With inflation outpacing salary gains, employers are feeling more responsible for employees' financial wellness—97 percent of employers said so this year, up from 95 percent in 2021.
The finding is from a nationwide survey of employees and employers, with the results presented in Bank of America's 2022 Navigating a New Era of Financial Wellness report.
The researchers drew on a recent survey of 834 full-time employees who participate in 401(k) plans and 846 employers that offer 401(k) plans and have sole or shared responsibility for decisions made in the plan.
"Offering comprehensive benefits and wellness programs can be critical for employers looking to reduce attrition, can empower employees to take control of their personal finances and [can] improve employee satisfaction," said Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions at Bank of America.
Addressing Financial Stress
Key findings from the report include the following:
- Employees want programs to alleviate financial strain. Eighty percent of employees are concerned about inflation, and 71 percent say the cost of living is outpacing growth in their salary or wages. Amid this financial stress, employees are seeking support from their organizations, with 82 percent saying employers should play a role in supporting their financial wellness.
- Financial wellness programs result in tangible benefits for employers and employees. Ninety-one percent see higher employee satisfaction when they offer tools and resources that help employees manage their financial well-being.
- Equity (company stock) grants are powerful recruitment and retention incentives. Seventy-six percent of employers believe equity compensation is a differentiator for recruitment, and 44 percent of employees who participate in equity compensation plans say it was an important reason for accepting the job.
- Health care education could be improved. Eighty-four percent of employers feel "very responsible" for their employees' understanding of retirement health care needs and costs, and 89 percent of employers that offer health savings accounts (HSAs) contribute to their employees' HSAs. Yet, only 54 percent of employers communicate about these topics at least once a year.
Preparing for Retirement Amid Uncertainty
Retirement expectations differ among the generations, according to Emerging From the COVID-19 Pandemic: Four Generations Prepare for Retirement, a survey report released Oct. 12 by the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies (TCRS). The report draws on survey responses from 5,493 workers.
"Today's workers are emerging from a pandemic and navigating megatrends such as population aging, increases in longevity, workforce disruptors and concerns about Social Security," said Catherine Collinson, CEO and president of TCRS. "Despite an unclear future, workers of all ages are envisioning and saving for an active and purposeful retirement."
Key findings from the report are summarized below.
Baby Boomers (Born 1946 to 1964)
Emerging from the pandemic, Baby Boomers approaching retirement are susceptible to employment risks, volatility in the financial markets and increasing inflation—all of which could disrupt their retirement plans.
Almost half of Baby Boomer workers (49 percent) expect to work past age 70, are already doing so or do not plan to retire. However, these plans depend on support from employers. Just 59 percent of workers from this generation say their employer is age-friendly, as evidenced by actions such as offering opportunities, work arrangements, training and tools needed for employees of all ages to be successful.
Generation X (Born 1965 to 1980)
Only 22 percent of Generation X workers are "very" confident they will be able to fully retire with a comfortable lifestyle and just 28 percent "strongly agree" they are building a large enough retirement nest egg. Seventy-eight percent are concerned that Social Security will not be there for them when they are ready to retire.
Generation X workers seek to extend their working years so they have more time to save. Thirty-eight percent expect to retire at age 70 or older or do not plan to retire, and 55 percent plan to work in retirement.
"The oldest Generation Xers are now in their late 50s and the youngest are in their early 40s, so there is no time like the present to build their savings and create long-term financial plans," Collinson said.
Millennials (Born 1981 to 1996)
Millennials entered the workforce around the time of the Great Recession, which began in late 2007. They experienced a turbulent economy in their early working years. They started their careers with higher levels of student debt than previous generations. Millennials have waited to buy homes, get married and start families, but with the increasingly widespread availability of 401(k) plans, they made a solid and early start in saving for retirement.
Seventy-three percent are concerned that Social Security will not be there for them when they are ready to retire.
Generation Z (Born 1997 to 2012)
The pandemic has been especially difficult for Generation Z workers. Fifty-one percent said they often have trouble making ends meet. Yet, they have not given up on retirement—67 percent of workers from this generation are saving through employer-sponsored 401(k)s or similar retirement plans, and they started saving at the unprecedented young age of 19 (median).
Employers can "help workers protect their health and finances and facilitate saving and investing for retirement," Collinson said, "and the private sector must continue innovating products, services and solutions that can help people live, work, save and retire better. We're all in this together."