Generation X will be the next generation to retire after the baby boomers leave the workforce, so it’s essential these workers understand how saving now can prepare them to retire comfortably in the future.
However, many Gen. X-ers still carry great financial responsibilities when it comes to children and aging parents. Often referred to as “the sandwich generation” because they are “sandwiched” between younger and older family members in need of assistance, roughly half of Gen. X-ers are supporting adult children, while 21 percent are supporting their parents in some way.
Even with these additional financial responsibilities, Gen. X-ers desire to live within their means, manage their money appropriately, and save where they can. They pride themselves on being an independent, self-sufficient generation. They are also extremely cautious about the amount of risk they take on, as many of them saw their parents lose considerable amounts of money in the Great Recession. Many Gen. X-ers experienced their own losses in savings and retirement accounts during the stock market crash as well.
But Generation X is in trouble: Only 36 percent of them are actively saving money in retirement accounts. You, as an employer, can offer Gen. X-ers some assistance in the form of financial benefits — and along the way, you can make yourself a more attractive employment option for this generation.
What You Can Do to Help Gen. X Retire Securely
Financial wellness benefits are rapidly gaining traction across the country. The Employee Benefit Research Institute reports 54 percent of employers currently provide financial wellness services, while 12 percent are actively implementing such services and 34 percent want to offer financial wellness benefits in the near future. It’s encouraging to see this commitment to employee financial health, but it is important that organizations ensure the programs they offer provide the comprehensive services Gen. X-ers need at this stage in their lives.
A holistic financial wellness program needs to accomplish a few key things. It should help Gen. X-ers assess their current financial situations, identify their goals, and make the appropriate behavioral changes to better their financial futures. At the same time, the program shouldn’t be unnecessarily complex or difficult to navigate. Gen. X-ers want benefits that are unique to their personal situations and don’t involve much effort to utilize — and don’t we all?
A solid financial wellness program, then, should meet Gen. X-ers where they are in their financial journeys, starting with a personal assessment to effectively guide each employee toward their eventual goal. It’s also extremely helpful to provide Gen. X-ers with resources to help them visualize their retirement lifestyles and the appropriate monetary moves they’ll need to make to achieve them. Financial calculators and educational information can be just as important as offering a healthy 401(k) match.
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It’s important to offer Gen. X benefits that have real-word applications and tangible, immediate effects. You may want to include in your financial wellness program certified financial counselors and coaches who can offer personal recommendations and professional guidance to help employees navigate difficult situations and plan for the future. If Gen. X-ers see quick progress and improvements in quality of life for themselves and their families, they’ll be more likely to continue exploring the benefits you offer. Plus, when they see a return on their investment — monetarily or otherwise — they will have your organization to thank.
Let Freedom Ring
In addition to financial security, Gen. X-ers want you to respect their contributions to your organization and give them the freedom they’ve earned. Work/life balance is especially important to this generation — which makes sense when you consider their sandwiched status. Moreover, Gen. X-ers helped build the very concept of the flexible work environment, so they expect to be able to take advantage of it.
Gen. X-ers don’t like being micromanaged; trust is key with them. They worked hard to earn your trust, and they won’t break that trust when presented with some flexibility.
Give Gen. X What They Need to Get Them to Choose You
Many companies claim to have open-door policies, but if you want to become a preferred employer for Gen. X, you need to really live by that principle in your organizational culture.
Personal finances have long been taboo in the workplace, but more and more employees and employers alike are realizing it is more productive to discuss challenges and find solutions together. In fact, 60 percent of employees would be comfortable sharing financial information with their employers or an appropriate third party for personalized financial guidance.
As an independent, self-sufficient generation, Gen. X-ers want to make their own decisions, but they would also like some help. Gen. X-ers respect their employers (you), and they may look to you for support and advice. If you support their career goals and lifestyles, Gen X-ers can be very loyal employees.
David Kilby is president of FinFit.