Findings from the second annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study reveal that many millennials identify themselves as Do-It-Yourselfers (DIYers) when it comes to making financial decisions. The tendency to rely on friends, the Web and social media for advice rather than on professionals is costing them — not only in their wallets but potentially in their health as well.
Forty percent of those polled in Guardian’s 2014 Workplace Benefits Study identify themselves as DIYers when it comes to financial planning. The study also indicated that these independent-minded individuals appear to be falling behind their peers when it comes to preparing for a secure retirement and obtaining insurance solutions.
Fifty-two percent of DIYers report that the benefits they receive through work account for most or all of their benefits and retirement preparations. However, this same group consistently underprioritizes and underperforms on key financial objectives when compared with the one-quarter of survey participants who identify themselves as Do-It-For-Me’s (DIFMs).
This stands to reason, since people who manage their own financial strategies and insurance coverage are often less focused on their goals than those who rely on professional guidance and advice. As a result, DIYers may not be taking full advantage of their workplace benefit offerings.
This DIY instinct is particularly strong for the many millennials who choose to forgo professional financial advice and chart their own path when it comes to selecting workplace retirement plans and health benefits.
As open enrollment season continues this fall, here are the top five mistakes millennials (and all workers concerned about their financial future) should avoid when signing up for workplace benefits coverage:
Millennials often fail to identify and prioritize their financial objectives. According to the Guardian survey, DIYers are less likely to place high importance on having appropriate health insurance, saving for retirement or having a plan to reach major financial goals.
Millennial DIYers lack a clear understanding of their workplace benefits and tend to rely on friends, family and social media for advice. One way for workers to close the gaps in their personal financial portfolio is to leverage the range of benefits available to them at the workplace. Indeed, DIFMs express more interest in voluntary benefits, like life or accident insurance, compared to DIYers — who may, in fact, have a greater need for such products since they do not typically use a financial advisor.
Millennials often check the same box of coverage every year rather than assess their unique needs to determine the best coverage options available. With 47 percent of employers surveyed confirming that they are planning to ask their employees to bear a greater portion of the benefits cost, it’s more important than ever to understand benefit options.
The majority of millennials are not prepared financially for a severe medical event or financial loss, and thus could find themselves deeply in debt, with their savings depleted and perhaps with limited means for earning any income.
Only a quarter of millennials surveyed take advantage of the benefits education available through their employer. Millennials are less likely than older workers to read benefits-related materials and to consider enrollment meetings to be an effective resource for learning about their benefits.
To complicate matters further, benefits education efforts typically are not well-designed for the millennial workforce, which means that younger workers often pay less attention to communications and thus ignore what could be a valuable resource.
The upshot is that while many millennial DIYers really do need (and perhaps even want) help in choosing their benefit options, they often appear to be less than receptive to such help. The heavy dependence on workplace benefits by workers across the generational divide, however, underscores the importance of the employer as a source of insurance and retirement products.
The lack of focus on setting financial goals by millennials and the lack of progress toward achieving the goals they do set suggest that more effective ways to reach these workers are still needed, such as multi-channel enrollment options, including access to professional benefits enrollment advisors (via phone, web chat or in person) that can help guide DIYers as they make choices that will affect them for many years to come.