Study Finds Employer-Worker Disconnect about Advice

Plan sponsors and employees see some retirement concerns differently—including access to financial advice, a new study by MetLife suggested.

MetLife’s Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study found that while 51% of workers polled say they are interested in access to financial planners at work, only 37% of employers say they have a responsibility to provide retirement advice/guidance.

In fact, Boomers born between 1946 and 1955 interested in such a workplace benefit jumped from 41% in August to 55% three months later.

“It is hard to overestimate employee appetite for advice and guidance in financial planning—and specifically retirement planning—offered through the workplace,” MetLife said in the report. “This desire has understandably increased in the current economic conditions, especially among older workers.”

In general, the survey found 72% of employees point to retirement benefits as a significant factor in their influencing loyalty, compared with 40% of employers who recognize that dynamic.

Half of Auto-Enrollers Use QDIA

In other benefit areas, the study found 41% of employers have implemented automatic enrollment for new employees. Half of those do so with one of the Department of Labor-approved qualified default investment alternatives (QDIAs).

About eight in 10 employers would consider, or at least do not oppose considering, phased retirement. About 20% of surveyed employers indicated an interest in the concept and how it would work. “For employers, this change in employee attitudes toward traditional retirement patterns would create benefits and workforce planning challenges even during stable economic times,” MetLife said in the study. “As it is, they face a complex mix of competing challenges that includes the need to retain needed skills while also addressing the need to reduce or restructure their workforces in light of economic challenges.”

Half of surveyed employees voice an interest in their employers providing ways to convert retirement plan lump sums into guaranteed income. Some 21% of employers have expressed interest in having their company provide solutions that accomplish this goal.

“The timeliness of engaging in a dialogue with employees about their financial security cannot be overstated,” MetLife concluded in the study. “The need for education, advice, and guidance to help employees make the right financial decisions is keenly perceived by employees.”

The MetLife report was based on studies in August and November. The August study survey involved 1,524 interviews with benefits decisionmakers at companies with staff sizes of at least two employees. The employee sample comprised 1,349 interviews with full-time employees age 21 and over and companies with a minimum of two employees. The November study comprised 569 employer and 627 employee interviews at companies with at least two employees. Both sets of studies were fielded by GfK Custom Research North America.

The report is available at