Managing Life Events Can Improve Financial and Overall Well-Being

“A critical part for employers is understanding how life events impact a person’s total well-being and engaging employees with the right benefit to the right person at the right time,” says Jeanne Thompson, with Fidelity.

What’s going on in people’s lives impact many other aspects of life and reveal a strong connection between health and wealth, Fidelity contends.

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. Fidelity collaborated with the Stanford Center on Longevity and surveyed more than 9,000 employees to understand how those events affected a person’s health and wealth.

Not only does debt take a financial toll on people’s lives, but the survey found nearly 70% of women indicated taking on debt led to higher stress levels, compared to 47% of men. Thirty-six percent of women sleep worse (21% of men), 34% of women gained weight (17% of men) and 29% of women were less active (12% of men).

On the flipside, paying off debt has a major impact on overall happiness, especially for women: fifty-nine percent of women reported paying off debt made them happier, compared to 50% of men, 62% of women indicated their lives were improved (53% of men), and 44% of women reported lower stress levels (37% of men).

Adult children who move back home can also take a toll. One in nine Boomer parents surveyed said their kids returned “to the nest” in the past year. Fidelity found those new housemates come at a cost: 76% of parents said they face higher expenses. The health impacts are significant for women, as 46% reported sleeping worse and 40% reported gaining weight.

Coming Up: The generation experiencing the most negative impact from life events

Thirty percent of people surveyed had a reorganization at work in the past year, and more employees cited reorganizations as the most significant life event 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.

Being a caregiver is significant for everyone, but the burden is highest for Boomer women, the survey found. One in four reported taking on the caregiving role for a sick or elderly family member in the past year. Thirty-seven percent of women report saving less after becoming a caregiver (26% of men).

Generation X has experienced the most negative impact on well-being from life events. 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 impacted their well-being versus 60% of Boomers and 57% of Millennials.

“The study reveals that a sense of well-being isn’t always about who you are, how old you are or how much you make but it has more to do with the moments in your life that matter. Two people with the same basic demographic profile could be at very different places in their lives and need different help to support their finances, health and happiness,” says Jeanne Thompson, senior vice president of Thought Leadership, Fidelity Investments. “The good news is that most employers offer a wide array of benefits to help employees navigate life, everything from retirement and health care, to financial wellness and Employee Assistance Programs. The challenge is many don’t take advantage of the full range of benefits offered. A critical part for employers is understanding how life events impact a person’s total well-being and engaging employees with the right benefit to the right person at the right time.”