Focus on Both Financial and Physical Wellness Crucial to Employee Retirement Outcomes

Mercer suggests smart companies will help employees grow professionally, lead healthier lives and make better financial decisions by leveraging technology to efficiently deliver an enhanced employee experience.

Progressive companies recognize that helping employees better manage their health, wealth and careers is critical to the organization’s value proposition and to attracting and retaining top talent, according to Mercer’s Healthy, Wealthy and Work-Wise, Technology: Driving a Revolution in Financial Fitness.


Mercer’s recent study, Healthy, Wealthy and Work-Wise: The New Imperatives for Financial Security, found over one-third (36%) of American adults feel financially secure today. Nearly half (49%) say they need financial security to retire well, and 64% expect to maintain a desired quality of life after fully retiring.


Mercer’s survey found that not saving enough for retirement causes the most stress regarding financial security at 40%—somewhat higher for women at 44% and slightly lower for men at 36%—followed by general economic conditions at 39%. Personal health as a cause of financial stress ranks third at 36%.


People rank health—now and in later years—as the most important factor for a financially secure retirement and post-retirement lifestyle. Yet, despite the importance people place on health, Mercer finds they are only doing the minimum and only making basic efforts to be healthy. In the US, 59% profess excellent or very good health as it relates to ability to perform on the job—among the highest of the countries surveyed and well above the global average of 39%. For about one-third, health-related factors are causes for concern: 36% cite health as a financial stress factor; 29% are confident in their ability to pay for medical costs; and 35% believe they will be able to work as long as desired.


“Given how essential health is to enabling people to contribute productively, to working as long as desired or required, and to enjoying a good life, investing in health as well as financial wellness at work is imperative,” Mercer said in its global report.


In the current report, Mercer suggests smart companies will help employees grow professionally, lead healthier lives and make better financial decisions by leveraging technology to efficiently deliver an enhanced employee experience. Through personalization and digital tools, employers can provide the more diverse range of benefits employees are demanding—benefits that can help employees become not just physically fit but also financially fit.


Although the vast majority feel personally responsible for saving enough income for later years—it is evident from the research that they do not take the necessary action, begging the question: Do we even know which actions to take? The study found that 74% in the U.S. would be likely to change how they save for retirement if they knew whether they had saved enough.


In its global study, Mercer found that increasingly, across both developed and developing markets, people are conducting their lives online and especially on mobile devices. Mercer suggests that easy-to-use, jargon-free and effective online tools are vital to assisting people of all ages and especially today’s largest segment of the workforce, Millennials, who are the least financially secure among the age groups surveyed.


Millennials in the U.S. highly value technology: 95% have some interest in online tools, and 86% are willing to allow the tools to help track and manage their financial, health and personal data as long as the tools are easy to use and their data are secure. Similarly, the vast majority of the general population in the U.S. (85% of all adults) are interested in using do-it-yourself apps and tools to manage savings and finances.


There are resources, though, that do not hold the same level of interest: 55% are not comfortable with robo-advisers giving automated advice, and 42% feel similarly about call centers with financial advisers, indicating that people are looking to be treated individually with guidance and advice and do not want to be told what to do.


Mercer suggests that business leaders can help bridge the gap on financial security and knowledge. The research depicts an opportunity for employers and governments to address both the financial and the behavioral needs of the workforce, generally, and of the growing population of digital natives, specifically, by providing secure, easy-to-use, do-it-yourself digital tools and apps that assist in making better decisions, now and for the future.


“To transform saving into an engaging consumer experience rather than a financial services experience, employers must present it not as something difficult and unpleasant but as something that is achievable and interesting by using simplified language, useful tools and the ability to track progress in real time,” Mercer says in its new report. “Providing individuals with easy access to this information can bring issues like health and financial wellness to life and engage people to give greater thought and attention to these issues.”


Mercer suggests employers find the right delivery model: Employers have various options when implementing programs to help their employees better manage their financial, physical or mental well-being. The right delivery model will depend on the organization’s comfort and willingness to be involved with helping employees make decisions. At one end of the spectrum, employers can simply provide access to vetted tools, leaving employees to decide when and how to use the tools. At the other end of the spectrum, employers can provide both access and advice on how individuals should manage their health and financial wellness.