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Financial Wellness for a Multigenerational Workforce
• Mac Gardner • September 7, 2021
How much variety in financial wellness needs exists among individuals in the same generation? It’s a question that doesn’t have a simple answer. Categorizing people into generations is popular, and the temptation exists to make blanket proclamations regarding their needs. But solely using stereotypes about generations to determine workforce benefits offerings won’t necessarily get you the comprehensive package your employees want and your business needs.
Nonetheless, looking at a group of employees by generation can provide an initial perspective and give employers a general idea of where to start when it comes to choosing workforce financial wellness benefits.
Getting on the Same Page
Employers may not have a complete understanding of their employees’ needs when it comes to financial wellness support. In their 19th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, MetLife found that nearly 3 in 4 employers believe employees are better off than they are.1
The same study also found that financial health is the top concern among employees, as well as a top contributor to poor mental health. As financial and mental stressors come together, productivity decreases. Conversely, employees who identify as mentally and financially healthy are 37 percent more likely to be productive than those who do not.1
With millions of dollars in employee productivity2 lost by large employers each year because of the stress over finances, it’s fitting for employers to lend support through financial wellness benefits. Evaluating a workforce by generation will provide ideas to begin the investigation.
Begin with Some General Ideas
When the participants of that same MetLife survey were broken down by age and asked about their financial health, Gen Z was most worried at 69 percent. Gen X and Millennials both responded at 54 percent, and Baby Boomers were least worried at 37 percent.1
But the top financial stressors likely vary somewhat depending on the generational cohort. Examples to look for include:
For the oldest in this generation who recently joined the workforce, the pandemic was a wake-up call financially. Just beginning their careers, many were likely not yet focused on long-term benefits like saving for emergencies, let alone saving for retirement. Unfortunately, being the newest members of their employer’s workforce, many lost their jobs if a “last-in, first out” policy of redundancy was followed.
Financial wellness for these folks now centers around meeting everyday expenses such as housing, food, and transportation, as well as student loan obligations. Look for benefits and resources that would aid in their financial education around budgeting to ensure they get a handle on day-to-day money challenges along with student loan repayment or restructuring opportunities.
The millennial generation desires financial security driven by the economic volatility and uncertainty they have already witnessed during their lifetimes. Many are also at the point where they are not only still paying off their own student loan debt but are thinking about how they will pay for their children’s education. As they look at their futures, they don’t want to relive the stories they are hearing about older generations who have too much credit card debt and have not saved enough for retirement.
Financial wellness benefits for Millennials include financial literacy that will help them understand budgeting and how to begin planning for a secure future. Student loan repayment options are also appealing to this group. And while Millennials are digitally savvy and seek much of their financial education online, employers would do well to partner with financial professionals to give this group the one-on-one advice they also find valuable.
This generation is now the most prevalent of the “sandwich generation” as Baby Boomers age out—meaning they are more likely to have a parent aged 65 or older and be supporting a child. This phenomenon drives their need to make financial decisions involving family.
Financial wellness benefits appealing to this generation could include both child and elder care accounts or assistance as well as the work schedule flexibility to care for children and parents.
The Baby Boomers, those who are still in the workforce, are feeling the weight of money management with their main stressors revolving around retirement and health benefits. Younger Baby Boomers often fear they will outlive their retirement savings and that they won’t be able to afford the health benefits package that best meets their needs.
Because of these fears, many are delaying retirement and continuing to work longer. This is often a boon to employers as they can retain their highly experienced workforce longer. Something to consider for this generation is how to continue to offer a benefits package to this group even if they decide to only work on a part-time basis.
One Size Does Not Fit All
While generational needs may give an employer a starting point when investigating the financial wellness benefits that will be appealing to its staff, the real work should go much further. Painting groups of people with a broad brush can lead to overgeneralizations and incorrect assumptions. Employers should focus on the needs of individual workers when it comes to ultimately determining the benefits they should offer.
In fact, a study by AARP found that at least two in five survey respondents from across all generations were not confident they will have enough money to live comfortably throughout retirement3—which emphasizes how financial wellness needs transcend generational norms.
Just as the definition of financial wellness differs from person to person, so too will the resources needed to achieve it. Employers who want to influence the financial wellness of their workforce can begin with ideas based on generational needs and then work from there to achieve the best balance for all employees.
DISCLAIMER: The eMoney Advisor Blog is meant as an educational and informative resource for financial professionals and individuals alike. It is not meant to be, and should not be taken as financial, legal, tax or other professional advice. Those seeking professional advice may do so by consulting with a professional advisor. eMoney Advisor will not be liable for any actions you may take based on the content of this blog.
The views and opinions expressed by this blog post guest are solely those of the guest and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of eMoney Advisor, LLC. eMoney Advisor is not responsible for the content, views or opinions presented by our guest, nor may eMoney Advisor be held liable for any actions taken by you based on the content, views or opinions of the guest.
1 “MetLife’s 19th Annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study 2021, Redesigning the Employee Experience: Preparing the Workforce For a Transformed World.” MetLife 2021 https://www.metlife.com/content/dam/metlifecom/us/noindex/pdf/ebts-2021/MetLife_EBTS_2021.pdf.
2 Stevens, Liz. “How Financial Stress Impacts Job Performance.” BestMoneyMoves.com, 2020. February 5. https://bestmoneymoves.com/blog/2020/02/05/how-financial-stress-impacts-job-performance/.
3 Wangman, Ryan. “3 Financial Stressors Affecting Every Generation.” Best Money Moves, 2019. August 26. https://bestmoneymoves.com/blog/2019/08/26/3-financial-stressors-affecting-every-generation/.
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