Anyone who has ever discussed music, fashion, or entertainment with their parents or grandparents knows that different generations often don't see eye to eye. This also extends to how members of each generation manages their money, including how they save for retirement. A recent T.D. Ameritrade study looked at the different ways each generation plans to boost retirement savings. Some of the most interesting highlights are below.


Millennials were the most likely to say that a side hustle could help them catch up on their retirement savings, which isn't surprising. The concept of a side job has been around forever, but it really exploded with millennials thanks to all the new connections and opportunities available through the internet. Older generations were less interested in exploring side hustles, which could be for many reasons. They may have dependents that limit their time for side hustles, their regular jobs might be too demanding, or they might lack an understanding of how to set up a side business in the digital age.

Old man looking at young man dressed identically

Image source: Getty Images.

Automating savings was also more popular among millennials than other generations. This is a simple strategy to ensure you're regularly making contributions for your future, and it can really help those who struggle to remember to make retirement contributions on their own. Just be careful not to exceed the annual contribution limits -- $19,000 for a 401(k) in 2019 and $6,000 for an IRA ($25,000 and $7,000 for adults 50+, respectively). 

As the generation battling the most student debt, it's also unsurprising that millennials were the most likely to say canceling student debt through government programs like Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) would go a long way toward helping them save for the future. It's smart to pursue these programs if you're eligible, because they can save you tens of thousands of dollars over your lifetime -- but make sure you understand the program's requirements from the start to avoid accidentally disqualifying yourself.

Generation X

Generation X tends to take a more tried-and-true approach toward retirement savings. Gen Xers surveyed were most likely to say that they'd consider working longer to shore up their retirement savings. This could work, but it's a risky bet because you can't be sure you'll be able to work longer. A family or health issue might force you to retire whether you want to or not. So while working longer can be part of your retirement catch-up plan, it shouldn't be the whole thing.

Increasing 401(k) contributions was another favored Gen X strategy, and it's smart for several reasons. First, the money you put away reduces your taxable income this year. Second, your employer may match some of your contributions, reducing the savings burden on you. And third, the contributions you make earlier in your life matter more than later ones because your money has more time to grow. So increasing your retirement contributions today, whatever your age, will help you more than waiting to do so until you're closer to retirement.

Generation X was also most likely to say that learning how to better manage their personal finances would help them catch up on retirement savings. Educating yourself about personal finance is always a smart investment, especially if you're managing your retirement savings on your own. But you don't have to do it this way. You could hire a financial advisor who knows how to manage your money most effectively for your long-term goals if you don't have the time or interest to learn about how to do it yourself.

Baby boomers

Baby boomers were more inclined than Gen Xers or millennials to cut spending in order to shore up their retirement savings. This makes sense, as baby boomers are either in or close to retirement, and contributing more to retirement accounts or automating contributions might have little effect for them. They might also be unable to contribute more to retirement accounts if they're already in retirement. 

They were also the generation most likely to cite improving markets as a method of catching up on retirement savings. Again, this might reflect that many boomers are already in retirement and cannot count on any more money coming in. While improving markets would certainly help savers of any age, this is not something that you can predict or count on, so you need to have a backup plan in case the markets don't improve.

About 16% of boomers have considered cutting off family members financially. This is a tough decision, but it could be a smart one for boomers who are concerned about running out of money prematurely. If they do, they'll have to fall back on their children for support, and this can impede their children's ability to provide for their families or save for their own retirement. 

All of these different strategies have some merit, and each generation could stand to learn something from the others. If you're behind on retirement savings, consider employing a combination of these strategies to get yourself back on track.