Gen-Y out-investing Gen-X, Boomers

Dec. 23, 2011 at 7:22 AM ET

Who would have thought the I-want-it-now generation would be concerned about the future?

When it comes to retirement savings, Gen Yers are out-investing 30 and ups, according to a survey titled Retirement & Long-Term Savings Habits of Working Americans conducted by TD Ameritrade released this week.

While 85 percent of employees of all ages have savings vehicles such as IRAs or 401(k)s, only 16 percent of Baby Boomers say they are doing all they can to save for retirement by funding such accounts, compared to 25 percent among Millennials. Gen Xers are also doing better than Boomers at 23 percent.

Tough economic times for many working parents during the Great Recession may have spooked younger workers. “They learned some tough financial lessons from their parents over the past few years and as a result have taken matters into their own hands and are doing what they can to be better prepared,” said Carrie Braxdale, managing director of investor services for TD Ameritrade.  

Wealth has been a preoccupation for younger workers. One Gen Y survey by Pew Research found, “eight-in-ten say people in their generation think getting rich is either the most important, or second most important, goal in their lives.”

Their parents may be fostering such ideas by not pushing them to stand on their own feet, and in the end Gen Yers could end up better off financially when they retire than their moms and dads.

Twenty-somethings “are returning home to live with parents post-college in record numbers,” pointed out Doreen Dodgen-Magee, a licensed psychologist and Gen Y expert.  “In many ways this alone provides them with greater amounts of income to put toward retirement than others who went before them; paying off mortgages, covering rent, buying food, etc.”

Braxdale also believes an emphasis on financial planning and the availability of so much about investing online has contributed to making the younger generation more money savvy.

But given historically low tax rates, are Gen Y workers being smart by putting so much money in tax-deferred investment vehicles?

“I think it’s always better to save in a tax-free environment,” Braxdale stressed.

So how did saving work out for older workers? According to the survey, Baby Boomers aren’t feeling great about the future:

• 47 percent are somewhat confident they will reach their savings goals in time.

• 27 percent of Boomers are less confident or not confident at all that they will reach their savings goal by the time they are ready to retire.

• 23 percent of Boomers are completely confident they will reach their savings goals in time.

Since parents have a lot of influence on their kids, this reality may be making everyone nervous about the future.