Employees Expect Lower Standard of Living in Retirement Than Parents

More than three quarters (76%) think they won't enjoy the same quality of life as their parents.

Three in four U.S. employees (76%) expect their retirement years will not be as secure as their parents’, according to Willis Towers Watson 2015 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey. Seventy-one percent believe Social Security benefits will be reduced, and 70% think government-provided health benefits will be worse.

Employees also indicated that their financial worries are having a negative impact on their daily lives, job performance and productivity. Twenty-one percent said financial anxieties are adversely affecting their lives, 41% say they often worry about their financial state, and 36% are concerned about debt.

The survey of 5,083 employees also found that fewer than half (48%) are satisfied with their financial situation. While this is an improvement from the 46% who were satisfied with their finances in 2013 and the 23% in 2009, many worry that their retirement savings will not last. Nearly one-third (31%) fear that their money will run out 15 years into retirement, and 50% think it will disappear in 25 years.

“While the financial situation is improving for many employees, long-term financial worries linger, leaving them feeling vulnerable,” says Steve Nyce, senior economist at Willis Towers Watson. “Many employees still wonder how long they will have to work and how much they will have to build up in savings until they are able to retire.”

NEXT: Stress at work

Nearly one-third (28%) said that financial stress is precluding them from doing their best at work. Those who are not worried about money took an average of 1.9 days off from work, but those who are struggling financially took an average of 3.5 days. Further, those who have financial concerns say they are highly distracted on the job an average of 12.4 days a year, compared with 8.6 days for those not worried about their finances.

“Financial security is a top-of-mind issue for employees,” says Shane Bartling, senior retirement consultant at Willis Towers Watson. “Financial worries can have a negative impact on an employee’s personal and work life, and inevitably affect productivity, employee engagement and satisfaction. Employers are in an excellent position to help employees achieve both retirement and financial security in the short and long term, as well as reinforce good personal habits by providing tools, resources and benefit and total rewards programs that best meet their employees’ needs.”

The survey also found that 61% of employees believe their company should encourage them to save for retirement. However, only 41% are open to having their employer encourage them to better manage their finances, and only 30% are comfortable with their employers sending targeted messages to employees with financial issues.

“Employers have a long-established track record around retirement messaging and, more recently, have been pushing healthy lifestyles through their health and well-being programs,”  Nyce says. “Employers that think they have permission to charge ahead in a similar fashion on personal finance issues could end up disappointed or, worse yet, upset employees, which would be counterproductive to their goals. Employers have to be mindful of their approach if they are including personal finance education.”

Nonetheless, another recent survey on financial stress in the workplace by GuideSpark found that 78% of employees would join a company that offered financial health benefits over one that didn’t. Thus, it might make sense for each company to survey their own employees about financial wellness expectations to determine what the right balance might be.