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Survey: Knowledge Worker Financial Concerns Reach New High — and HR is 46% More Worried

BrightPlan survey reveals disconnect between HR perceptions on employee finances and reality; employees rank financial wellness higher than healthcare

BrightPlan, a leader in Total Financial Wellness, today released findings from their Financial Wellness Barometer survey, a snapshot of financial perceptions from a range of knowledge workers and human resources (HR) professionals. The survey reveals a surprising disconnect between HR leaders and knowledge workers regarding the state of their personal finances during the COVID-19 era, and demonstrates that perceptions around finances have worsened significantly since the summer.

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Nearly half (48%) of knowledge workers are stressed or concerned about their personal finances. This rate marks the highest level of concern on record for 2020, and is a significant increase from the 39% of knowledge workers who reported feeling stressed and concerned about their finances in an August survey. Moreover, seven in 10 (70%) HR professionals believe employees are concerned or stressed about their finances. While this indicates sensitivity to the needs of employees, it also reflects a disconnect between HR and the knowledge workers they serve. Additional gaps between HR and employees on finances include:

  • Employees are nearly three times as positive as HR about their financial future. Just 17% of HR respondents said employee finances will improve in the next six months; 46% of employees expect their finances to improve.
  • HR believes COVID inspired more life change than it did. Two in three (65%) of HR respondents said employees postponed major life events since the start of the pandemic; just one in four (24%) of employees actually did so.
  • Employees want financial wellness more than healthcare. Employees ranked financial wellness tools the most desired benefit after compensation–ahead of healthcare, paid time off/vacation and mental health support. HR ranked financial wellness benefits fourth on employees’ priority list.

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“As it’s become clear that the pandemic will be with us for a while, knowledge workers are increasingly worried about their finances–and HR even more so,” said Marthin De Beer, founder and CEO of BrightPlan. “Our survey reveals that in this stressful time HR isn’t fully aligned with what’s top of mind for their employees, and what benefits they seek to help navigate economic headwinds. Despite dominant HR industry conversations around mental health support and paid time off to recharge in this stressful time, the data indicates that knowledge workers today prioritize financial wellness tools that can help them better manage their financial lives–even ahead of healthcare benefits.”

BrightPlan’s Financial Wellness Barometer also examined varied perceptions between employees enrolled in financial wellness programs at work and those who are not.

  • Employees using financial wellness tools are more in tune with their finances. They report nuanced concerns about their finances, with top worries around how the stock market affects their net worth (26%) and whether they can still retire on time (14%). Employees not enrolled in financial wellness benefits cite broader fears, such as healthcare costs in case of an illness (23%) and job loss (16%).
  • Financial understanding fuels action. Employees leveraging financial wellness tools were far more likely to adjust their financial goals (69%) compared to those who did not (52%).

The survey also found that companies remain committed to investing in workplace benefits. Eighty-three percent of HR professionals have kept budgets the same or larger.

BrightPlan’s Financial Wellness Barometer surveyed 350 knowledge workers in the US in September-October 2020. This included a mix of HR leaders and employees in various industries including technology, healthcare, and retail, with varied levels of access and usage of financial wellness benefits at work.

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