heavily.

When I sat down to write this article, I thought I would tell stories about the crazy things I’ve been trying to do to get out of debt and get ahead. I’d tell stories about the angst and the panic that debt and a loss of earning potential can create.  I’d tell stories about all the people I’ve met who feel that they’ve lost their identity and their mojo.  And as I researched this issue, the more real it became.
I thought it must be me.  I thought that I must be alone in my inability to recuperate or in the length of time that it is taking to unbury myself. I thought that everyone who calls me negative or pessimistic is just being judgmental. But my conclusions are statistically accurate.
This isn’t about overcoming personal adversity. This is about overcoming a generational event.


CLICK for this startling infographic:  generation-x-reality-bites
CLICK for this slideshow that requires a cocktail just to get to the end: gen-x-has-a-lot-of-catching-up-to-do-9
Here are the three realities that I know are true:
•    As we are under earning and under worked, we must not feel shame.
•    We must strive to lead from a sense of humility.
•    This generation of independent weirdos must help each other.
•    We have to tell our stories.

I do know that we will lead and survive uniquely. And I believe with all of my heart that we need to support each other. So I invite you to join with me in discussing and sharing amongst ourselves the real issues that we face. Our parents, our older brothers and sisters, our kids and their kids don’t get the pain that is uniquely ours.

Comment, connect, suggest. Above all, don’t feel alone. We are in this together.

Ruth Schwartz is the author of "The Key to the Golden Handcuffs". She is a high performance business consultant and leadership coach. Connect with Ruth to participate in the conversation. Google+, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube .

Posted in Leadership and Management