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3 Ways Gen Z and Millennial Employees Can Curb Financial Stress Through Open Enrollment

Amid the pandemic, having confidence in your financial health can do wonders for your mental well-being.

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For many of us, the past eight months have been a rollercoaster of emotions – an unpredictable surge of anxiety, frustration, and confusion. Add to that the volatile state of the U.S. economy, and it’s no surprise today’s employees feel increasingly stressed about their personal finances – and severely lack confidence when it comes to making decisions around them.

Unfortunately, this extends to their employee benefits, as well. While choosing the right benefits during open enrollment can help protect employees from incurring severe financial setbacks, or even debt, down the road, MetLife’s 2020 Open Enrollment Survey found that 1 in 8 feel insecure making decisions about their benefits. And this only intensifies for younger workers, with as many as 1 in 5 Gen Z and millennial employees saying they feel insecure making benefits decisions.

We’ve long known that having confidence in your financial health can do wonders for your mental well-being, and with 54 percent of younger workers admitting they feel insecure about some aspect of their finances, it’s more important than ever that young people feel more empowered in their financial decisions. As employees consider their options this open enrollment season, here are three steps employees can take to quell uncertainties during the process, and turn stress into financial empowerment. 

Study the options.

Every year, open enrollment season provides employees with a key opportunity to make critically important financial decisions. And once that window has passed, it’s gone – sometimes for the next 12 months. That’s why it’s important that younger employees have a deep understanding of all the benefits their employer is offering before making their decisions – especially considering that more than half (56 percent) of Gen Z and nearly half (49 percent) of millennial employees regret not enrolling in certain benefits during last year’s open enrollment.

Not choosing the right benefits could mean the difference between meeting their short- or long-term financial goals, and leaving money on the table, so in order to save themselves the worry down the line, younger employees should carefully examine all of the benefits offered to them by their employer. Whether it’s by attending seminars, or simply chatting with a co-worker, diligently considering each and every offering can pay dividends in both long-term financial and mental wellness.   

Take your time.

It can be tempting to put off getting financially organized or reviewing employer-offered benefits when there’s so much to worry about – and as it turns out, many younger employees are. In fact, nearly half (44 percent) spent more time planning a vacation, and 1 in 5 spent more time choosing what to watch on TV or a streaming service than they did choosing their benefits last year.

But by taking ample time now to consider their needs and review their options, Gen Z and millennial employees can actually avoid financial burden and anxiety later on. Slowing down and completing the process in multiple steps – in consultation with HR or a direct manager – can help minimize the risk of getting overwhelmed and maximize the probability of making smart and informed decisions.

Ask for help.

As many employees can attest, electing benefits can often be a complex and time-consuming process – with hasty or uninformed decisions leading to long-term financial stress. For younger professionals who are relatively new to the working world, this is especially true; in fact, 1 in 4 Gen Z and millennial employees say they felt stressed the last time they signed up for benefits.

Therefore, it’s important that younger employees go into open enrollment with a clear idea of what they know, and what they don’t, so they can better understand their options and make decisions that improve their financial health. Having open and transparent conversations with HR, benefits counselors, and even friends or family about uncertainties is a great place to start – and could save younger employees a lot of stress and worry in the long run.

With 58 percent of millennial and Gen Z employees stating that this year’s open enrollment is more important than it was last year, research increasingly shows that benefits elections can, and should, be a “first line of defense” to the uncertainties that lie ahead. By taking the time to closely consider every option – and asking questions along the way – young employees can feel empowered to take their future into their own hands, quell stress and uncertainty, improve their mental health, and encourage confidence in the years to come. 

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