In addressing Gen Xers, marketers of financial services would do well to assume a wealth of ignorance on the part of their audience. That's one conclusion to be drawn, anyhow, from polling of 28-39-year-olds commissioned by AARP and the American Savings Education Council and conducted by Mathew Greenwald & Associates.
Thirty-one percent of the poll's Xers feel "very knowledgeable" about using an iPod, which is nice. Unfortunately, this tops the number who feel as savvy about "doing your taxes" (29 percent), "buying a home" (24 percent), "saving for retirement" (14 percent), "how to invest your money outside of the workplace" (14 percent) or "how the Social Security system works" (13 percent).
Xers might be better informed if they spent some of their money on serious advice. A minority of respondents (27 percent) said they've used financial professionals as major sources of guidance -- a shade fewer than the number who've cast their parents or their in-laws in this role (28 percent). Among other major sources for the Xers: the Internet (22 percent), their employer or their spouse's employer (16 percent), periodicals (13 percent) and friends or co-workers (11 percent).
It's not that they view their parents as great imparters of acumen. Asked to assign a letter grade to "the job your parents did teaching you about saving and investing," respondents were almost as likely to hand out an F (18 percent) or a D (19 percent) as to give an A (16 percent) or a B (25 percent).
At least mom and dad are good sources of cash. This helps account for the fact that a non-landslide 54 percent of the poll's Xers classified themselves as "financially independent." This is in sync with the survey's findings that 25 percent of its Xers received financial help in the past year from family or friends and that 14 percent got assistance from governmental programs.