SAN DIEGO and BOSTON—The financial wellness of U.S. employees is precarious—especially among millennials and those nearing retirement age, according to the new 2020 Employee Financial Wellness Report by iGrad and Wellable.
Based on results from a June 2019 survey of more than 1,000 U.S. employees between the ages of 18 and 70, the 2020 Employee Financial Wellness Report reveals important trends in financial wellness and how companies can deliver optimized solutions to employees.
Nearly 60 percent of the report’s respondents stated that they are not financially well, indicating that they would benefit from a financial wellness program. This statistic is aligned with a recent PwC report indicating that 60 percent of U.S. employees say they are financially stressed—more than all other life stressors combined.1
Studies show that financially stressed employees are less productive and more distracted at work as well as have poorer relationships with co-workers, higher rates of absenteeism, and more on-the-job accidents. Financial stress has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder,2 substance abuse disorder and suicide,3 and mental health disorders,4 especially among millennials.
U.S. businesses are losing $500 billion a year because of employees’ personal financial stress, according to Salary Finance.5
One of the most alarming statistics revealed by the iGrad/Wellable survey: one-third of employees rapidly nearing retirement (ages 55 to 64) consider themselves financially unwell, meaning they likely don’t have enough saved for retirement. Nearly 60 percent of finance executives say delayed retirements can be attributed to a lack of retirement savings, according to the PwC report.
Delayed retirements can be expensive for employers, with increased annual costs of 1 to 1.5 percent. Workers delaying retirement usually have more paid sick leave and vacation days, along with higher life, disability, and health insurance costs.
Struggling millennials also are impacted by delayed retirements. People staying in the workforce longer has a trickle-down effect on younger employees who have fewer opportunities for advancement, leaving them with stagnant wages on top of student loan debt. Studies show young adults are delaying buying a home and starting families because of this combination of financial factors.
Even though they could build significant wealth by starting to save for retirement early, younger employees are more concerned with tuition reimbursement and student loan-related benefits than they are with 401(k) benefits, the survey found. In fact, 401(k) programs are almost twice as popular with employees over age 65 (81 percent) than with those ages 18 to 24 (39 percent), even though older employees have far less time to accumulate wealth.
Student loan debt is a well-founded concern that burdens about one-third of adults ages 18 to 29 and one-fifth of those ages 30 to 44, according to the Pew Research Center.6
The number of U.S. employers offering student loan assistance has doubled since 2018, according to a 2019 survey by the Society of Human Resource Management.7
An increasing number of employers are offering employee financial wellness education programs. The Bank of America 2019 Workplace Benefits Report states that more than twice as many employers are currently offering financial wellness programs as compared to 2015 (54 percent in 2019 versus 24 percent in 2015.)8
It is important that employee financial wellness programs meet the needs of a diverse workforce. The survey revealed that financial wellness needs and preferences differ between genders and change with age, perceived financial state, and income level:
- Women are more likely to want flexible working arrangements and paid family/eldercare leave. This is likely because women are far more likely to be the primary caretakers of children and extended family.
- Interest in 401(k) matching increases with income. The popularity of the 401(k) match is lower among those making less than $49,999 compared to higher-income groups. Often lower-income employees do not have the financial resources to contribute to their 401(k) plan.
- Employees with incomes under $35,000 are more interested in debt management services compared to higher-income groups.
Offering employees incentives to participate in employer financial wellness programs can be very effective. Survey respondents of all ages overwhelmingly indicated they are most interested in paid time off (PTO) and financial incentives.
iGrad is a San Diego-based private company that offers financial wellness solutions to more than 600 colleges and universities, more than 12,000 employers, and more than 300 financial institutions. iGrad was recently recognized, along with the American Physical Therapy Association (APTA), with the Power of A Gold Award by the American Society of Association Executives for its APTA Financial Solutions Center. iGrad also received the 2019 Eddy Award for Financial Wellness by Pensions & Investments for its Enrich platform. For more information about the iGrad platform for colleges and universities, visit www.igradfinancialwellness.com. For more information about the Enrich platform for employers and financial institutions, visit www.enrich.org.
Wellable operates next-generation wellness challenges and health content technology platforms and complements these solutions with on-site services, such as fitness classes, seminars, health coaching, and more. The technology’s ﬂexibility allows organizations to customize and configure a program to meet their needs and objectives while providing a rich experience for end-users. Wellable works with employers and health plans of all sizes across the world, with active users in more than 23 different countries. Visit Wellable online at www.wellable.co.