In the past five years, employers have realized just how precarious a position their employees are in when it comes to retirement and they have begun to put plans in place to help get them moving in the right direction.
A report released this week by Financial Finesse, a provider of financial wellness programs, shows just how ill-prepared baby boomers, Gen Xers and millennials are for retirement.
In the case of baby boomers, they are generally doing well financially, according to Financial Finesse, but those who are unprepared for retirement have little time to save, and even those who are prepared face some financial risks.
Baby boomers have the highest financial wellness scores across the board, according to Financial Finesses 2014 Generational Research, with the exception of retirement. They will need to place more emphasis on proper insurance, investment management, and living affordable lifestyles in retirement, the report found.
The report predicts that the insurance industry may see increased sales of income annuities from those who need additional income and long-term care insurance for people who want to protect their retirement assets.
Generation X, individuals between the ages of 30 and 54, has improved its financial wellness, but 26% face high or overwhelming financial stress because of mortgages and many are supporting young children and elderly parents, the report found.
Millennials, or those under age 30, are doing a good job with day-to-day money management, but have made paying off student loans and not losing money their priority over growing retirement savings.
Employers are becoming more aware of their employees financial situations, particularly when it comes to older workers.
Weve seen an increase in their urgency and willingness to dedicate teams to this by building financial wellness programs, said Liz Davidson, CEO of Financial Finesse. People are designing and monitoring these programs and the budget dollars have gotten much larger. They are also doing much more analysis on behavioral change and what is triggering the behavioral change.
Davidson points out that in years past, companies would offer lunch and learn programs to talk to employees about their financial futures.
Now, they are looking at it in the aggregate: what happens by generation, age and income? What works and what might not work as well? They then adjust their programs accordingly.
They have gotten much more scientific and data-based and outcomes-based, Davidson said. We really want to move the needle with employee retirement preparedness and overall financial wellness, knowing that it is important for an employees satisfaction with their benefits and their job.
Even though millennials have the lowest average financial wellness scores as a whole, they continue to slightly edge out Generation X in several areas of money management, the research found. More millennials than GenXers say they have no financial stress and are they are less likely to say their financial stress is high or overwhelming or that they wont meet future financial goals.
Millennials are being overwhelmed with student loan debt, with the average loan amount over $25,500. The good news, according to Financial Finesse, is that they still have time on their side. Small changes they make in retirement savings and investment strategy today can have a huge impact on their retirement readiness tomorrow, the report said.
This generation also is poised to take advantage of new retirement plan and investment developments, like auto-enrollment and auto-escalation. Millennials claim to not know much about investing, so they could also benefit from the use of target-date funds within their 401(k) plans.
Millennials would benefit greatly from education about basic money management skills, including the importance of emergency funds and the use of tools to manage their expenses, the importance of saving for retirement early and basic investing knowledge, said Financial Finesse.
Generation X is the least likely generation to have a handle on their cash flow, paying bills on time or paying off their credit card balances in full. They may not know whether they are on track for retirement and they are the most likely to have late fees or to take retirement plan loans or hardship withdrawals, the report found.
All of this adds to this generations high stress levels. Because Generation X is entering its peak earning years, they do have time to gain momentum before they retire. Auto-escalation and catch-up contributions can help them increase their retirement savings moving forward, Financial Finesse said.
One of the biggest mistakes Generation X makes is putting too much money away for their childrens educations, at the expense of their own secure retirement.
This generation would benefit from education regarding managing and reducing expenses and how to save for retirement while juggling competing demands. They also need to learn how they can pay for college without derailing their own financial security, the report found.
Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver, Colorado.
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