Discouraged with the state of the current economy, more and more younger workers are abandoning saving for retirement and focusing on ‘soft saving.’
Soft saving is when employees, many of whom started their careers later than previous generations, decide to take a more laid-back approach to saving for the future, rather than adopt the FIRE concept — financial independence and retiring early.
Indeed, a recent survey by Intuit Inc. found three-quarters (73 per cent) of generation Z workers in the U.S. said the current economy makes them hesitant to set long-term goals and two-thirds (66 per cent) said they aren’t sure they’ll ever have enough money to retire. As well, 73 per cent said they’d rather have a better quality of life than extra money in the bank.
In the short time they’ve been working, gen Z employees have endured a triad of challenges — the coronavirus pandemic, skyrocketing inflation and mountains of student debt, says Kim Siddall, national vice-president of client strategy and delivery excellence at People Corporation Inc. For these workers, she notes, retirement has taken a backseat to priorities such as paying off student loans or saving for a down payment on a house.
What little money is left over is often earmarked for life experiences, such as personal growth, hobbies and travelling. “In reality, gen-Zers have started saving earlier than previous generations,” she says. “They’ve just adopted an entirely different ideology around saving for the future than their older counterparts.”
Siddall suggests employers reframe the conversation on what retirement looks like rather than take a fear-based approach that suggests workers won’t have enough savings to retire. “Retirement doesn’t necessarily mean the same thing for everyone. It could mean taking a phased approach or pivoting to something that brings them more joy . . . as opposed to focusing on retirement calculators and data, which are not landing as we hoped [with this generation].”
Employers and insurers are aware of younger employees’ shifting views on retirement and they’re introducing new savings products that offer more flexibility, she says. For example, there’s increasing interest in making employer matching contributions more flexible so plan members can direct the funds to where they need them most. Insurers have also launched financial instruments that take a more do-it-yourself approach to savings and recognize members’ individual circumstances.
“More employers are looking at the whole person . . . so we’ve seen products come to market intended to both assist certain generations in saving for retirement while servicing debt at the same time. . . . It’s really [about] reframing the savings messaging to make it meaningful for people of different circumstances so they can engage [in long-term saving] their way.”