Study Reveals What It Means to Feel Financially Well Today
Perceived Financial Wellness Does Not Equate to Actual Long-Term Financial Security, New Report Shows
SAN FRANCISCO, Nov. 19, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Human Interest, the affordable, full-service 401(k) provider for small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), has released data that sheds light on how Americans currently feel about their financial wellness. The study of small business employees reveals that, despite a global pandemic and recession, a surprising 64 percent of respondents rate their financial wellness from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’. But their confidence may be misplaced, as the study shows a lack of certainty about their future financial security. Only 22 percent believe they’ll actually have enough money to last the rest of their life or to cover their needs in retirement.
According to the data, employees consider financial wellness to mean not feeling stressed about money, not living paycheck to paycheck, and having an emergency fund. While these are important aspects of financial health, they do not guarantee fiscal security through life. In fact, traditional hallmarks of financial wellness, such as having enough money to last through retirement, or having a high net income, net worth or credit score, featured far lower down the list of priorities.
Compounding the problem is the fact that employees may not be using the most effective tools for driving long-term growth of their savings. 48 percent say they use checking and saving accounts as a way to save for retirement: a method which is unlikely to keep pace with the rising cost of living. And 24 percent of 45-60 year-old employees surveyed are not even saving for retirement.
“It’s not surprising that people are focused on the here and now, given that many are currently on reduced incomes. But it’s unsettling that such a significant proportion claim to feel financially well without having a plan for retirement. If this emphasis on the short-term continues, there’s a risk of fundamentally altering the trajectory of millions of people’s lifelong financial security,” said Jeff Schneble, CEO of Human Interest. “Our goal is to help people in all lines of work feel confident across all the dimensions of financial wellness, which we consider to be: peace of mind, sufficiency, independence, resilience, and prosperity.”
The study also revealed a disparity in the way different groups define and experience financial wellness:
SMB employees more reliant on working through retirement
Twenty-nine percent of SMB employees say they plan to work through retirement to supplement their income. On average, SMB employees estimated they would retire at 69, an astonishing five years later than the national average1. While this could help reduce their reliance on savings, banking on late retirement is a risky premise.
Men feel more financially well than women
The study also discovered gender disparity in perceived financial wellness. Men are much more likely to feel confident about their financial wellness than women: almost triple the number of men than women rate their financial wellness as ‘excellent’. And almost double the number of men than women feel confident regarding retirement, including that they’re doing all they can to save, that their investments will keep pace with inflation, and that they’ll have enough money to last their lifetime. Yet slightly fewer men than women reported having a 401(k) (58 vs 60 percent) or contributing to it from their paycheck (76 percent for men vs 83 percent for women).
Men’s definitions of retirement are also different from the way female respondents define this goal. A plurality of women, including those aged 18-44, see retirement as leaving the workforce permanently, while men see it as being financially independent and free to do what they want, which may include continuing to work and therefore explain their confidence in long-term financial security.
Levels of financial wellness varied across the country, with those in the Northeast feeling most confident (67 percent rated their financial wellness as ‘excellent’, ‘very good’ or ‘good’) and those in the South the least (61 percent reported the same). West and Midwest were on par, with 64 percent rating their financial wellness positively.
The role of employers
Employers have a critical role to play in ensuring that employees have access to a path to financial wellness, especially when it comes to retirement. The study shows that employers are the number one reason employees save for retirement. Yet only 60 percent of SMB employees have a 401(k) through their current or former employer (compared with 88 percent2 of large company employees).
Employers eager to educate and support their employees in their quest for holistic financial wellness, can find resources here.
Human Interest conducted a national survey of 1,790 respondents ages 18 and older who are employed by a small business. The sample includes 62 percent women and 38 percent men with respondents having household incomes ranging from under $30,000 to over $200,000. The survey explores how small business employees feel about retirement, their own financial preparedness for retirement, and their overall financial wellness. The survey was fielded online using SurveyMonkey Audience Panel from September 25-30, 2020. The data was compiled and analyzed by Human Interest, and is the third part of a series of reports about the retirement preparedness of SMB employees in America.
About Human Interest
Human Interest is an affordable, full-service 401(k) provider that makes it easy for small- and medium-sized businesses to help their employees save for retirement. The company was founded in 2015 to ensure that people in all lines of work have access to retirement benefits and a path to financial independence. Headquartered in San Francisco, Human Interest has helped more than 60,000 employees working at 2,000+ businesses across America. For more information please visit humaninterest.com or follow us on LinkedIn.
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Investment advising services are provided by Human Interest Advisors LLC, an SEC-Registered Investment Advisor. An investor should consider investment objectives, risks and expenses before investing. There are risks involved with investing. Investors should consider all of their assets, income and investments. All opinions and results included in this publication constitute Human Interest Advisors' judgment as of the date of this publication and are subject to change without notice.
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1 Boston College, 2018
2 Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020