The latest Financial Finesse research shows that small changes in an employees’ financial wellness can make a huge difference in their ability to save for retirement.

Different generations handle debt and overall financial wellness differently. Financial Finesse combed through more than 35,000 financial wellness assessments that were completed in 2014 and 2015 and found that small changes to a person’s overall financial wellness can have a major impact on their retirement savings moving forward.

This knowledge has the potential to help all generations, but millennials stand to benefit the most because they have the longest amount of time until they retire, says Liz Davidson, CEO and founder of Financial Finesse.

Just moving from a 4 to a 5 on a 10-point financial wellness scale can add $100,000 in retirement savings over 40 years.

The bad news for millennials is that they are overloaded with student loan debt and many are living at home because their wages have stagnated. The good news is that “they do have these tools and resources that other generations didn’t have through financial wellness programs, robo advisers, software, apps, more access to information and more of it is unbiased and focused on changing their behavior as opposed to defining financial concepts,” says Davidson. “So, if they use it, and more and more are doing so, this could be less of a problem than people think because they have the tools they need.”

Baby boomers have the least amount of time to make up for any savings shortfalls. Financial Finesse found that baby boomers still hold a lot of debt going into retirement. Data show that this generation had the biggest decrease in the percentage of them who have a plan to pay off their debt and the biggest increase in those who are experiencing late fees.

Davidson says she is most happy that across the board, “generations are doing more to assess their personal situation. We’re seeing strong increases in the percentage of employees who are using a financial wellness assessment.”

More individuals are running retirement calculations, the research finds, which is also good news.

“You can’t retire without knowing where you are at and what you need to do,” she says.

Millennials are very good at checking their credit reports, according to Financial Finesse. That is huge, since a decade ago most people weren’t aware of their credit score until they had to be. More and more millennials are worried about the amount of debt they are carrying.

More than half of Generation X listed ‘getting out of debt’ as a top-three priority and 53% had ‘lack of emergency’ savings as a top-three vulnerability.

Forty-three percent of millennials were saddled with serious debt, making it a top-three vulnerability.

Davidson says that employees are getting overleveraged again, much like people did before the Great Recession hit.

“Fewer of them have a plan to get out of debt. There is growing concern about debt. With interest rates so low, this is what happens. It allows people to temporarily overextend themselves,” she says. That isn’t a problem until the rates return to normal levels.

Baby boomers are also slipping into debt at a significant rate.

“They had the worst backslide. That is not good. This is the point in time where they need to be focusing on retirement and accumulating money for retirement. We are seeing signs of delayed retirement. The average age of retirement is rising. This is particularly bad among the lower income more blue-collar segment of the workforce,” Davidson says.

Most retirement planning tools don’t take debt into account in determining how prepared someone is for retirement, she adds. That could become a problem.

Even if people are auto enrolling into their workplace retirement plan at a high deferral rate, if people aren’t changing their spending behavior to account for that, it’s just coming out on the debt side, she says.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit News content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access