Millennials, Gen X struggle with the same financial wellness issues
From student loans and credit card debt to creating an emergency fund and saving for retirement, older millennials are beginning to face similar financial well-being problems as Gen Xers.
Financial stress among millennials decreased to 57% from 64% last year, which is more in line with the percentage of Gen X employees who are stressed about their finances (59%), according to PwC’s “Employee Financial Wellness Survey”.
“As much as millennials want to be different, life takes over,” says Kent Allison, national leader of PwC’s Employee Financial Wellness Practice. “You start running down the same path. Some things are somewhat unavoidable.”
Half of Gen X respondents find it difficult to meet their household expenses on time each month, compared to 41% of millennial employees, according to PwC.
Seven in 10 millennials carry balances on their credit cards, with 45% using their credit cards for monthly expenses they could not afford otherwise; similarly, 63% of Gen X employees carry a credit card balance, especially among employees earning more than $100,000 a year, according to the survey.
“The ongoing concern year after year — but they don’t necessarily focus on it —is the ability to meet unexpected expenses,” Allison says. “It’s stale but there are reoccurring themes here that center around cash and debt management that people are struggling with.”
With monthly expenses mounting, employees from both generations are turning to their retirement funds to finance large costs, like a down payment on a home.
Nearly one in three employees said they have already withdrawn money from their retirement plans to pay for expenses other than retirement, while 44% said it’s they’ll likely do so in the future, according to PwC.
Employees living paycheck to paycheck are nearly five times more likely to be distracted by their finances at work and are twice as likely to be absent from work because of personal financial issues, according to PwC.
The numbers are alarming, especially because Americans are already lacking requisite retirement funds, says Allison.
“Two years ago, the fastest rising segment of the population in bankruptcy is retirees,” he says. “I suspect we’re going to have that strain and it may get greater as people start to retire and they haven’t saved enough.”
Employers committed to helping their employees refocus their work tasks and finances should first look to the wellness program, he says.
“Focus on changing behaviors,” says Allison. “The majority of [employers] use their retirement plan administrators. You’re not going to get there if you don’t take a holistic approach.”
Meanwhile, employees should also be directed to build up an emergency fund, utilize a company match for their 401(k) plans and then determine where their money is going to be best used, he says.
They can also be directed to the employee assistance program if the situation is dire.
“It’s intervention,” Allison says. “At that point, it’s too late.”