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Credit to their generations: Generation X

How Gen Xers view credit

By Geoff Williams

CREDIT TO THEIR GENERATIONS:
How age sets attitudes toward credit, debt
The Greatest Generation, Silent Generation
Greatest, Silent generations (1911-1945)
Baby boomers
Baby boomers (1946-1964)
Generation X
Generation X (1965-1979)
Millennials
Millennials (1980-2000)

Generation X (1965-1979)

What Gen Xers buy with their credit cards:  Everything. Electricity to e-commerce, green beans to blue jeans

Generation X marks its spot:  Joan Adams, a financial planner in New York City, sounds almost impressed and a bit baffled by the credit card acumen exhibited by Generation X passengers she's met on flights: "These folks have become experts on the loyalty programs. I've sat next to these guys on a plane and ask them, 'What's taking you to Boston or Chicago?'  And the answer isn't, 'I have business there.' The answer is often, 'If I complete one more leg this month, I get triple miles' or some such craziness. They are flying a round trip to nowhere to get triple points. Wow. I guess I never studied the rewards programs that deeply."

Generation X and credit cards. Illustration by Brandy KeslAstre echoes Adams' amazement, saying that Generation X'ers, who range from 29 to 43, "will use their credit cards for everything from groceries to bar tabs to Super Bowl parties and everything in between. They won't hesitate to use it for anything at all. I've seen them finagle down payments on cars and houses using credit cards. Every kind of purchase, sound or crazy, is fair game with them."

Not that every Generation X'er who does that is irresponsible. Christine Harmel, 39, owner of a successful consulting firm in New York City, says that she has used credit cards since her early 20s and "charge absolutely everything on my credit card -- travel, gas, food, household items -- everything down to $1.25 cups of coffee."  But she does it for those airline miles and it makes it easy to track her monthly expenditures. Since she pays the balances off at the end of the month on her two cards, debt isn't an issue for her.

But it is for much of her generation.  Charles Schwab recently released "The Gen X Money Mindsets Study," which incorporated more than 5,000 interviews and found that 47 percent of this age group is living paycheck to paycheck with nothing left over to save and 35 percent of them believe they will continue to be in deeply in debt -- for the rest of their lives.

Next: Millennials (1980-2000).

Published: March 19, 2008


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