Adulthood and the things we’ve inherited can sneak up on us. One day you wake up and stand while watching TV like a parent once did or superstitiously throw salt behind your back just like your grandma. Attitudes towards money too, much like our oddities and eccentricities, can also be passed on through time and lineage.
Most Americans (68%) are grappling with or have dealt with financial trauma, per an Experian survey of more than 2,000 U.S. adults. Financial trauma is “an emotional wounding that happens as a direct result of something to do specifically with money,” according to Chantel Chapman, co-founder of Trauma of Money. Cents, dollars, or a lack thereof carry weight, as they can shape personal relationships, strain familial dynamics, and create our own outlook towards wealth as we get older. And some generations report feeling the brunt more than others.
Gen Xers sit at the top at 74%, followed by millennials (71%), Gen Zers (64%), boomers (63%), and the Silent Generation (60%) (although some respondents may be dealing with more money issues than they care to report). That Gen X leads the pack is a sign of how they grew up and of their life stage.
Most of the oft-forgotten Gen Xers are children of early boomers and the Silent Generation, who partly got their name for grinning and bearing extreme economic hardship as they grew up during the Great Depression. The nickname also comes from their reputation for traditionalist ways. Time Magazine first came up with the moniker in 1951: “Youth today is waiting for the hand of fate to fall on its shoulders, meanwhile working fairly hard and saying almost nothing. The most startling fact about the younger generation is its silence,” it noted.
It’s possible the Silent Gen’s economic strife, scarcity mindset, and silence has trickled down and impacted the grunge loving, former rage-against-the-machine teens turned 40-something year-old managers: Gen Xers. Psychologists have found that attitudes towards money are intrinsically linked not just to our economic experience, but to our ancestors’. As financial coach Saundra Davis explained, we learn financial behavior from those who raise us—and some of these lessons carry the weight of generational financial trauma that leads to anxiety, stress, or bad money habits in adulthood.
More than half (56%) of Gen Xers said their family never or rarely talked about finances growing up, slightly more than the overall 51% of respondents who said the same. While this fits the Silent Generation stereotype, it’s also in line with the “money is taboo” perspective prevalent among older generations—boomers and the Silent Generation were even more likely to say their family didn’t discuss finances growing. Such silence doesn’t come without a cost—43% of adults who never or rarely spoke about money report “feeling like they never learned about financial planning,” while 43% of this cohort say they don’t understand how to build credit.
And, for all the limelight the youngest generations get for their economic plight, Gen Xers have also weathered their own set of problems, like student loans. They were hit hardest wealthwise during the Great Recession; while they had the best recovery, some still felt like they were getting their bearings together when the pandemic came. Mid-age and mid-career, they’re in their prime working and spending years—but that also comes with more stress and financial responsibilities, leaving them with more debt than other generations. They’re also looking after both their children and parents under the weight of twin childcare and care crises, earning them a new nickname as the sandwich generation.
Sixty percent of Gen Xers say money negatively impacts their mental health, a jump from 46% last year, a Bankrate survey finds. They were the generation most prone to feeling this way. They’re also worried about having enough money to retire comfortably, thinking they’ll need the most saved at $1.5 million, per a Northwestern Mutual report.
It all might mean that Gen Xers’ kids— typically Gen Zers—are next in the game of tag, waiting for a ripple effect of financial trauma spanning decades back to the Great Depression.
This story originally Appeared on Fortune