MANILA, PHILIPPINES — As the Philippines continues to grapple with the COVID-19 pandemic, Filipino Generation Ys or Millennials (aged 25-40) and Generation Zs (aged 15-24) have expressed heightened financial and mental health challenges, prompting them to take more proactive steps toward achieving financial security and personal wellness, according to a recent study by leading life insurer Manulife.
The report titled, “Know Your Ys and Zs: A closer look at the financial and mental well-being of Filipino Millennials and Generation Z in the time of COVID-19,” surveyed 500 respondents across the Philippines between April and May 2021, to further understand the attitudes, behaviors, and habits of younger generations toward finance and personal well-being, as well as actions they are taking to achieve financial independence and improve mental wellness.
“The far-reaching consequences of the pandemic on public health, personal relationships, and the global economy have made the younger generations of Filipinos more aware of the importance of their physical, mental and financial health, and how interconnected these are to achieving optimum well-being,” shared Melissa Henson, Chief Marketing Officer of Manulife Philippines.
“While Millennials and Gen Z may have different priorities and goals, depending on where they are in their life journey, what is common is that the challenges brought by COVID-19 have accelerated their desire for financial stability. They are now seeking more products and services that not only align with their beliefs and interests but will also help them secure a more stable future,” added Henson. “Understanding this behavior helps us find new ways to innovate and introduce more relevant financial protection products, so we can better support them as they fulfill their most important goals.”
Millennials and Gen Z have become more financially conscious during the pandemic
According to Manulife’s new study, the top concerns that Millennials and Generation Z are grappling with during the pandemic are: running out of money, getting sick, losing their lives or their loved ones, declining mental health, and drowning in debt. These are their top stressors, which have pushed them to prioritize staying healthy and saving money. In fact, as 87% of them are worried about uncertainties in the future, most of them save so they can protect themselves against an unfortunate future event, continue to fund their daily living expenses, and support their family’s future needs.
Moreover, Millennials and Gen Zs feel that they have limited funds and limited job opportunities during the pandemic, so 77% of them prioritize spending more on necessities than wants. Also, 82% don’t want to incur debt or take loans as much as possible, 82% save money every pay period or every month, 75% follow a monthly budget, and 87% avoid going over budget.
However, while they claim that at least 25% of their monthly income goes to savings, and they stick to a budget conscientiously, in reality, they are only able to save approximately 10%.
Despite these constraints, the study found that 81% of Millennials and Gen Zs have started taking steps to secure their future financially because they both believe it is important to know where their money goes. In addition, 67% percent of Millennials have started investing in financial instruments, 79% are looking for ways to grow their money, and 77% are exploring diversifying their portfolios to mitigate risks.
On the other hand, Gen Zs are actively educating themselves about finance, recognizing that they are not yet financially stable amid the COVID-19 situation. As they pursue ways to achieve financial security, though, they have been quite ahead of the preceding generation. Filipino Gen Zs, on average, start saving money at 17 years old and investing at 21, while Millennials only began saving at 23 and investing at 27.
Moreover, 92% of Gen Zs plan to purchase an insurance plan in the next one to two years, with life, health and variable unit-linked (VUL) products as their top considerations.
Gen Zs expressed heightened concerns about declining mental health
About 53% of Gen Zs, particularly students, turn to social media to relieve stress and cope with the pressures of the extended lockdowns. Unfortunately, social media exposure may have added to their mental health struggles, as they consider toxic social media posts as a prominent stressor for them.
Mental health issues also affect working Gen Z and Millennials, mainly due to worries about debt and the possibility of job loss.
To look after their mental well-being, Gen Zs practice various ways to improve their health. Their top-ranked activities to care for their mental health include getting enough sleep (84%), enjoying a proper meal (76%), talking to friends and family (74%), making time for hobbies (74%), and being active through fitness activities and exercise (62%).
Millennials have become more focused on growing their money
As they take on more responsibilities at work or start to have their own families, Manulife’s study found that Millennials have become more conscious and deliberate in growing their money to secure their future. While both Millennials and Gen Zs own financial products, Millennials’ approach to investment is more accepting of risk, while acknowledging the need for protection. Seventy-nine percent of Millennials own insurance, 78% are subscribed to government savings programs, 60% are into cryptocurrency, 45% own accident insurance, and 38% have mutual funds.
More than 40% of Filipino Millennials also own pension and retirement products, while 29% own Unit Investment Trust Funds (UITFs).
Helping younger Filipinos navigate volatility
Informed by these study findings, Manulife aims to introduce more financial products, investment solutions, and initiatives that support mental wellness to better address these generations’ overall being. “Unlike the generations who came before them, Millennials and Gen Zs’ most formative years have been marked by hyper-digitalization, easy access to information, rapid social, political, and economic shifts, environmental issues, and unprecedented global change. Because of the pandemic, what should have been an optimistic period in their personal and professional lives has become a chapter filled with uncertainty and concern,” Henson said.
“As we strive to navigate present realities, and forge a path toward a better post-pandemic world, we find hope in the fact that younger generations of Filipinos are taking concrete steps toward making every day better for themselves and their loved ones. We aim to help them future-proof their finances, so they can achieve their aspirations and live their lives to the fullest.”
Manulife Philippines’ “Know Your Ys and Zs: A Closer Look at the Financial and Mental Well-Being of Filipino Millennials and Generation Z in the Time of COVID-19” was conducted in partnership with InSites Consulting Asia, an independent market research agency.