Money Stress is Making Millennials Sick. Are They Prepared to ‘Adult’?

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Millennials say anxiety about money is literally making them sick


Money anxiety affects their work and personal lives



More than a quarter of millennials say financial stress affects their job performance, over twice the rate of the general population who feels that way, according to a study of more than 2,000 people released in August by insurance and financial planning company Northwestern Mutual.

Financial anxiety also has made about a quarter of millennials feel physically ill, according to the study, and has made more than half feel depressed.

Kara Perez, a 29-year-old living in Austin, said she felt sick because of her anxiety about money when she graduated from college in 2011 with more than $25,000 in student loans. She was unable to find full-time work and worked various part-time jobs, including as a caterer and receptionist.

Perez said she remembers crying a lot at the time, and she felt she was “swimming in a sea of anxiety.”

“I often feel anxiety in the pit of my stomach,” she said. “It would manifest as nausea for me.”

For many millennials, who came of age and entered the job market during the economic recession, the bad feelings are pervasive. Some 69% said they experienced anxiety because of their income, 67% said it was because of their level of savings and 53% said it was because of worry about losing their job.

“So much of anxiety is just feeling out of control,” said Chantel Bonneau, a wealth management advisor at Northwestern Mutual. “You can never just check a box and say, ‘I handled my financial planning.’ It’s every day of your life you’re forced to make decisions.”

The high cost of housing also presents challenges, and millennials have more student loan debt than any previous generation.

“Millennials really do want a plan, and they are aware they need to save,” Bonneau said. “It’s not the same ball game to buy a property it was maybe 50 years ago or even 25 years ago.”

But for those who do have jobs and incomes, there are some places they can make cuts that could ease the anxiety and put them on a path to saving for a house or other major goal, Bonneau said.

About a third of the millennials surveyed said they were prone to excessive or frivolous spending, more than the 26% of those in Generation X and 19% of baby boomers who said this. About a third of millennials also said they have ended up spending money they budgeted for other things, like savings, on themselves. Just 15% of those in Generation X and 4% of baby boomers said this.

In fact, millennials spend more than an average of $2,300 per year than older generations on key items including groceries, gas, restaurants, coffee and cellphone bills, a survey from the personal-finance website found. Millennials spent $233 a month on meals compared with $182 in older generationsand $161 per month on cellphone charges, versus $135 for people in older generations.

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