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An Entire Generation is on FIRE. Why Millennials Are Choosing an Alternative Route to Retirement

An Entire Generation is on FIRE. Why Millennials Are Choosing an Alternative Route to Retirement
Posted on Wednesday, July 10, 2019 by Rae Shanahan

What do millennials want from their employer?

Yelling “FIRE” in a crowded movie theater creates chaos —almost as much chaos as it’s acronymic counterpart F.I.R.E (financially independent, retire early) movement is causing online.

How-to-attract-millennial-employeesFed up with extreme work schedules, rising costs of living and an inability to check-off basic life milestones due to other financial pressures, many Millennials are taking a different route to retirement.

Age-old wisdom is just that—old.  

The fact is, younger generations are no longer enjoying a better standard of living than their parents. On many different fronts, Millennials are faring far worse financially than generations past. And, despite all the negative press Millennials get, it’s not their fault.

According to a recent report, workers between the ages of 25 and 34 earn lower averages salaries ($40,581) than Baby Boomers did at the same age ($50,910) when adjusted for inflation. These figures represent a stunning salary decline of 20%. Furthermore, a young adult in 1989 without a college degree earned roughly the same income as a college graduate with student debt today.

Additionally, Baby Boomers owned double the assets young adults do now, with average assets for Millennials with a college degree declining by 71%. Coming of age in the Great Recession and decades-long financial trends have contributed to major declines in Millennial financial security.

The daily grind is becoming unbearable.

The American worker is now grinding at all hours of the day and throughout more days of the week. Today, 77% of Americans work more than 40 hours a week, with an average estimate of 47 hours a week. In comparison, the average American worker puts in 260 more hours a year than the average British worker and 499 hours more than most French citizens. All this work and no play is having a negative impact: recently, the World Health Organization classified burnout as an official diagnosis.

With our always-on culture that encourages and demands employees to be on call 24/7, employees are struggling to keep up, causing a spike in mental health issues and major losses to employers due to low productivity and engagement.

How can employers navigate this situation?

Mounting college debt, lack of assets and mounting job pressures are some of the reasons Millennials are searching for an alternative route to the traditional path to retirement. Enter, F.I.R.E.

Financially Independent, Retire Early is a movement taking the 75-million-strong Millennial generation by storm. With extreme saving tactics, many are opting out of traditional spending habits to save enough to retire early (think 30s and 40s) or save enough to have the work flexibility they crave.

In a recent article, Millennials Kiersten Saunders, 34, and her husband Julien, 39, say they have embraced the movement. 

“I would say the genesis for me is really an act of social and cultural rebellion,” Julien said. “We are in an environment where consumer culture is really extreme, where work culture is really extreme, and I would have these conversations with friends and family members who didn’t enjoy their jobs but kept doing it because they had to. And they still didn’t have any savings, and the cycle just repeated [itself] to where they were essentially living their lives in debt.”

“The intuition behind it is fairly simple,” Kiersten said. “It’s save your money, so that you don’t have to work forever.” 

Suffice it to say, gone are the Baby Boomer days of being able to retire at a reasonable age. In fact, many Americans are not planning to retire at all, and even more still are planning to work part-time well into retirement age. This doesn’t sit well with many employees.

With Millennials being the largest generation in the workplace today, HR professionals need to understand the F.I.R.E trend in order to attract and retain talent in the longest economic growth period since the Civil War. Here are three options employers should consider:

Offer portable benefits

Millennials who want workplace flexibility may opt into working part-time or cobbling together multiple gig jobs to make the money they need to live the life they want. Needless to say, they are on the move. What better way to attract and retain these on-the-go employees than to offer a portable benefits solution they can take with them if they change jobs or simply want to take a break from the workplace. Benefits matter, no matter where employees are in life. Providing them the opportunity to take their benefits with them on their adventures is priceless in recruiting and retention.

Encourage a workplace that values flexibility

The ability to work from home or work remotely is increasingly topping the list of benefits younger generations value. Some companies are even changing schedules so their employees can have Fridays off during the summer months with huge returns on workplace productivity. According to a recent survey, 55% of American companies across industries have instituted a summer Friday policy in 2019, that’s up from 44% in 2018. Thinking creatively about scheduling and treating employees like adults can do wonders for your productivity levels, retention rates and overall employee satisfaction. Plus, a workplace that values life outside of work will go a long way with Millennial employees.

Offer new ways to save

It’s been widely reported that American workers are struggling to save. In fact, 42% of employees said they would go into debt, dip into retirement savings or simply not know what to do if faced with a large, unexpected expense. Offering your employees student loan repayment options or an alternative savings account can help alleviate some financial pressures and help employees feel more comfortable at work and in their lives. Plus, these benefits can help support those looking to make big changes in their life, with an ability to pay off student loans faster, employees will have the ability to put more money away in retirement accounts and savings accounts. And, companies are already hopping onboard. A recent survey conducted by Abbott (who already offers student loan repayment options) found that 60% of adults with debt say that working for a business that assists with that financial burden is a key enticement.

Changing with the millennial workforce

The war for talent continues to rage and employers who start offering benefits that support an alternative workforce with an alternative lifestyle will be ahead of the competition. It isn’t feasible to wait for employees’ mindsets to “go back to the way they were 15 years ago.” With the latest  Generation Z entering the workforce, it’s important for employers to continue to develop their benefits offerings to attract and retain the right workers to grow their businesses. Thankfully, HR professionals don’t have to do this alone. Benefits technology is becoming more and more seamless, making it easy to offer new benefits at the right place, at the right time for a changing workforce in a constantly changing world.

Interested in learning more about portable benefits and the nitty gritty to offering benefits to the alternative workforce? Check out our webinar below.