In this article, part one of a three-part feature, Rocco Taglioni describes Generation X and why it’s important that you connect with the future of your business.

Lisa was born in 1965. She and many other North American women share that first name: Lisa was the top choice for girls that year, the dawn of the generation we know as “X.” She went to college, worked in an office, got married, had two daughters, started her own graphics business, and is now trying to pay down a mortgage that’s really a line of credit and credit card bills with debt that always seems to increase. Lisa doesn’t work with a financial advisor and admits she hasn’t saved a penny for her retirement.

That picture describes a hypothetical member of Generation X. But is there any truth to Gen X stereotypes of Canadians born from 1965 to 1979? You may have seen these rather unflattering descriptions:

  • don’t have many assets or wealth,
  • have taken on too much debt and have too many expenditures,
  • don’t care about retirement, or
  • are apathetic about financial planning.

It’s an unfair picture. The more realistic generalization is a much more positive story, that contains powerful life aspirations, goals and needs, creating opportunities for you.

Who is GenX?

I wrote an article about Gen X for this column a year and a half ago. The article mentions that Gen Xers are facing many real challenges as they juggle competing priorities: succeeding at ever-changing careers, paying down mortgages and other debt, saving for their children’s education, and trying to figure out how they’ll put aside money for retirement. What’s helping them is that Gen Xers have a solid work ethic and commitment on the job. It’s just that they often see work as a means to an end and not their primary focus.1 I’ve gathered a few more insights about Gen X:

Career changers

They’re more mobile and don’t stay in their jobs as long as Boomers, working an average of 3.2 jobs in the first 12 years of their careers and staying 3.4 years in each job.2 As workplace pensions, especially the defined benefit plans, become the exception, they need to take control of their long-term savings and retirement income needs.


Since Gen Xers are over-extended from time, energy and financial standpoints, they often don’t set aside time to work on their financial plans, and they have limited disposable cash to put money into savings.3 Many Gen Xers, aged 36-50, are within a group of Canadians reporting excessive or uncomfortable levels of stress.4

Retirement challenged

Planning for retirement causes concern among Gen Xers. This demographic feels that they should start to think a bit about retirement preparation, but several hurdles get in their way:

  • They find it’s difficult to think about retirement.5
  • Life challenges such as paying off debt often block their best intentions to save and plan.6
  • 4 out of 10 don’t have an RRSP, but 6 out of 10 believe they’ll have to pay for their own retirement.7

Living longer

For those who think this age group is too young to think about retirement now, survey results show they’re ready to talk about preparing for retirement and the risk of outliving their money:

  • 38% of Gen X respondents believe there’s a serious risk of outliving their savings; 35% don’t know or aren’t sure.8
  • 55% of respondents aged 35-44 and 61% aged 45-54 aren’t confident their assets would be adequate to cover their needs, if they lived 10 years longer than they thought they would.9

Gen X is getting the message that living longer means they’ll need more retirement income.

Opportunities for advice

You can see from this picture of Gen X that they could benefit from your advice surrounding a financial and retirement plan and along with that, key advice regarding budgeting, saving, investing and mitigating the risks that could derail their plans. Creating a holistic plan and Money for Life approach across life and health insurance and wealth management are key to their financial well-being. Opportunities are waiting for you: 70% of Gen X doesn’t currently work with a financial advisor, even though they tend to be more concerned about having enough money for retirement than other generations.10

Financial concerns are on their radar. They understand the consequences of not saving for retirement. They need your help and trusted advice!

The following table shows what the Gen X demographic wants from an advisor, and how you can work with them to meet their needs:11

Protect what they have Show them the value of life and health insurance, and how it’s more affordable at a younger age
Own a home and pay down the mortgage, buy a better car, raise a family
  • Work with them to create a budget
  • Focus on the personal benefits for them and their families
Get over the obstacles they need to acknowledge and take action to accomplish their goals
  • Provide a “reality check”
  • Outline how to save, without too much sacrifice
A plan with easy and flexible insurance and saving solutions, requiring little ongoing time/effort Explain automatic payroll deductions and target date funds; term insurance and critical illness insurance
Support for retirement planning, since many want a “hands off” plan
A plan that’s not daunting and won’t exhaust them trying to figure it out
  • Provide simple, easy-to-understand information
  • Whenever possible, make the info interactive, online and mobile, so they can access it when they need it

Gen X is an extremely important demographic — for our economy, our communities, and for the future of your business. You have the ability and opportunity to support Gen X with the blueprint and motivation to take action.

Coming up

In the next parts of our Gen X series, we’ll look at the following topics:

  • Part II: interestingly, Gen X has a lot in common with the Boomer generation before them, regarding their financial outlooks. That means many strategies that worked with your Boomer clients will transfer well to Gen X clients. We’ll also look at the crucial differences.
  • Part III: consider Gen X as a way to build your business for the future; we’ll help with specific strategies to start conversations and provide solutions.

If you have ideas about how to approach and successfully help Gen X, or want to learn more, please send an email to Sun Life Financial’s Wealth Sales Team.

You might also like…

1 Generations Bright Paper – Engaging employees in your group retirement plan, January 2012, p 2.

2 Peter Harris, “Generation X spends over 20 per cent longer in each job than Gen Y does,” Workopolis, January 19, 2015.

3 Generations Bright Paper, p 6.

4 80% of 30 to 44 year olds and 79% of 45 to 54 year olds report excessive or uncomfortable levels of stress. Sun Life Canadian Health Index 2014.

5 Generations Bright Paper, p 3.

6 Generations Bright Paper, p 6.

7 Investor’s Group survey, January 4, 2011.

8 Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index 2015.

9 Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index 2014.

10 Sun Life Canadian Unretirement Index 2013.

11 Insights in the following chart are from Generations Bright Paper, pages 3, 6.

Rocco Taglioni, Senior Vice-President, Head of Distribution, Individual Insurance and Wealth, is responsible for the overall leadership of Sun Life Financial’s distribution organizations across its Retail business in Canada. His role encompasses the leadership of the distribution company, as President Sun Life Financial Distributors Inc., as well as the Insurance and Wealth wholesaling sales organizations. Through the various leadership teams he oversees the development, direction, and execution of the Distribution strategies centered on wealth management, protection, retirement, and estate and financial planning.

Since joining Sun Life in 2004, Rocco has held various executive leadership roles, including Vice-President Business Development, Group Benefits; Head of Individual Wealth Management; Senior-Vice-President, Client Solutions; and most recently Senior Vice-President, Distribution and Marketing, Individual Insurance and Wealth. Throughout his tenure at Sun Life, Rocco has led various business strategies centered on building, transforming, and evolving organizations and teams to drive higher levels of performance and success.

Rocco has 36 years of experience in strategic leadership in the insurance and investment industries. He has served on and is a member of a number of boards. Rocco is currently President and Chair, Sun Life Financial Distributors (Canada) Inc. and is a member of the Sun Life Financial Investment Services (Canada) Inc. board. He is a member of various industry associations, including Advocis, GAMA Canada, the Canadian Pension and Benefits Institute, and the Association of Canadian Pension Management.

Rocco holds a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from York University.