Lots of folks worry about money from time to time. But there's a difference between fretting over a larger-than-expected bill and spending a huge chunk of your waking hours stressing over finances. Yet the latter scenario seems to characterize a significant percentage of working millennials.
An estimated 28% of millennials are experiencing so much financial anxiety, in fact, that it's impacting their job performance on a consistent basis, according to a newly released Northwestern Mutual study. That's more than twice the rate of the general population. Furthermore, 23% of millennials say that financial stress makes them physically ill on a weekly or monthly basis compared to just 12% of workers among all age groups. Talk about extreme.
What's worrying millennials?
Clearly, younger Americans have a lot weighing on their minds, but their top concerns center on:
- Job loss
- Savings (or lack thereof)
- Income (or again, lack thereof)
What makes millennials so susceptible to anxiety in these areas? Though younger workers aren't always the first to go in a layoff situation, it stands to reason that someone with only a few years of experience might lose a job before a more seasoned employee when push comes to shove. Furthermore, because millennials are more likely to have higher levels of student debt than older workers, their ability to save well is somewhat limited. Finally, younger workers tend to earn the least, and are therefore likely to not only worry about how little they're making, but have fewer options for increasing that number in the near term.
If money-related anxiety is keeping you up at night, regardless of whether you fall into the millennial category or not, there are steps you can take to gain more security. First, your job. While it's true that sometimes even the most diligent, experienced workers get laid off, you can minimize your risk by continuously growing your skills and proving your value at your current job. Get certified in something related to your field, volunteer for new projects at work, and be that person at the office who's known for identifying solutions, not problems.
As far as savings go, you may need to put in some effort if you're glaringly behind. A frightening 69% of U.S. adults have less than $1,000 in savings, while 34% have no savings at all. If you fall into either category, building a safety net over time can help reduce the extent to which your lack of savings makes you anxious.
To start, map out a budget that accounts for your current expenses, and find ways to cut corners, even if it means eliminating some luxuries for the time being. Another option is to work a side gig, which can boost your income and help you build an emergency fund more quickly. Of the 44 million Americans who currently hold down a second job, 36% bring home more than $500 a month. That, combined with a few lifestyle changes, could leave you with enough cash to cover three months of living expenses in as little as a year's time.
Finally, let's talk income. If you're a younger worker who's just starting out, you may not have much wiggle room to negotiate a higher salary. But once you've put in your time in the workforce, you'll have ample opportunities to increase your earnings, whether it's finding a new job, or getting more money out of your current employer.
That said, before you resign yourself to your current income, make sure it's in line with what similar professionals in your area are making. Sites like Salary.com let you compare your earnings to what others are making at your level within your field, so if you come to find that you're being underpaid, you'll have a leg to stand on when asking for a raise.
Though it's natural to stress about finances on occasion, if money matters are impacting your job performance, social life, and general well-being, it's time to address the situation before it gets worse. It's a far better option than losing sleep over factors you can, indeed, control.