Life Events Can Boost – or Break – Financial Wellness

A new survey finds that debt, exercise and work reorganizations can have a huge influence on worker well-being. And you might be surprised at which generational cohort is taking it harder than anyone else.

This year, the average person will most likely experience four life events such as starting a new job, caring for a family member, buying a new house or having a child. For better or worse, these events affect many other aspects of life and reveal a strong connection between health and wealth, according to a study by Fidelity and the Stanford Center on Longevity.

The survey of more than 9,000 employees found that the top two things you can do to improve well-being are to pay off debt and start exercising. The biggest negative impacts? Taking on debt and experiencing a reorganization at work.

‘Shuffle’ Scuffles

Thirty percent of people surveyed experienced a reorganization at work in the past year, and more employees cited reorganizations as the most significant life event — more so than any other life event in the survey. Reorganizations had negative impacts on each area of well-being, with 64% of people reporting feeling less happy and 30% feeling worse about their finances. Women and Millennials reported significant negative impacts: 49% of Millennials reported losing sleep and 63% of women had lower career satisfaction after a reorganization.

Gender Gaps

Nearly 70% of women indicated that taking on debt led to higher stress levels, compared to 47% of men. More than a third (36%) of women said they sleep worse, compared to one in five men (21%); and a third of women (34%) said they gained weight – twice the rate of men (17%).

On the flipside, paying off debt has a major impact on overall happiness, especially for women: Nearly 6 in 10 women (59%) reported that paying off debt made them happier, compared to 50% of men; 62% of women indicated their lives were improved (versus 53% of men); and 44% of women reported lower stress levels (versus 37% of men).

Exercise Exorcised?

Starting to exercise consistently is one of the most positive actions one can make, with clear benefits to a person’s health, life and career. Unfortunately, twice as many people said they had stopped exercising. For them, there’s an opposite effect, according to the report. For example, among those starting an exercise routine:

  • 56% feel less stressed;
  • 71% are happier; and
  • 38% are more motivated at work.

On the other hand, among those stopping an exercise routine:

  • 55% feel more stressed;
  • 69% are less happy; and
  • 20% are less motivated at work.

 Boomer ‘Rang’  

Adult children who move back home is a common event; in fact, one in nine Boomer parents surveyed said their kids “returned to the nest” in the past year. What kind of impact has that had? According to the survey:

  • 68% of parents reported they are more stressed;
  • 53% are less happy;
  • 54% are less satisfied; and
  • 53% have less leisure time.

Additionally, 46% of women reported sleeping worse and 40% reported gaining weight.

The health impact of being a caregiver is significant for everyone, but the burden is highest for Boomer women − one in four reported taking on the caregiving role for a sick or elderly family member in the past year. Nearly 80% indicated they are more stressed (versus 66% of men), 50% of women slept worse (versus 33% of men), 43% of women gained weight from being a caregiver (versus 22% of men), and 42% of women stopped exercising (versus 32% of men).

There was also a financial impact: 37% of women report saving less after becoming a caregiver, as do 26% of men.

Generation Hexed?

Which generation has experienced the most negative impact on well-being from life events? Gen X. The report notes that they are the new “sandwich generation,” trying to raise kids, save for college, pay off debt and care for aging parents, all while trying to save for retirement and health care. The study revealed 65% of Gen Xers had a life event that negatively affected their well-being, versus 60% of Boomers and 57% of Millennials.

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