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Expand chart
Data: Kurz et al. 2018; Chart: Naema Ahmed and Harry Stevens/Axios

When Generation X was the age of millennials, they had significantly more financial assets — more even than the Boomer generation before them, according to a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank.

If any generation could be called "entitled," it might have been Gen Xers — if it weren't for the typically large debt that ultimately crushed their chances of wealth.

  • The economic environment in the years immediately before the financial crash made it easy for young adults at the time — members of Generation X, born from 1965 to 1980 — to buy homes, cars and other properties, and to invest in stocks.
  • But when you subtract the average Gen Xer's debt — mostly the easy-to-obtain mortgages — they weren't much better off than young Boomers before them, Bill Emmons, assistant vice president at the Fed in St. Louis, tells Axios.

By the numbers: More than half of Gen Xers owned homes when they were 21 to 36, around the age of millennials today. Just 33.9% of the same age group in 2016 owned homes, the Fed said.

  • Young Gen Xers were also more likely to own stock at that age than millennials or boomers, at 28%, compared with 15% and 14%, respectively.
  • Millennials lacked the same financial opportunity to buy homes as Gen Xers at their age, and "as house prices have grown, they haven't been able to cash into that in the same way," said Lowell Rickets, of the St. Louis Fed's Center for Household Financial Stability.
  • But even with the student debt crisis, millennial median and average debt is less than that of the generation before them when they were the same age, according to the report.

The bottom line: With the financial crash, the investments that Gen Xers made when they were young still haven't really paid off, according to Emmons, and ultimately left them worse off.

Millennials may not bear the same risk as Gen Xers did, but they are still having trouble accumulating wealth, partly because of student debt.

Go deeper

57 mins ago - Politics & Policy

Congress hunts for shortcut to pass defense funding, debt limit combo

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer returned to his office Monday. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

The scramble in Congress to pass the National Defense Authorization Act is being complicated by an effort to tie it to a needed hike in the federal debt limit.

Why it matters: The House and Senate are rapidly coming up against a series of deadlines they must address before the end of the year — or risk disrupting crucial military funding and upending the economy. Congressional leaders are now hoping they can knock out both "must-pass" priorities in one, complex swoop.

Scoop: Inside Jake Sullivan's call with U.S. hostages' families

Photo: Jim Lo Scalzo/EPA/Bloomberg via Getty Images

National security adviser Jake Sullivan spoke last week with relatives of U.S. hostages and others wrongfully detained abroad, after more than two dozen families expressed frustrations about their inability to get a meeting with him or President Biden, Axios has learned.

Why it matters: Participants on the video call, which began at 7pm ET Friday and lasted more than an hour, told Axios they didn't get satisfactory answers to many of their questions. Nonetheless, they were encouraged by Sullivan's commitment to follow up and pledge to be personally available to them and others going forward.

2 hours ago - World

Biden huddles with European allies on Ukraine ahead of Putin call

Putin in the Kremlin. Photo: Grigory Sysoyev/Sputnik via Getty

President Biden will seek to convince Russia's Vladimir Putin in a phone call Tuesday that the price of invading Ukraine would be steeper than anything he's faced in the past.

Driving the news: Biden held a call on Ukraine this evening with the leaders of France, Germany, Italy and the U.K., while Secretary of State Tony Blinken called Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to offer America's "unwavering support."

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