Change the focus when talking benefits with millennial workers


Has there ever been an era without a generation gap? Probably not: Each generation of older workers laments the lack of initiative and work ethic of the following – and they put an exclamation point on it with tales about walking five miles a day to school or rising well before dawn to deliver newspapers.

The truth is that most of today’s youngest workers – members of the millennial generation – aren’t lacking in motivation. They’ve simply come of age in a time of economic strife. Millennials have learned from experience that it’s not always easy to find a find job, let alone the “right” job. What’s more, seeing their hard-working parents laid off by companies that are cost-cutting and downsizing has led to a not-so-surprising distrust of employers.

Businesses must make an effort to adjust and adapt to the millennial mindset. After all, this independent-minded generation currently makes up 36 percent of the workforce and the percentage is expected to reach 75 in the next 10 years.Put simply, companies that have long focused on the wants and needs of baby boomers must turn their attention to younger workers who have very different ideas and expectations.

Good times threatened by money woes

Here’s one way millennials differ from their parents: They’ve decided that life should be about good times. According to a report from Mindshare, 72 percent of millennials believe life is too short to be uptight and 71 percent consider having fun a core part of their lives.

Still, despite their dedication to merrymaking, millennials’ lives are often clouded by financial responsibilities. According to a Wells Fargo survey, 40 percent describe their debt as overwhelming, compared to 23 percent of baby boomers. When asked to quantify debt as a percentage of their monthly pay, millennials broke down their financial burdens this way: credit card debt, 16 percent; mortgage debt, 15 percent; student loan debt, 12 percent; auto debt, 9 percent; and medical debt, 5 percent. What’s more, 47 percent of millennials devote 50 percent or more of their paychecks to ongoing payments.

Financial independence, not retirement

Today’s companies – and financial experts too – often miss the boat when it comes to advising millennials about benefits strategies. Much of their communication focuses on setting aside funds for retirement, which is a key issue for baby boomers. However, millennials are less interested in planning for retirement than in planning for financial independence.

Unlike their parents and grandparents, most millennials don’t aspire to retire in their 60s. Instead, they’d like to say goodbye to conventional employment as quickly as possible, and many are willing to work side jobs or even invest 50 percent or more of their income to do so. As Alan Moore, co-founder of the XY Planning Network, wrote in a recent issue of Money magazine: Millennials “don’t need $1 million to $3 million in the bank when they’re 63 years old. Instead, they may need to reach an investment goal of $250,000 or $500,000 in assets before they can start withdrawing 3 to 4 percent, because along with other income streams this is enough to cover their expenses each year for life.”

It’s worth noting that job-changing is fast and furious in the early years of millennials’ careers: Young adults born in the early 80s held an average of 6.2 jobs between the ages of 18 and 26 and 57 percent of those jobs lasted less than a year.

The benefits equation

Given that millennials are both financially strapped and eager to achieve financial independence, where do benefits fit in?

Their often-crushing debt loads, combined with their commitment to enjoying life, make many young workers hesitant to enroll in benefits that shrink their paychecks. That’s evidenced by the fact that millennials comprise our nation’s most underinsured generation: 24 percent of Americans ages 18 to 29 don’t have health insurance. And it’s not just health insurance they’re rejecting, because millennials are the least likely of any age group to have any type of insurance, including auto, renters, homeowners, life and disability coverage.

To find out the answers on how to talk to millenials about these issues, see the rest of this article here.

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