Financial health of millenials: a cry for help!

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Scientific interpretation

The arrival of millennials (those born between 1980 and 2000) in the workplace has caused its share of upheaval. They bring with them a certain number of changes in ways of working, especially through their increased use of technology. They differ on several points from previous generations: their style of consumption, which happens more online, their greater difficulty in separating personal life and professional life, as well as the issue of their personal finances. The latter is a major source of stress, exacerbated by the combined accumulation of student debt and credit. Despite this financial stress, millennials often hesitate to ask for help in managing their finances.

Organizations can no longer ignore millennials’ financial stress because of its negative effects on these workers’ general well-being, motivation and performance at work. But how can organizations take action on financial stress? Chan and colleagues (2017) sought to understand the reasons why millennials hesitate to get help in managing their finances and how organizations can help employees who struggle with financial worries.

Expert adviser

Claudia CHAMPAGNE, associate professor, Université de Sherbrooke

ALEX HÉROUX-MESSIER, doctoral student in economics, Université de Sherbrooke

Authors

Étienne FOUQUET, research assistant, Université de Sherbrooke

PATRICE DANEAU, research assistant, Université de Sherbrooke

JOSÉE CHARBONNEAU, research assistant, Université de Sherbrooke

This initiative was made possible through a collaboration with the Université de Sherbrooke.

WHAT DO WE MEAN BY:

Financial stress

Financial stress involves the perception of not having adequate or sufficient personal resources to meet one’s current or future financial obligations. It involves a sense of worry and uncertainty about one’s financial health. If these feelings begin to take up too much space, financial stress can become excessive and lead to health problems, such as depression or trouble sleeping, or reduce engagement and performance at work.

Financial skills and self-efficacy

The sense of financial ability is the perception that a person has their own skills when it comes to personal finances, whether these are real or not. People who see themselves as financially competent have a higher sense of self-efficacy and are therefore more confident in their financial behaviours.

Perception of financial problems

The importance that people place on their financial problems. For some people, the feeling of general well-being is greatly influenced by financial issues, while for others, this plays only a minor role.

Perseverance

The degree of orientation a person has towards their goals and the intensity of their efforts in order to reach those goals.

Complete reference

Chan, K. K., Huang, E. J. et Lassu, R. A. (2017). Understanding Financially Stressed Millennials’ Hesitancy to Seek Help : Implications for Organizations. Journal of Financial Education, 43(1), 141-160.

Method

The study was done with 488 millennials studying business administration, recruited in a university in the western United States. They responded to an online questionnaire that measured their levels of financial stress, efficacy and perceived financial skills, financial problems experienced, perseverance and hesitation about asking for help.

The average age of participants was 22 years, and 62.2% were men.

 

Because studies must always be interpreted with caution

This study was done with university students in business administration in the United States, a bias that cannot be overlooked; the sample is made up of students in the field of business. Therefore, their perception of their own financial knowledge and the importance they place on their personal finances may be higher than the general population’s. Also, the survey is not given in the academic article, which does not allow us to evaluate the wording of the questions and its potential impact on the understanding of the questions.

KEY POINT

Millennials showing a higher level of financial stress are also the ones who are the most reluctant to seek help in managing their finances.

The higher their feeling of competence and financial efficacy, the more likely millennials are to seek help in managing their finances. As a corollary, a weak sense of financial efficacy is related to a greater hesitation to seek this help, which can lead to the onset of financial stress or increase it.

Also, millennials who have sufficient personal resources are more likely to develop a sense of competence in managing their own finances and show greater perseverance in managing their personal finances.

WHAT CAN ORGANIZATIONS DO?

The first step should be to measure and evaluate the needs of employees when it comes to managing personal finances. It is possible that the need is not there. If there is a need, it will be important to measure the scope of the perceived problem in order to adjust presentations and the type of help offered.

To promote help-seeking behaviours and reduce financial stress, employees must become aware of the importance of healthy management of their personal finances and see that they have the knowledge they need to manage their personal finances. The authors of the study therefore suggest a certain number of actions for organizations that wish to support millennials in adopting behaviours and attitudes that promote better management of personal finances.

 

Actions

Examples

Create programs that promote skills development in managing personal finances

Offer training workshops.

  • Suggest training workshops that aim to inform employees about assistance and technical tools available to support them in managing their personal finances. Training workshops can be held during the lunch hour to avoid cutting into work hours.

Give employees tools promoting financial education and the development of basic skills in managing personal finances.

  • Set up a phone line for employees who have questions or need to be directed to resources about finances. If this solution is too costly, partner with financial institutions that offer this service free of charge.
  • Send information about managing personal finances using the organization’s internal communications.
  • Offer employees programs to help them manage their finances to teach them to better manage and pay back their debts.

Suggest tools and training adapted to employees’ needs.

  • Let employees choose the topics they would like to learn about, based on the difficulties they are facing. For example, if the topic of paying back student debts is more urgent in their view, it would be better to give this priority. They will gain a greater sense of competence in being equipped to solve their real problems, which will foster their sense of efficacy in personal finances and their help-seeking behaviour.
  • Promote the co-creating of solutions (e.g. during workshops, it is important to take advantage of employees’ different ideas and experiences in building solutions) rather than going for set training programs involving a single solution.
  • Adapt the tools and training offered based on the specific characteristics of millennials. For example, if they tend to get information online, use Web tools.

Invite presenters who are qualified in giving financial guidance

Call upon professionals.

  • Choose presentations by people outside of the organization: such solutions can sometimes appear more official and more effective.

Target presentations towards lasting financial health.

  • Choose presentations that educate and provide a better understanding of saving and healthy financial behaviours by setting long-term goals. For example, if an employee is struggling with student debt, it is better to equip them not only to be able to pay back the debt, but also to be better able to manage future debts.

Involve employees in choosing the presentation topics.

  • Be flexible: adapt presentations to the context of different employees and in this way offer tools or assistance adapted to their needs.

Treat financial health like you treat employees’ physical health.

  • Consider financial health on a continuum (degree of financial health), rather than something that is present or absent. It is better to offer ongoing rather than one-time support.

COMMENTS FROM OUR COLLEAGUES

Implementation of programs intended to help employees can result in major costs for an organization, and it is difficult to predict whether they will be effective and reach the desired goals. To avoid unnecessary costs, it is best to adapt your actions to employees’ real needs.

Taking a bottom-up approach is recommended: it is better to survey employees to understand their specific needs and tailor the training and workshops to their expectations. This will help you not only to avoid extra costs, but also to increase millennials’ participation in training activities and promote their sense of competence and self-efficacy in managing their personal finances.

To be effective and to engage millennials, why not ask those who have done the training to co-facilitate workshops with experts? In this way you ensure that they strengthen their skills when it comes to managing personal finances.

Finally, it can be beneficial to ask service providers to integrate help services for managing personal finances in what they offer. In this way, a lot of energy and costs can be saved.

 

TO CITE THIS GLOBAL-WATCH SCIENTIFIC INTERPRETATION

Champagne, C., Héroux-Messier, A., Fouquet, E., Daneau, P., Charbonneau, J. (2018). Financial health of millennials: a cry for help!. Global-Watch Scientific Interpretation available at www.global-watch.com

TO CITE THE ORIGINAL ARTICLE BY THE AUTHORS OF THE STUDY

Chan, K. K., Huang, E. J. and Lassu, R. A. (2017). Understanding Financially Stressed Millennials’ Hesitancy to Seek Help: Implications for Organizations. Journal of Financial Education, 43(1), 141–160.

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