Youngest Workers Diss K Plans

March 2, 2004 ( - Flying the flag of "I'm living for today," the country's youngest workers see little urgency in participating in their employer's 401(k) plan.

One third of the Millennial generation – a moniker assigned to those born after 1979 – do not chip into their 401(k) plans, more than twice the non-participation rate of Baby Boomers (16%). Further, Millennials were 19% more likely than those Boomers born between 1946 and 1956 to label the 401(k) “the benefit of yesterday” and 19% more likely to say their 401(k) has little or no effect on their loyalty to employers, according to CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services’ third-annual Workplace Report on Retirement Planning.

“Our survey suggests that the value of the plans, designed and administered by Baby Boomers to meet their own expectations and needs, is currently being lost on young Americans now entering the workforce,” John Kim, president of CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services said in a news release.

CIGNA attributes the generational participation gap to differences linked to age, values, beliefs and needs. Epitomizing this observation was the 49% of Millennials that admit they are living in the moment rather than imagining a utopian future, reporting the phrase “I’m living for today” best describes their retirement planning state of mind. Conversely, Baby Boomers were more likely than Millennials to describe their approach as “I’m an eager beaver” (35% versus 21%).

Living for today, more than half of Millennials say their top financial concern is “paying everyday expenses” or “saving for a new house and car.” By contrast, the top financial concern among Baby Boomers is “saving for my retirement” at 37%, followed by “paying for my children’s education” (22%) and “paying everyday expenses” (15%).

Also coloring investing attitudes for Millennials are current events. More than 44% of the post-1979ers said their feelings about savings have been negatively affected by political instability in the world and ongoing reports of corporate malfeasance, compared with only 26% of Baby Boomers.

However, the latest generation holds high hopes for retiring at an early age. Though only 15% of Millennials chose “sunny” to define their retirement outlook, compared with more than 30% of Baby B oomers, Millennials were twice as optimistic that they’ll retire before age 55.

“The Millennial generation has a distinct set of values – a perspective on the world that sets it apart from both the Boomers and from Generation X. Until we incorporate an understanding of those differences into our 401(k) communication and education efforts, we run the risk that these plans will fall victim to the more sophisticated marketing tactics of Madison Avenue and that Millennials will continue to view the 401(k) as a benefit designed solely by Baby Boomers for Baby Boomers,” Deanna Miller, vice president, Education and Communications at CIGNA Retirement & Investment Services, said in the release.

The “Workplace Report on Retirement Planning III” survey, conducted by KRC Research, was fielded in October 2003. The survey included responses from 1,000 employees who are eligible to participate in a 401(k) or other employer sponsored retirement plan through their benefits package at work.