Harnessing the Power of Workplace Benefits

A new study finds that employment benefits can offer workers a sense of financial security–but that peace of mind may not be equally distributed across workers of different income levels.

The findings came in a survey conducted in February by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co., which sought to explore the impact of employment benefits on workers’ finances. The study included 1,010 working Americans between ages 25-65, who reported household incomes between $35,000-$150,000.

Overall, 58 percent of those polled said their employment benefits made them feel more secure, a number that correlates to income: About 65 percent of workers with household incomes between $75,000 and $150,000 viewed their benefits as contributing to their financial security, while 42 percent of those who make less than $45,000 agreed.

Those who reported feeling less financial security were also less likely to have access to benefits like retirement plans, as well as dental, disability, accident and life insurance.

Across all income levels, nearly 90 percent of those surveyed said their employers offer health insurance, while about 80 percent offer life insurance, and 78 percent and 76 percent offer short-term-disability insurance and long-term-disability insurance, respectively.

The survey also explored the state of financial guidance and education that workers receive from their employers, also finding some differences among income segments.

About a quarter of workers said their employers offer some type of financial education or planning. Upper-income workers were more likely than lower- and middle-income workers to have access to retirement-planning, investment advice, healthy-living planning, budgeting assistance, advice on financial priorities, debt counseling and college-savings advice. Lower-income workers, however, were the most likely of those in different income brackets to express an interest in receiving retirement-planning and investment advice, as well as debt counseling. This segment also was the most likely (58 percent) to say they wanted more financial help from their employer.

Financial education is also viewed different across age groups. For instance, more than 70 percent of millennials were interested in employer-organized financial-planning services, while only 59 percent of baby boomers agreed. Boomers, however, were more likely to express interest in Social Security counseling than other workers.

What can employers take away from the findings? Know your workers, says MassMutual’s Voluntary Benefits Leader Jon Shuman.

“While workplace benefits can help employees feel more financially secure, each employee’s personal financial situation is unique,” Shuman says.

Allowing employees to customize benefits program, he adds, enables workers to address individualized financial circumstances.

“Employers can brokers can help through education and make a wide range of benefits available on a voluntary or employee-paid basis to meet as many individual financial needs as possible,” he says.





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Jen Colletta
Jen Colletta is managing editor at HRE. She earned bachelor's and master's degrees in writing from La Salle University in Philadelphia and spent 10 years as a newspaper reporter and editor before joining HRE. She can be reached at [email protected]