Match Voluntary Benefits to Generational Needs

Varying financial situations require a diverse benefits mix

By Nov 5, 2014

Although employees typically pay the premiums when they select voluntary benefits during open enrollment, these offerings are growing in popularity because they allow workers to customize their benefits package.

While the employee is the buyer, employers are responsible for negotiating with voluntary benefit vendors and so need to know what products are most appropriate for their workers. For instance, today’s workforce spans three generations that look at work, life and finances in different ways. Likewise, they have different benefit needs.

Baby Boomers are generally the ones in the top positions of companies, and many are contemplating retiring. According to the AARP, they make up 38 percent of the workforce. The middle generation is Generation X, which has a distinctly individualistic outlook. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that members of Generation X make up one-third of the workforce. The youngest employees in the workforce are the Millennials, also referred to as Generation Y. They have high expectations when it comes to promotions and recognition.

Based on focus group interviews, benefits provider Purchasing Power has produced generational profiles for the Baby Boomers, Generation X and the Millennials that highlight the voluntary benefits that best address these groups’ varying financial situations.

Baby Boomers (born 1946–64)

The work ethic of the Baby Boomer generation is driven and committed, and they believe that rewards come after paying one’s dues and building a career. Their greatest fear is losing their pension, savings or job and being unable to retire.

Some Baby Boomers still have grown children living at home or are helping them out financially until they can support themselves. Others are caring for elderly parents, and some are aiding their children and parents at the same time.

For the most part, if there’s something Baby Boomers want, they are able to buy it. However, many will question if they should save that money instead. That’s because Baby Boomers, even if they are high earners, worry about retirement—both having enough money for retirement and wondering when is the right time to retire.

Voluntary benefits that typically appeal to Baby Boomers include:

Auto insurance.

Discount programs.

Financial counseling.

Homeowners insurance.

Home warranty coverage.

Legal assistance.

Long-term-care insurance.

Wellness programs.

Generation X (born 1965–79)

Members of Generation X have a “work hard, play hard” attitude. They believe in accumulating skills by taking on different projects. Their greatest fear is being overshadowed by Millennials and being overlooked for career advancement.

Keys to job retention for Generation X are salary, autonomy, independence and—significantly—opportunities for promotion.

This generation’s financial stressors come from multiple angles. They are raising children, preparing for care of their aging parents and trying to save for their own financial futures. The rapidly-changing retirement, Social Security and health care landscape hits them the hardest. Because of these factors, they appear to be having the toughest time financially. They find it difficult to meet their household expenses on time each month and are the most likely to carry balances on their credit cards.

Their needs include income protection, family support and help with long-term savings. Voluntary benefits most likely to appeal to members of Generation X include:

Child care.

Cybersecurity insurance.

Discount programs.

Employee assistance programs (EAPs).

Employee purchase programs.

Financial counseling.

Flexible spending accounts (FSAs).

Homeowners insurance.

ID theft protection.

Long-term-care insurance.

Wellness programs.

Millennials (born 1980–2000)

Millennials tend to value professional fulfillment over salary. They expect rapid promotion and meaningful work or they’ll seek other opportunities. They often juggle many jobs and move among employers frequently. Their fears include being trapped in routine jobs or eternal internships. Keys to job retention for Millennials are personal relationships, multiple tasks and fast rewards.

The average Millennial has $29,000 in student loan debt alone. Not surprisingly, they are more worried about getting rid of debt or incurring additional debt than about their day-to-day expenses. Their needs include portable benefits, forced savings, financial education and concierge services. Voluntary benefits that would appeal to Millennials include:


Employee purchase programs.

Discount programs.

Financial counseling.


ID theft protection.

Tuition assistance.

Wellness programs.

By recognizing the value in voluntary benefits, employers can provide for their employees’ diverse needs and improve the likelihood of retaining a loyal, motivated workforce as well.

Elizabeth Halkos is the chief revenue officer at Purchasing Power, a voluntary benefit provider of an employee purchase program.

Related SHRM Article:

Navigate Generational Attitudes on Health Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, October 2014​

The Case for Legal Services and ID Theft Benefits, SHRM Online Benefits, July 2014

Employee Purchase Program Use Examined, SHRM Online Benefits, July 2012

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