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BofA Survey Finds Many American Workers Optimistic About Their Financial Future, Though Feeling the Strain of Inflation

While Saving for Retirement Remains Top Financial Goal, More Employees Prioritizing Pressing Needs

Bank of America today announced findings from its 13th annual Workplace Benefits Report, “The Transforming Workplace” (PDF) The report revealed that two-thirds (67%) of employees believe the cost of living is outpacing growth in their salary or wages, compared to 58% in February 2022. Over the last year, the impact of inflation and economic uncertainty has contributed to increased financial stress and to financial wellness among employees dropping to 42%, the lowest rate since this research began in 2010. Despite which, more than half (56%) of employees remain cautiously optimistic about their financial well-being over the next 2 to 3 years.

First launched in 2011, the annual Workplace Benefits Report examines trends related to workplace financial benefits and wellness programs. Based on nationwide surveys of more than 1,300 employees and nearly 800 employers conducted during the first half of this year, the 2023 Report unveiled trends across employee retirement preparedness and financial well-being, the impact of caregiving on the workforce, and the state of the workplace.

“American workers continue to feel stressed about their finances and are concerned about keeping up with the cost of living,” said Lorna Sabbia, Head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions at Bank of America. “Companies who show a sense of urgency for their workforce by offering financial wellness programs and resources which support employees’ immediate needs and overall well-being will continue to stand out as employers’ of choice.”

Employees continue to look for support from their employers, with most employees (76%) and employers (96%) agreeing that employers are responsible for employee financial wellness. However, only 2 in 5 employers currently offer financial wellness programs. Other emerging trends include:

  • Employees are prioritizing short-term financial needs over retirement savings. Fewer employees are prioritizing long-term retirement savings (31%, down from 45% in 2022) as a growing number are focusing on short-term financial needs, including paying off credit card debt (16% vs. 11% in 2022) and saving for the unexpected (13% vs. 8% in 2022).
  • Half of employees are not actively saving for future health care costs. Nearly half of employees (45%) say they are not saving specifically for health care. Additionally, confidence in managing health care costs has decreased (16% vs. 27% in 2022), and only 7% plan to start contributing to an HSA to help address the future cost of health care.
  • Women are feeling the weight of financial stress. Only 38% of women feel financially well in 2023, a decrease from 55% in 2022, and a five-year low. 54% feel that they won’t be able to make ends meet due to inflation, compared to 32% of men; and 39% have had to look for additional employment due to rising costs, compared to 17% of men.   
  • Feelings of financial wellness also vary by ethnicity and location. 61% of Asian employees rate their financial wellness as good or excellent, followed by White/Caucasian (44%), Hispanic/Latinx (40%) and Black/African American (35%). Additionally, less than 1-in-4 of employees living in urban areas feel prepared for retirement, compared to 32% of suburban employees and 43% of rural employees.

The Impact of Caregiving on the Workforce

This year’s report also examined caregiving and its oftentimes hidden impact on the workforce. More than half of employees (56%) identify as caregivers, led by Hispanic/Latinx (70%), Gen Z/Millennials (68%), women (57%) and employees earning less than $40,000 annually (71%). However, employers believe that only 35% of their workforce are caregivers.

Balancing career and caregiving can come with sacrifices for employees, including using vacation time (39%), reducing their hours (16%), quitting a job or leaving the workforce (11%), or turning down a promotion (9%). Additionally, while 89% of employers offer some level of caregiver support, only 41% of employees know that these resources exist, and less than one-third (32%) of working caregivers take advantage of programs or support being offered.

The Evolving Workplace

While employers report lower employee attrition rates this year compared to 2022, staffing continues to be a challenge. Nearly one-third of employees (32%) say they switched jobs or considered leaving their company in the past year, with the top reasons including burnout (53%), size of pay increases (44%), and work-life balance (41%).

More than half of employers currently have an in-person work model (55%), followed by hybrid/mix (39%) and fully remote (6%) models. However, in the next three years, more employers plan to shift to hybrid/mix (47%) and remote (17%) models, while fewer (36%) plan to maintain a fully in-person model.