Rising healthcare costs have had a dramatic impact on the ability of workers to save for retirement and other financial goals.
The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report finds that of the workers who have experienced rising healthcare costs, more than half say they are contributing less to their financial goals as a result, including more than six in 10 who say they are saving less for retirement.
What’s more, financial stress also is playing a big role in employee physical health with nearly six in 10 employees saying it has had a negative impact on their physical well-being. This stress weighs most heavily on millennials at 68%, compared with baby boomers at 51%, according to the research.
Because of these dire statistics, more and more employees are looking to their employer to help them through financial challenges.
“We spend a lot of our waking time working and a lot of our finances are made up of the compensation and benefits our employer provides,” says Sylvie Feast, director of financial guidance services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “[Employer’s] healthcare and 401(k) plans are really valued by employees. I don’t think it’s surprising that they are looking to their employer that provides essential benefits to help provide access to ways to better manage their finances.”
And because employers offer healthcare and retirement benefits, it isn’t a stretch for workers to expect their employers to offer financial wellness as a benefit as well, Feast says.
“There’s no silver bullet, but a continuing evolution of trying new things to see what works and has an impact with the workforce,” Feast says. “Culture has something to do with it.”
Online tools, educational content, professional seminars in the workplace and personal consultations can be especially effective offerings, Feast says, adding that those options can help employees get more comfortable talking about their finances at work and at home with their family.
“People are pretty private about their finances,” Feast says. “I think there’s this access the employer needs to provide, but there also needs to be an arms-length distance so it is not the employer delivering it.”
Retirement savings is the area most workers want help with, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s survey. More than half of baby boomers (54% ), 53% of Generation X and 43% of millennials say they need help saving for retirement, with 50% of all respondents ranking it as their No. 1 financial issue.
For millennials, good general savings habits and paying down debt were their next most important financial priorities. For Generation X, paying down debt, good general savings habits and budgeting all tied for second, and for baby boomers, planning for healthcare costs and paying down debt were their next biggest financial priorities.
Eighty-six percent of employees surveyed say they would participate in a financial education program provided by their employer, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.
Financial education is a slow, but worthy process, Feast says.
“People don’t just automatically start to show an immediate impact to their behavior,” she says. But, “if [employees] take steps, [they] will start to gain control and get more confidence.”
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