Facing increasing longevity and the challenges of extended caregiving, American workers are navigating an increasingly complex financial journey, according to the most recent Bank of America Workplace Benefits Report.
The report shows women continue to lag behind men in terms of feeling financially well and confident about their retirement aspirations—but financial optimism remains somewhat muted across the board. Only a small majority (55%) says their financial condition is “good” or “excellent,” compared with 29% saying “average” and 16% saying “poor” or “fair.” Interestingly, compared with data gathered in 2018, there are fewer Americans who feel they are in “poor” or “fair” financial health, but at the same time, fewer Americans feel they are in “good” or “excellent” financial condition—meaning a sizable portion of the population (9%) moved into the “average” category in that short time frame.
Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America, says that when employees who feel financially well are compared to those who feel less well, a mix of short- and long-term factors contribute directly to the feeling of financial wellness. When compared with employees who are not financially well, employees who are financially well are more likely to say they can effectively manage their day-to-day expenses, they are more likely to feel their savings for retirement are on track, and they are more capable of paying bills and saving for future goals at the same time.
Given the fact that most Americans generate the vast majority of their income in the workplace, the availability of generous and well-designed programs that help address employees’ overall financial situation can have a direct impact on how well employees feel, the report explains. The data shows employers are embracing this fact, as 53% reported offering some type of financial wellness program in 2019, compared with 24% in 2015.
From the employee perspective, Bank of America finds, there is a pretty clear hierarchy of preferences for employer-provided financial wellness benefits that go above and beyond the normal health care and retirement plans workers expect. The top five are as follows:
- Advice from a professional, such as a financial adviser, planner or accountant
- Information on financial topics separate from 401(k) plan education
- Availability of a variety of financial products and services that help employees
- Review and evaluation of employees’ individual financial situations
- Online financial tools or calculators that go beyond the topic of retirement, for example by helping with debt payoff, mortgage calculations, loan planning, etc.