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Why Generation X Is Becoming as Important a Market as the Baby Boomers Used to Be

generation x, gen x

Remember the Baby Boomers? You might still be marketing to them—and, don’t get me wrong: as they enter their retirement years, Baby Boomers continue to be a huge cash cow for businesses.

But there’s another demographic in town—one that’s rapidly becoming just as important as the Baby Boomers in their heyday. I’m talking about Generation X, and if you haven’t heard much about this age group since the days of Nirvana and the X-Games, you’d better start getting up to speed.

Today, Generation X are no longer grunge-clad slackers. Instead, they’re respectable adults in their 30s and 40s. Many are married, have kids, own their own homes. In other words, they’re in or entering their prime earning years and have lots of things they need (and want) to buy.

The Shullman Pulse recently took a closer look at this generation’s attitudes, plans and spending habits. Here’s how Generation X stacks up against other generations and what you need to know to tap into this hot market.

Generation X doesn’t quite measure up in size to the Boomers, with 67.9 Gen Xers making up 25 percent of the U.S. population, compared to 74.9 million Boomers accounting for 32 percent of the population. But although Gen X is smaller in size, it accounts for a disproportionate share of income (31 percent of total U.S. income) and net worth (29 percent of total net worth).

The subcategory of upscale Gen Xers with household incomes over $250,000 or net worth over $1 million is an especially hot niche. This group, which makes up about 20 million of the 60 million Gen Xers in the U.S., has attitudes and interests surprisingly similar to those of Boomers. About two-thirds (65 percent) of upscale Gen Xers plan to travel for enjoyment in the next year, 51 percent plan to buy more luxury products and 27 percent plan to engage a financial adviser’s services.

What else are upscale Gen Xers interested in? Saving for retirement and for a rainy day are key goals, but they have those in common with other Gen Xers. Where upscale Gen Xers differ from the pack is in their interest in more diverse financial planning, including saving for their children’s college expenses, buying a home minimizing taxes and leaving an estate for their children.

Upscale Gen Xers are also more likely than other age groups to say “having fun” is one of their financial goals—and perhaps that’s the real key to reaching this demographic. Just like their predecessors the Baby Boomers, who became the “Me Generation” in the 70s and “Yuppies” in the 80s, as Gen X reaches their 30s and 40s, they want to have fun. But unlike the Boomers, their definition of success includes not only material possessions (the luxury goods they plan to buy) but also experiences (the luxury travel they hope to take). By tapping into Gen X’s conflicting desires—to save, to spend, to hoard and to experience—you can hit their hot buttons and get them to spend on what you sell.