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SHRM & Morgan Stanley at Work Report: Financial Well-Being Benefits Boost Employee Retention and Attract New Talent

Survey highlights gender, racial and generational challenges that lead to big financial hurdles

Las Vegas & New York — As the American workforce continues to recover from the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, employers and employees are grappling with how to contend with the financial implications of the past 18 months. A new survey from SHRM (the Society for Human Resource Management) and Morgan Stanley at Work highlights how COVID-19 has affected financial well-being across different groups – men and women, working and unemployed Americans, different racial and ethnic groups, and generational cohorts.

While employees grapple with their disparate financial challenges, employers face a dual crisis of employees resigning in significant numbers while also battling fierce competition for top talent. The survey emphasizes this competing dichotomy and how employers can utilize financial offerings to retain employees and recruit top talent.

"Our research shows a massive gulf between the financial well-being of working and unemployed Americans. But even amongst those who are working, there is a significant divide," said SHRM Chief Knowledge Officer Alex Alonso, Ph.D., SHRM-SCP. "Women continue to bear a heavier financial burden during this 'she-cession' and people at various stages of their careers are experiencing the impacts differently. These nuances are important for employers to understand so they can proactively implement changes that will boost employee retention and attraction."

Key gender findings from the new research include:

  • While 61% of working Americans rate their financial well-being as excellent or good, men are more likely (69%) than women (52%) to do so.
  • Working women are more likely than their male counterparts to indicate their financial health has suffered due to COVID-19 (35% vs. 23%).
  • While 31% of working Americans indicate that their finances have caused them anxiety since the beginning of the pandemic, working women (40%) are more likely to say so versus their male counterparts (23%).
  • Unemployed men (45%) are more likely to rate their financial well-being as excellent or good compared to unemployed women (27%).
  • Unemployed women (68%) are more likely to indicate that their financial health has suffered during the COVID-19 pandemic compared to unemployed men (55%).

Key generational findings from the new research include:

  • Unemployed Boomers (85%) are most likely to report a decline in financial health since COVID-19 began as compared to younger generations.
  • Employed Gen Z (65%) indicate that the personalization of financial education is important to them. 
  • Unemployed Gen X (67%) indicate that the personalization of financial coaching is important to them.
  • Unemployed Millennials (76%) and Gen X (72%) indicate that the personalization of financial planning is important to them.

In addition, working Americans who are Black (63%), Hispanic or Latin (61%) or other races and ethnicities (65%) are more likely to indicate that the personalization of financial coaching is important to them as compared to working Americans who are White (48%).

"Financial well-being is not only good for an employee's peace of mind but it also can help drive bottom line results," said Krystal Barker, Head of Financial Wellness for Morgan Stanley at Work. "Employees who have greater control over their personal finances are more productive and engaged. The challenge then is how to scale and tailor these benefits to reach all employee segments. To address the differentiated needs of workforce segments like women and BiPOC employees, we are helping employers assess and disaggregate data to identify the financial wellness challenges faced by each group by involving Employee Resource Groups and creating Economic Empowerment seminars tailored to their individual needs."

With 74% of HR professionals indicating their employer has not added new benefits or expanded existing benefits to help employees manage their financial stress since the start of the pandemic, businesses have a window of opportunity to invest in their current employees while strengthening their place in the market for attracting and recruiting new employees. By creating tailored financial wellness programs, employers can help create a strong return on investment through a less stressed and more engaged workforce.

For more information, including access to the SHRM and Morgan Stanley at Work Financial Well-Being report, please visit:
Methodology for Working Americans: The survey was conducted from June 11, 2021 through June 13, 2021 using the AmeriSpeak Panel ®, NORC at the University of Chicago's nationally representative, probability-based panel. In total, 1,000 working Americans responded to the survey.

Methodology for Unemployed Americans: The survey was fielded electronically to a sample of unemployed Americans from June 8, 2021 through June 28, 2021 using a third-party firm. The sample was comprised for 1,000 unemployed Americans who lost or left their job since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic (March 2020) and plan to return to work within the next two years.

Methodology for HR Professionals: The survey was fielded electronically to a sample of active SHRM members from June 3, 2021 through June 28, 2021. In total, 1,205 members responded to the survey on behalf of their employers. Potential respondents were targeted based on their organization's size (i.e., 500+ employees), though the final sample represented organizations of all sizes – from two to more than 25,000 employees – in a wide variety of industries across the United States. Academics, students, consultants, and retired HR professionals were excluded from the survey.



About SHRM
SHRM, the Society for Human Resource Management, creates better workplaces where employers and employees thrive together. As the voice of all things work, workers and the workplace, SHRM is the foremost expert, convener and thought leader on issues impacting today's evolving workplaces. With 300,000+ HR and business executive members in 165 countries, SHRM impacts the lives of more than 115 million workers and families globally. Learn more at and on Twitter @SHRM.

About Morgan Stanley at Work
Morgan Stanley at Work offers a suite of financial solutions, which spans Equity Compensation through Shareworks and E*TRADE Equity Edge Online, Retirement and Financial Wellness Solutions. Morgan Stanley at Work combines cutting-edge planning and risk management software, Morgan Stanley intellectual capital and financial education delivered through multiple channels to enable employees to build a holistic plan to achieve their financial goals. Employee stock plan solutions, including Equity Edge Online, are part of the Morgan Stanley at Work solutions and are offered by E*TRADE Financial Corporate Services, Inc. Morgan Stanley at Work currently has offices in the U.S., Canada, Europe and Asia Pacific. 


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