Employers have increased their focus on improving employees' financial wellness during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a TIAA-CREF survey.
Of the more than 500 employers surveyed, 69% said they've heightened efforts to improve financial wellness for employees. But a majority of employees aren't feeling those efforts. Of the more than 1,000 employees surveyed — between the ages of 25 and 70, employed full time at a company that has at least 50 employees, and currently contributing to a 401(k) or 403(b) plan — only 32% said their employer had increased focus on improving financial wellness, according to TIAA's Retirement Insights Survey released Dec. 18.
And while 74% of employers reported that they are still actively focused on helping their employees save for retirement, employees are also looking for support in other areas of financial planning. Nearly three-quarters of employees (72%) said they see significant value in programs that offer guaranteed lifetime income in retirement, while 60% said the same about budgeting tools to help analyze spending behavior, 61% about one-on-one financial wellness coaching, 56% about health savings accounts and 49% about debt counseling.
"Many employers are more focused on the immediate financial impact of the pandemic on their employees, but it's important that they look at short- and long-term challenges as interconnected," said Snezana Zlatar, head of financial wellness advice and innovation at TIAA, in a news release. "Addressing shorter-term challenges such as budgeting and managing debt can be critical to helping employees achieve long-term retirement preparedness, and employers have an opportunity to provide meaningful support across a variety of financial topics that can enhance employees' financial stability."
When compared with the 2018 TIAA Plan Sponsor Retirement Survey, employers are now more concerned about early withdrawal and loan penalties (61%, up from 42% in 2018) and investment diversification (50%, up from 27%), signaling that they might be more focused on the immediate financial impact of the pandemic on their employees' retirement savings over longer-term savings goals, TIAA said in its executive summary.