Generation X is Really Generation Invisible

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 Gen M, are unemployable, which leaves them SOL.
  • The older generation, or Baby Boomers, can’t retire—so they are also SOL.

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 Challenges GenX Face

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 that “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.”

And Bloomberg tells us that:

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.”

What Should GenerationX 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.
  • 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.

Before my research 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.

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.

Additional Resources:

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

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Ruth spent 25 years in the music industry. In that time she created a $10 mil distribution company where everyone was a contributing partner in the business. After selling that business she became a business coach, speaker, trainer and enthusiast for working with successful entrepreneurs and business leaders who are tired of task and employee management are ready to lead the work revolution. Schwartz chronicles her success in the book, The Key to the Golden Handcuff’s – Stop Being a Slave to Your Business. Tthe book gives entrepreneurs and executives a recipe to create a transparent, open-book company of their own design. Ruth is a member of Toastmasters, the National Speakers’ Association, The International Coach Federation and The Experts Association.

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