Employees Not Valuing Debt Help in Financial Wellness Programs

Yet, nearly three-quarters (71%) of those responding to an EBRI survey who said debt was a major problem worried about finances at work.

In a special report analyzing data from its 2017 and 2018 Retirement Confidence Surveys, the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) notes that a significant percentage of workers across the board reported feeling stressed about preparing for retirement in both surveys.

In particular, workers with lower incomes (64%), those who have not calculated how much they will need to save for retirement (65%), and those in fair or poor health (75%) said that they strongly or somewhat agreed that preparing for retirement makes them feel stressed in the 2018 survey.

Thirty percent of workers overall reported worrying about finances at work. Debt was correlated with worrying; nearly three-quarters (71%) of those who said debt was a major problem worried about finances at work, compared with just 9% of those who said debt was not a problem. In addition, more than half (55%) of those who were not confident about living comfortably in retirement were worried about finances at work versus just 7% of those who were very confident, EBRI found.

Despite the correlation between debt and worrying about finances, although a majority of workers thought workplace financial well-being programs would be either very or somewhat helpful in better preparing or saving for retirement, fewer than half of workers thought debt counseling or budgeting help would be helpful, and fewer than four in ten (39%) workers thought student loan debt assistance programs would be helpful in preparing for retirement. However, younger workers were much more likely to perceive these programs as being helpful than older workers, EBRI notes.

Similarly, the majority of workers thought retirement planning and financial planning programs would increase their productivity at work, yet debt counseling (29%) was thought to be the least likely to be helpful for productivity.

Help calculating how much to save for a secure retirement (75% in the 2018 survey), help calculating how much to anticipate spending each month in retirement (72%), planning for health care expenses in retirement (72%), and help with comprehensive financial planning (68%) were all considered useful in financial well-being programs. And, other programs that had higher likelihoods for increased workplace productivity include financial planning (48%) and health care planning (47%) programs.

EBRI again points out that younger (ages 25 to 34) workers were more likely to think that debt counseling, expense management, prioritizing savings, and budgeting programs were helpful than older (ages 55 or older) workers.

The full EBRI Issue Brief is at https://www.ebri.org/pdf/EBRI_IB_457_RCSFW.20Aug18.pdf.