An estimated 35% of millennials experience so much financial stress, in fact, that it impacts their work performance, whereas only 18% of Gen Xers and 11% of baby boomers say the same. And that's concerning -- first, because too much stress can mess with our health, but also, because poor job performance can lead to -- you guessed it -- even more stress. And that's a cycle in which nobody wants to get caught.
What are younger workers so stressed about?
What's giving millennials so much agita? For one thing, student loans. Nearly a quarter of millennials blame high levels of student debt for their money-related anxiety. But given that the average borrower aged 20 to 30 is on the hook for a monthly payment of $351, that's not particularly shocking.
And let's not forget general debt -- something younger workers are also familiar with. The average borrower under 35 carries an outstanding credit card balance of $5,808, and at 20% interest, which is in the ballpark of what many cards charge, that's a lot of potentially wasted money. Throw in the fact that younger workers are typically dealing with lower levels of income, and it's no wonder they're so overwhelmed.
Overcoming financial stress
If you're struggling with money woes, you can get ahead of the problem by taking control of your finances. Start by creating a budget, which will give you a clear picture of what you're spending and how much disposable income you have to work with. Seeing all of your expense categories mapped out will help you better manage your money.
Once you have that budget in place, identify the areas where you're overspending, and pledge to lower your expenses to give yourself a heftier cushion. If you work on lowering some of your more significant expenses, like your rent or car payment, you'll feel better having that breathing room.
Another key component of reducing your financial stress is having a healthy emergency fund. Your emergency savings should cover at least three months' worth of living expenses, and for an even greater dose of security, aim to sock away six months' worth of living costs. If you don't have much in the way of savings right now, don't panic. Emergency funds aren't built overnight. Just focus on adding to your account each month, and you'll get there over time.
Here's something else you can do to keep your stress load to a minimum: Avoid future debt. Though you can't change the past, you can pledge to steer clear of additional debt until you've paid down your current obligations. The only exception is if you decide to buy a home, in which case you'll obviously take on more debt in the form of a mortgage. But be careful before taking the leap into homeownership, because if you're not secure financially, you'll risk adding to your stress level by incurring another sizable expense.
Finally, don't hesitate to ask for help if you're struggling to manage your finances. You don't need to be rich to work with a financial advisor, so seek out recommendations and find someone to get you on track. You can also ask your employer to consider offering a financial wellness program. A good 93% of millennials say they'd use this type of resource if it were made available to them, and that's a statistic you shouldn't hesitate to share.
Though it's natural to encounter some degree of financial stress in your life, there are things you can do about it. Be proactive about managing your money, and with any luck, you'll come to feel better about your situation over time.