Life Happens, and When it Does, Health and Wealth are More Connected Than You Might Think, Fidelity Research Reveals

Some Life Events Have a Surprising Impact on Well-Being
Exercise and Paying Off Debt Can Have Big Benefits
There's an Unequal Impact on Women, Generation X

  • Health Care & Wellness
  • Loans and Debt Management
  • Health Care & Wellness
  • Loans and Debt Management
  • Health Care & Wellness
  • Loans and Debt Management

BOSTON — What's going on in people's lives? In most cases, it's a lot. This year, the average person will most likely experience four life events such as starting a new job, caring for a family member, buying a new house or having a child.1 For better or worse, these events impact many other aspects of life and reveal a strong connection between health and wealth, key indicators of a person’s total well-being.

To find out how some of the most common life events impact total well-being, Fidelity collaborated with the Stanford Center on Longevity and surveyed more than 9,000 employees to understand how those events affected a person's health and wealth, as well as their overall happiness and career.

"From the life events we analyzed, the top two things you can do to improve your well-being are to pay off debt and start exercising," said Jeanne Thompson, senior vice president of Thought Leadership, Fidelity Investments. "On the other hand, we found taking on debt and experiencing a reorganization at work can have the biggest negative impact on your overall sense of well-being."

"This research reinforces that a key component of living long and living well is about navigating life events that can impact a person’s finances, health, career, overall happiness and ultimately their overall well-being, conclusions supported by the Stanford Center on Longevity's own Sightlines Project," said Tamara Sims PhD, director of the Stanford Center on Longevity Sightlines Project.

Here are five common life events that have significant and wide-ranging impact on a person's total well-being:

Debt can harm your wallet and your health

Taking on credit card debt or a consumer loan is part of life for many people. While the financial impact is clear, it also negatively impacts health, especially for women.

Nearly 70 percent2 of women indicated taking on debt led to higher stress levels, compared to 47 percent of men, 36 percent of women sleep worse (21 percent of men), 34 percent of women gained weight (17 percent of men) and 29 percent of women were less active (12 percent of men).

On the flipside, paying off debt has a major impact on overall happiness, especially for women: fifty-nine percent2 of women reported paying off debt made them happier, compared to 50 percent of men, 62 percent of women indicated their lives were improved (53 percent of men), and 44 percent of women reported lower stress levels (37 percent of men).

Exercise gets other parts of your life in shape

Starting or stopping an exercise routine has an extraordinary impact on well-being. Starting to exercise consistently is one of the most positive actions one can make, with clear benefits to a person’s health, life and career. Unfortunately, twice as many people said they had stopped exercising; and for them, there's an opposite effect.

Starting an exercise routine2 Stopping an exercise routine2
56% feel less stressed 55% feel more stressed
71% are happier 69% are less happy
38% are more motivated at work 20% are less motivated at work

"Boomerang kids" returning home bring stress and dissatisfaction

Adult children who move back home is a common event mdash; one in nine Boomer3 parents surveyed said their kids returned "to the nest" in the past year. And it's taking a toll: 68 percent2 of parents reported they are more stressed, and more than half said they are less happy (53 percent), less satisfied (54 percent) and have less leisure time (53 percent). Those new housemates come at a cost: 76 percent2 of parents said they face higher expenses. The health impacts are significant for women, as 46 percent reported sleeping worse and 40 percent reported gaining weight.

Reorganization at work: Widespread event, wide-ranging impact

Thirty percent of people surveyed had a reorganization at work in the past year and more employees cited reorganizations as the most significant life event than any other life event in the survey. Reorganizations had negative impacts on each area of well-being, with 64 percent2 of people reporting feeling less happy and 30 percent feeling worse about their finances. Women and Millennials4 reported significant negative impacts: 49 percent of Millennials reported losing sleep and 63 percent of women had lower career satisfaction after a reorganization.

Becoming a caregiver has far-reaching effects for women

The health impact of being a caregiver is significant for everyone but the burden is highest for Boomer women — one in four reported taking on the caregiving role for a sick or elderly family member in the past year. Seventy-eight percent2 of women indicated they are more stressed, compared to 66 percent of men, 50 percent of women slept worse (33 percent of men), 43 percent of women gained weight from being a caregiver (22 percent of men), and 42 percent of women stopped exercising (32 percent of men). There is also a financial impact: thirty-seven percent of women report saving less after becoming a caregiver (26 percent of men).

Across life events, Gen X5 is in the crosshairs

Which generation has experienced the most negative impact on well-being from life events? Gen X. They are the new "sandwich generation," trying to raise kids, save for college, pay off debt and care for aging parents, all while trying to save for retirement and health care. The study revealed 65 percent2 of Gen Xers had a life event that negatively impacted their well-being versus 60 percent of Boomers and 57 percent of Millennials.

What it all means:

"The study reveals that a sense of well-being isn't always about who you are, how old you are or how much you make but it has more to do with the moments in your life that matter. Two people with the same basic demographic profile could be at very different places in their lives and need different help to support their finances, health and happiness," said Thompson. "The good news is that most employers offer a wide array of benefits to help employees navigate life, everything from retirement and health care, to financial wellness and Employee Assistance Programs. The challenge is many don't take advantage of the full range of benefits offered. A critical part for employers is understanding how life events impact a person's total well-being and engaging employees with the right benefit to the right person at the right time."

To learn more:

A Fidelity podcast takes an in-depth look at the research and how people can better understand the impact of life events.

Around managing debt, Fidelity's MyMoney is an educational site with videos, calculators, infographics, and articles geared for those experiencing many financial firsts. And for caregivers, fidelity.com/families contains helpful Viewpoints articles for adult children such as "Time to take away the financial keys?"

About Fidelity Investments

Fidelity's mission is to inspire better futures and deliver better outcomes for the customers and businesses we serve. With assets under administration of $6.0 trillion, including managed assets of $2.2 trillion as of March 31, 2017, we focus on meeting the unique needs of a diverse set of customers: helping more than 26 million people invest their own life savings, 23,000 businesses manage employee benefit programs, as well as providing more than 12,500 financial advisory firms with investment and technology solutions to invest their own clients’ money. Privately held for 70 years, Fidelity employs 45,000 associates who are focused on the long-term success of our customers. For more information about Fidelity Investments, visit https://www.fidelity.com/about.

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