Cost of living anxiety leads to financial avoidance among younger workers

According to new findings from Aviva’s ‘Age of Ambiguity’ study, over half (54%) of UK employees feel anxious when dealing with their finances, even without the added economic and political uncertainty and pressure that has emerged in recent days and weeks.

The latest research, undertaken in June 2022, suggests that feelings of anxiety are leading people, especially younger generations, to avoid looking at their finances at all, with 60% of Generation Z and millennials (aged 18-41) adopting this approach because they feel “they are often out of my control”. The findings come from Mastering the Age of Ambiguity, the fourth edition of Aviva’s series of Age of Ambiguity studies, which has been tracking employees’ changing experiences of the modern workplace since early 2020 before the Covid-19 pandemic struck.

In times of heightened turmoil that is impacting households and businesses across the UK, Aviva’s study explores how employees feel about the impact of change and uncertainty in areas including their careers, finances, and general wellbeing.

It shows how financial avoidance is playing out against a backdrop of persistent, general anxiety for many working people, with one in four (27%) employees in the UK’s largest businesses (with 1,000+ staff) feeling very anxious from day to day. This figure is higher than during the second half of 2020, when 22% of people felt the same.

The findings also show significant generational differences in how people are feeling about their finances and the experience of financial anxiety.

Across businesses of all sizes, Generation Z and millennials report the highest level of financial anxiety (69% and 73% respectively) leading to people avoiding looking at money matters out of fear of what they will find. This is considerably higher than older cohorts, with around half of Generation X (aged 42-57) feeling anxious when dealing with their finances and just over a third (36%) of baby boomers feeling the same.

However, with predictions that the pandemic and cost-of-living crisis will affect younger generations disproportionately in the years to come, many parents and grandparents – who may recall the double-digit inflation of the 1980s – now worry about their younger family members as well as themselves. Nearly half (49%) of working parents say their top concern is their children’s financial future.

As a result, the Bank of Mum and Dad and the Bank of Grandma and Grandad have become powerful financial resources for younger people. Wider research from Aviva earlier this year found one in four (25%) grandparents have helped, or are going to help, grandchildren buy their first home by giving £31,399 on average.

The findings highlight the importance of financial advice and guidance to help different age groups navigate money matters.

Emma Douglas, Aviva’s Director of Workplace Savings & Retirement comments: “Understandable though it may be for us all to be looking for ways to avoid facing harsh financial realities right now, ignoring our financial situation altogether isn’t going to help. We need to encourage people to realise that engaging with our finances will provide vital insight that can help alleviate problems occurring in the future.

“It is a difficult time for many, with some demographics feeling the cost-of-living crisis more acutely than others. Our research has shown that younger workers are most likely to be avoiding engaging with their finances due to feelings of anxiety and a lack of financial resilience. However, despite it being a daunting prospect, engaging now is the best course of action.”

As people feel financial pressures in the current climate, it’s vital the financial advice community provides access to its services. This includes regular financial check-ins with clients, and offering financial and debt advice to their younger family members, to help them navigate their current financial pressures.


Research among c.2,000 UK employees was conducted independently on behalf of Aviva by Quadrangle in February 2020, August 2020, March 2021 and June 2022. The first three waves of research were among those working in organisations with over 1,000 employees. In the latest wave (June 2022) the research included smaller businesses; (983 interviews with businesses with 1,000+ employees; 1028 with employees of <1,000 employees). Not all figures add up to 100% as figures have been rounded throughout the report.