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Empower Institute: It’s time to drop generational stereotypes when it comes to financial planning

Jul 21, 2020
Press Release

Life stages and events like marriage, paying off debt or living through effects of a pandemic, matter more

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo., July 21, 2020 — Americans are tired of the so-called generational wars that describe one generation as doing better or worse than another when it comes to financial planning and saving for retirement, a new survey from Empower Retirement says.

Instead, American savers want to talk about financial planning that matches where they are in life – like getting married, managing debt, or taking on a mortgage. Being a member of a defined generation does not predict financial attitudes and behaviors, according to the survey

A survey1 by Empower Institute, the research arm of Empower Retirement, shows:

  • 65% of respondents think generational differences are overstated
  • 53% say their ideas and feelings about money varied greatly from life stage to life stage
  • 40% identify more with others who are going through the same life events than with those in their defined generations

“It doesn’t make sense to lump an entire generation of millions of people into one group and assume they all have the same experiences or think about financial planning in the same way,” said Edmund F. Murphy III, President and CEO of Empower Retirement. “Financial planning and goals should meet people where they are in life, consider their life experiences and personal characteristics, and then lay out a strategy that helps get them to their savings goals.”

Saving for retirement is a top financial goal across all generations, according to the survey. But not everyone will get there in the same way, Murphy said.

The survey results, published in a new paper “It’s Not About Generations” on Empower Institute, show that experiences and economic events also shape how people plan for their futures, not the year they were born.  

People take action with regard to their financial plan most often as a result of major life events, according to the survey. Events that involve unexpected loss — such as loss of a job, loss of housing or divorce — are especially likely to result in changes, including cutting spending, dialing back on retirement contributions and making withdrawals on retirement savings. For example, 47 percent of survey respondents said they have taken action with regard to their financial plans after an unexpected job loss and 41 percent said they took action after a loss in the 2008-09 housing market crash.

Based on this research, it is likely that the global pandemic and its financial strain will shape financial attitudes and behaviors into the future, the paper says.

“Now it becomes even more important to help Americans with a personalized, holistic view of their finances and savings goals,” Murphy said. “They may all be at different starting points and stages in their lives, but they do share a common goal of saving for their futures.”

About Empower Retirement

Headquartered in metro Denver, Empower Retirement administers $656 billion in assets2 for more than 9.7 million retirement plan participants as of May 31, 2020. It is the nation’s second-largest retirement plan recordkeeper by total participants.Empower serves all segments of the employer-sponsored retirement plan market: government 457 plans; small, midsize and large corporate 401 (k) clients; non-profit 403 (b) entities; private-label recordkeeping clients; and IRA customers. For more information please visit and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.

Media Contacts:

Stephen Gawlik – 303.737.0899 (office), 617.417.4408 (cell)

Monica Mendoza – 303.737.2626 (office), 719.373.2460 (cell)

Learn More:

To learn more about how we’re empowering plan sponsors and their participants to be more engaged in their retirement plans than ever before, call us at 800-719-9914.

1This survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Empower Retirement from December 18 to December 30, 2019. We surveyed 2,001 U.S. citizens. To qualify, respondents needed to be U.S. citizens, ages 18+, employed full time, and not currently working in sensitive industries.

2) As of May 31, 2020. Information refers to the business of Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company and its subsidiaries, including Great-West Life & Annuity Insurance Company of New York. Of the total $656B assets under administration, $16.8B represents the AUA of GWLANY. AUA do not reflect the financial stability or strength of a company. GWLA assets total $47.7B and liabilities total $46.1B. GWLANY assets total $1.59B and liabilities total $1.48B.

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