SURVEY SAYS: How’s Your Financial Wellness?

We have written many articles about how employees are struggling with basic financial wellness, such as budgeting, debt and emergency savings.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers a series of questions about their financial wellness.


The majority of respondents (63.3%) work in a plan sponsor role, while 19% are advisers/consultants and 17.7% are TPAs/recordkeepers/investment managers.


Having a household budget, and sticking to it, was one of the weaker areas for responding readers, with only 31.2% saying they have one and stick to it. Half reported they do not have a budget, and 18.7% say they have one, but don’t stick to it.


Respondents fared better when it came to emergency savings and debt. Asked if they have an emergency savings of at least three month’s salary, 72.5% said yes and 27.5% said no. Meanwhile, 70.8% are free from credit card debt, and 29.1% are not. Asked if they have student loan debt, either their’s or a family member’s, 22.8% said yes, and 77.2% said no.


Nearly nine in 10 responding readers (88.6%) indicated they save at least 10% of income for retirement (including their deferrals and any employer contributions), while only 11.4% reported they don’t.


Among the verbatim comments, some folks seem to be doing very well and are close to retiring. Others mentioned setbacks that hurt their financial wellness, such as divorce or a large medical expense. And, medical expenses seems to be the top worry of respondents to the survey. I think the survey served as a reminder to some of what our financial situations should look like, “Ugh… your survey just wrecked me this morning.” Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said: “Working hard to have a balance in life between saving and living—life happens.”


Thanks to all who participated in the survey!



I’m a Baby Boomer with a frozen pension. If I didn’t save for retirement, I would have to work till I dropped!

I went through a divorce recently so my credit card debt and 3 month’s of salary buffer took a hit.

Even though I work with tools to gauge financial wellness, I don’t feel confident about my own financial wellness and whether the tools accurately reflect how much is needed in savings. I’m particularly concerned about the costs of medical and long-term care. My family recently had a medical crisis that wiped out many of our assets and also permanently eliminated more than half of our income. It has heightened my anxiety about these issues. I really don’t know which resources to trust moving forward.

It was easier to budget when I was younger and had less…not as many temptations because the funds just weren’t there.

I think I am doing OK, but who knows what the future will bring on?

Finally got started at 46; feel better now, but lots of room for improvement.

I’m currently in the process of selling my house and moving in with my fiance (at the age of 51). There is something to be said for the old adage, “Two can live more cheaply than one.” We sat down together and figured out that only owning one house between us is going to free up thousands of dollars of month, and we have already made a well-defined plan for our financial future together. It (almost) made me wish that I had moved in with someone earlier!

I think having a child later in life makes it much more challenging to set aside money for things like retirement.

I think we all know what to do, but we struggle to do it for lack of financial discipline.

I am 58 and am retiring tomorrow to play with my new grandson, ride my bike, hike the local mountains, and volunteer. Put my time in, saved my money, maintained my health and I’m now done! Woohoo!

I will forever be grateful that my “foot in the door” job right out of college was in a call center for retirement plans. I learned so much that applies to my own personal budget and understanding. (Plus I met my husband in that call center! Excellent career move there.)

We should be in decent shape for retirement. I think coming from a financially difficult childhood helped spur my determination to “take care of myself.”

In a few weeks, I will have my house paid off and be able to weather a disability or early retirement, but just barely. (I’m age 59.) A lot of hard work with little to show for it. Not exactly the American dream, but it could always be worse.

Retiring at the end of this year, so this is a great concern to me and my wife. Planning ahead for about 20 years. If the stock market doesn’t do something really bad I’m pretty sure we’ll be in good shape. Our children know we’re NOT planning on leaving them any money, and they say they’re OK with that.

Having lived through four financial crises, you can’t really rely just on planning alone. Be creative, and put your money into what you love most.

Own 2 homes and 2 cars, totally debt free. Retiring in the next few months!

In my younger days, my answers to the above questions would have been different but because I have never lived above my means my retirement horizon looks very good.

Since I have worked in the retirement plans industry most of my career, I have learned a lot about saving. The key to financial wellness is living within your means!

Feel comfortable about our retirement savings except for the health care factor.

Working hard to have a balance in life between saving and living — life happens

I max out my 401k and IRA deferrals annually. Additionally I utilize my company’s ESPP to automatically deduct money weekly to purchase company stock. I also automatically transfer a portion of my paycheck to a separate bank account that I don’t touch. By doing all these things I paid off my house at age 41 and have over a year’s worth of salary saved up. I’ve been doing these things since my first day of work after graduating college. My goal from day #1 has been to retire no later than age 55. I might add that I do not make an exuberant salary, I hold a regular mid-level staff job. If you start off on the right foot, you’ll stay on the right foot!

Even though I am fortunate to have saved and saved and saved, I have a general uneasiness that something catastrophic could occur at any time – like unanticipated medical expenses. It’s this sort of thing that can undo the best laid plans.

My husband and I had very modest upbringings, which certainly helped us save well and live conservatively. Good work ethics always helps careers and thus income. Fortunately, good health in our family has helped. I expect that people responding to this survey, your readers, should be in good shape. But hey, thanks for asking!!

Ugh… your survey just wrecked me this morning.

In our industry we focus on financial literacy. Unfortunately, that is a symptom of a bigger challenge in the lacking basic mathematical literacy in our society. We need better mathematics education in general.

Need to have your partner onboard with any financial plan, if not it is doomed to be a failure and cause numerous bouts of verbal gymnastics!

All my job hopping from my youth has, surprisingly, paid off well. The IRA they were rolled into is doing very well and my current employer provides a pension. My dream of retiring to Aruba is no longer a dream – we are buying a house there this year!

Fortunate to have been raised by parents who emphasized having a backup financial plan, as well as not spending more than you make.

Even though I have saved enough to replace my income in retirement, I plan to work until I am 70 to accumulate more. I am concerned about health care costs and long-term care in retirement.

Start saving as soon as you start working, don’t touch the savings (until retirement) and you will have financial wellness.

I am married and we decided not to have children. We have made maxing out both our 401(k)’s for several years a priority and will now be able to retire early. I realize I am in a very different situation than most. If only I could feel confident about the rising costs of medical care I think I would be completely at peace with my situation.

I’m ok and ready to retire at the end of the year.

I think investing is just as critical as saving, although saving is probably much easier that really knowing fully what your investments are (in the case of mutual funds) or knowing what to invest in (especially in the case of brokerage accounts).

Only a few years away from when I should be retiring, and trying desperately to make up for lost time.

It’s terrible. :'(

People make bad choices all the time. I’ve tried not to make too many, but sometimes life throws you a curve, sets you back – you just have to dust yourself off and get back in the game. I’m curious as to your results here – what’s that old saying about the cobbler’s kids not having shoes?

I am doing great, especially when I compare myself to what I read about so many others in their 50’s that don’t even have $25,000 saved, or a $1,000 emergency fund! My biggest worry for retirement is what medical costs might be. It is such an unknown and out of our control.

Overall we are very fortunate.

I have worked in the retirement industry since the mid-80s and I have always had my eye on the prize, so to speak. Not having been blessed with children, we are hundreds of thousands of dollars ahead of those who were.



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Strategic Insight or its affiliates.