More Than Half Live Paycheck to Paycheck; Personal Safety Nets Need a Boost

Generation Y employees may have been hardest hit by the daily financial pressures exerted by the economic downturn of recent months. More than half (53%) of Gen Y employees (ages 21-32) say they are now living paycheck to paycheck – up from 50% in 2007 – versus 44% of their older associates. And nearly three in four (73%) are very concerned about having enough money to make ends meet, compared to 56% of Generation X employees and 62% of Baby Boomers, according to MetLife’s 7th annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.

Compounding this financial uncertainty is the fact that many of these youngest employees are less likely to own core protection products such as disability income insurance and life insurance.  Less than half (46%) of full-time Gen Y employees have disability income insurance, compared to 59% of their older colleagues; and about one-third of Gen Y employees (compared to one-fifth of employees in the older generations) say they have no life insurance.  Since the MetLife study found that almost half (49%) of surveyed Gen Y employees are married and 46% have children, these gaps in personal financial safety nets could undermine their – and their families’ – financial well-being.

“Gen Y employees appear especially vulnerable to unexpected financial risks given their propensity to live paycheck to paycheck and the relative weakness of their personal safety nets.  A common misconception might be that Gen Y employees require less financial protection because they don’t have dependents, but that is not true – Generation Y is diverse in terms of life stages.  Many are getting married, having children and assuming multiple financial obligations. And for single Gen Y employees, who have only their own income to rely on, it is equally important to protect that asset,” said Todd Katz, senior vice president, Institutional Business, MetLife.

Underinsured, but interested
The economic downtown has served as a catalyst and is motivating Gen Y workers to assess their financial needs.  Nearly half (49%) said that the economy has prompted them to review their life insurance needs and about one-third (35%) say they have taken steps to determine their financial needs with regard to disability coverage.  They are also interested in obtaining more financial advice and guidance in the workplace:

  • Nearly half (45%) of surveyed Gen Y employees say that because of the economy, they have a greater interest in understanding their workplace benefits.
  • 45% are interested in having their employer provide access to benefits advisors.
  • 52% are interested in having their employer provide access to financial planners to help with retirement planning.

Currently, only 35% of surveyed Gen Y employees say they are very satisfied with the benefits they receive through their employer, and only 39% say they understand which benefits best meet their needs. According to MetLife’s research, “all other insurance benefits” – such as life, disability, dental and vision coverage – now fall within the top three primary factors influencing employee loyalty, after medical coverage and salary.  In 2007, 48% of Gen Y employees said all other insurance benefits were very significant factors affecting their feelings of loyalty to their employers.  That percentage climbed to 71% in 2008.

The MetLife study indicates that benefits satisfaction has a positive relationship with job satisfaction.  In fact, among employees across all generations who said they were highly satisfied with their benefits, 73% were also satisfied with their jobs.  Only 22% of those employees who were not satisfied with their benefits were satisfied with their jobs.

“Since Gen Y workers obtain the majority of their financial protection products at the workplace, employers have a tremendous opportunity to develop a benefits program that can help retain this mobile demographic – a big win both for employers looking to grow their talent base and for employees who are interested in obtaining valuable assistance in building secure financial safety nets for themselves and their families,” added Katz.

Definition of Generations
The MetLife study surveyed full-time Generation Y employees born between 1977 and 1987; Generation X employees born between 1965 and 1976; and Baby Boomers born between 1946 and 1964.

Study Methodology
MetLife’s 7th Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study surveyed employers and employees at two different points in time, August 2008 and November 2008, to assess how employer and employee attitudes toward employee benefits may have changed from prior years, and, more specifically, how they may have been affected by the changing economic climate.   Both sets of research interviews were fielded by Gfk Custom Research North America.  More than 1,500 interviews were conducted with benefits decision-makers at companies with two or more employees, representing a mix of industries and geographic regions, and more than 1,300 interviews were conducted with full-time employees, age 21 and over, at companies with a minimum of two employees.  The 7th Annual MetLife Study of Employee Benefits Trends is available at along with a wealth of other related benefits resources.

About MetLife
MetLife is a subsidiary of MetLife, Inc. (NYSE: MET), a leading provider of insurance, employee benefits and financial services with operations throughout the United States and the Latin America, Europe and Asia Pacific regions. Through its subsidiaries and affiliates, MetLife, Inc. reaches more than 70 million customers around the world and MetLife is the largest life insurer in the United States (based on life insurance in-force). The MetLife companies offer life insurance, annuities, auto and home insurance, retail banking and other financial services to individuals, as well as group insurance and retirement & savings products and services to corporations and other institutions. For more information, visit


Karen Eldred