Gen Xers were born between 1965 and 1980. They’re the middle child generation, having grown up between the much larger Baby Boomer and Millennial generations.
They are often called the slacker generation, but it wasn’t that the Xers were afraid to commit, they were just afraid to commit to the wrong thing. They experienced a lot of disappointment, which made it hard to be optimistic. Who can blame them? After all, the Xers weren’t the generation that landed on the moon, they were the generation that had the Challenger disaster. They weren’t the generation that enjoyed the sexual revolution, they had the AIDS epidemic. By the time they started having sex, sex could kill. One in two marriages were ending in divorce, there was a growing hole in the ozone layer, they’d go to the beach and hypodermic needles were washing up on shores, there were razor blades in Halloween candy, there was poison in Tylenol.
They were also the first generation to come of age with the media exposing the flaws of famous people, from Richard Nixon, to Pete Rose, to O.J. Simpson. Against this often dismal backdrop, Xers grew up expecting bad things will happen and that the people they trust will disappoint them.
Many were children of divorce and/or had both parents working and there weren’t set support systems put into place to care for children. Xers became latch key kids, often left to fend for themselves after school and as a result were forced to be self-reliant.
Most Xers grew up in the 80s, when success was defined by money. They graduated in the 90s when jobs were hard to find. They entered the workforce at a time when their parents were being laid off from companies where they’d spent their entire careers. From witnessing their parents lose their jobs, Xers learned the importance of being a “free agent” and became skeptical of “the man” and “selling out” to corporate America.
Having been through many ups and downs in life – the Internet boom and bust, their parents’ divorces, multiple recessions – Xers have learned to deal with adversity. Now, they realize that bad times, and good times, don’t last forever. These days they value things like achieving work/life balance and focusing on family. Not to add to the glass-half-empty, but Xers are the first generation that will not do as well financially as their parents did.