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Jobs, education drive Gen X’s high debt

Gen Xers tend to owe more and save less, experts say.

Gen Xers tend to owe more and save less, experts say.

The post-baby-boomer generation aged 30-45 has a greater debt load and less money saved for retirement on average and buys more non-essential things on credit than previous generations.

A recent survey by Investors Group revealed mortgage holders aged 30-45 held a median mortgage value of $140,000, eight per cent higher than the national average and 33 per cent higher than mortgage holders aged 45-54. More than a third (38 per cent) of 34-45-year-olds surveyed are carrying $150,000 or more on their mortgage yet 88 per cent of all Gen Xers believe they will be mortgage-free once they retire.

Todd Morin, a regional director with Investors Group, says quicker, cheaper and more easily available credit than a generation ago has done much to fuel Gen X’s spending and lack-of-saving habits.

“Gen Xers tend to be carrying too much debt. If they’re just servicing their debt they’re not putting much away. It’s the buy-now, pay-later attitude: ‘I need a 4,000 square-foot home, I need that new car now.’ You want to own the house, you don’t want the house to own you,” Morin said.

When it comes to buying non-essential or non-investment items, Tom Hamza, president of the non-profit Investor Education Fund says consumer debt — any debt that isn’t backed by an asset — is always bad debt and needs to be quashed as quickly as possible, especially by Gen Xers who need to get rolling on retirement saving.

“If you still have debt at this age, particularly consumer debt, you have a problem going forward if it’s preventing you from saving for retirement. Ultimately your life will get more expensive over time and you’ll need to save more,” Hamza said.

Gen X’s strong level of education and lack of pensions also work positively to enable career mobility and make it easier for Gen Xers to find higher paying jobs. That being said, the highly educated aspect of the generation is adding to the debt situation.

“Because you don’t have these pension plans, you do have a more mobile workforce and Gen Xers do tend to have an eight per cent higher average income and more education that helps with getting higher-paid jobs. They also tend to be technologically astute,” Morin said.

Unfortunately, Gen Xers’ career strength doesn’t appear to transfer into their saving habits, which can make it harder to have a safety fund in case difficult situations happen.

“When you’re 30 years old, retirement can seem like a long way off. A lot of people who are living paycheque to paycheque, if they get disabled or suffer a critical illness they have no income or savings to rely upon,” Morin said.

Repaying

To help pay off your debt, Investor Education Fund president Tom Hamza suggests a few tips:

• Figure out how much debt you have to pay off and then divide it into monthly amounts — saving $3000 at once might seem gargantuan but cutting it into $300 or $150 chunks split over 10 or 20 months makes it a lot more manageable.

• Set up an automatic withdrawal of a sensible, set amount every month that you use to either pay off debt or put money away. You will hardly miss the money once it becomes habit and you’ll guarantee yourself better financial health.

• For tips about managing your money and debt as well as strategies for better financial health, check out the Investor Education Fund’s free advice at www.getsmarteraboutmoney.ca.

 
 
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