Youngest Workers Become Increasingly Benefits Savvy

Gen Y’s financial knowledge is becoming more grounded in industry information and less in the advice of friends and family. Today, most of their information about benefits comes from the workplace.

Over the past two years, the youngest generation in the workforce has become more engaged in learning about the benefits that can help protect them financially, according to studies of Generation Y conducted online by Harris Interactive on behalf of Unum.

“Members of this generation are entering the workforce and building careers during a time of economic uncertainty and intense debate over health care reform,” said Barbara Nash, vice president of Corporate Research for Unum. “They’re clearly taking an increased interest in how they can build and protect their financial lives.”

The studies, conducted in August 2008 and August 2010, found that:

-The percentage of Generation Y members who said they are extremely/very familiar with life insurance jumped from 31 to 44 percent.

-The percentage who said they are extremely/very familiar with retirement accounts grew from 31 to 43 percent.

-The percentage who said they are extremely/very familiar with disability insurance increased from 16 to 24 percent.

-The workplace continues to be their most reliable source for benefits information, with 68 percent of Generation Y employees citing it as a top resource. But they are also more likely to seek out online information about financial protection benefits than they were just two years ago, the study showed.

-The percentage who use insurance company websites to learn about benefits providers grew from 32 percent in 2008 to 44 percent in 2010.

-The percentage who visit consumer advice websites grew from 21 to 27 percent.

-The percentage who participate in online forums or blogs increased from 7 to 12 percent.

-And as their use of online resources grew, Generation Yers’ reliance on family and friends as a source of benefits information diminished. In particular, the percentage of Gen Yers who turn to parents for guidance has dropped significantly.

-Between 2008 and 2010, the percentage who said they rely on parents for benefits information fell from 60 to 42 percent.

-The percentage who cite friends as a resource for benefits guidance dropped from 30 to 21 percent.

The survey also showed that the scope of a provider’s benefits is an important element for Gen Y when choosing a carrier. In 2010, 55 percent said scope was an important selection factor, up from 44 percent in 2008.

“This generation of workers is a large and influential group coming of age at a time when the benefits landscape is changing quickly,” Nash said. “Understanding what drives their decision-making and how we can meet their benefits needs on their terms is critical.”

Generation Y numbers about 75 million — nearly the size of the 80-million-strong Baby Boomer generation.

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