Financial stress is a major concern for today’s millennials who are facing unprecedented financial challenges. According to a 2017 PWC Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 65% of millennials reported being stressed about their finances. Additionally, approximately one-third of employees reported being distracted by personal finance issues while at work, with almost half of them spending three hours or more each week handling these matters during the work day.
What millennials tell me is that they don’t know where to begin. They’re drowning in student debt and don’t have time to cull through all the information to help them with their finances. Employees are sometimes fearful to tackle their finances, yet they are a significant point of stress that needs to be addressed.
What your millennial employees don’t realize is that there are simple, joyful methods that they can easily implement to help them feel calmer and more balanced in their relationship to money. Here’s a quick tipsheet you can share with your millennial employees to help them get on track:
Learn to Live Within Your Means. This is, hands down, the most important tip. If you don’t nail this one, you won’t have a strong enough foundation to layer on the next four tips. What does “living within your means” mean? First and foremost, it means recognizing that the standard of living you remember your parents having when you left for college is something that they built up slowly and with hard work over 30 or 40 years.
Often TV shows and movies show images of housing, clothing, cars, vacations and other situations for individuals in their 20s and 30s that are simply not realistic given the incomes typically generated at these stages in life. Thanks to easy access to credit cards, Millennials now have the ability to spend way more than they can afford to pay off. And let me be very clear: many of their friends are doing exactly that. If Millennials ever wonder, how can they afford that? Chances are they can’t. As I like to say, if we all got “financially naked,” we’d shriek at what we saw.
Make full use of your employer’s benefit plans. Increasingly, employers are offering all sorts of goodies to make employees’ lives less stressful. So, don’t skip those HR presentations. At a minimum, you want to make sure you are participating in your firm’s retirement plan at least up to the point of the company match, and ideally to a full 10% of your paycheck but more is even better. Make sure you’ve thought through and asked all the questions you need to pick the right healthcare plan, and to make sure you understand other potential benefits like flexible spending accounts.
Follow the 50/30/20 Rule: Most of us overspend because no one gave us a framework to think about what is reasonable. My favorite rule of thumb comes from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, who wrote a balanced spending formula in the early 1990s. It suggests that 50% of your take home pay go towards essential costs (housing, transportation, food, insurance, mandatory, child care), and 20% go towards savings for the future (roughly 10% for retirement and 10% for emergency fund; once the latter is built up you allocate full 20% to retirement). And then 30% is left over for “fun.” Note: if you live in a very high-cost city, you may need to spend more than 50% on needs, which means you’ll need to cut back on those wants — or think creatively about housing, like having roommates.
Put all your bills on autopay. When you are starting out in your career, you are busy. It can be so easy to miss a payment on a credit card bill or a cable bill. Either by using your bank as command central and having all bills come through there or by signing up with each vendor individually, be sure you have a plan to have at least minimum monthly payments automatically paid each month (and ideally you’d have the full payment). This will protect your credit score, which places a heavy emphasis on timeliness of payments.
Self-educate. It would be nice if personal finance were taught in high school and college but that’s very rare. It’s up to us to teach ourselves — and today more than ever, it’s up to employers. Start by speaking with some of the more senior folks in your office. Take them out to lunch and ask them to share what they think is the most important financial advice you should be following at this stage in your life. People love to help others and while money typically is a “taboo social topic” in the context of asking a mentor/sponsor/advisor for learnings based on their own experience, I’ve yet to meet anyone who didn’t want to help.
Employers looking to ease their employees’ financial worries now and in the future need to step up and start the conversation. With a sharp focus on how money is made and saved, employees can concentrate on the reason employers hired them in the first place: to do their jobs.