Bank of America Study Finds Employers' Sense of Responsibility for Employees' Financial Wellness Increased Significantly Over the Last Decade

September 24, 2020 at 9:00 AM Eastern

Bank of America today announced findings from its 10th annual Workplace Benefits Report, which reveals 62% of employers feel “extremely” responsible for their employees' financial wellness today, compared to 13% in 20131. This sense of increased responsibility by employers is even greater with respect to their employees' retirement, with 80% feeling very or extremely responsible for helping employees prepare for retirement healthcare needs and costs, up from 22% in 2012;2 and 78% for preparing employees for retirement income needs, up from 33%.2

The range of topics being addressed by workplace financial wellness programs has increased significantly as well, with employees seeking support and resources across more of their financial lives. Compared with findings from the 2013 Workplace Benefits Report, these programs today focus on:

  • Saving for retirement (81% vs. 70%)
  • Planning for healthcare costs (71% vs. 38%)
  • Budgeting (63% vs. 14%)
  • Saving for college (55% vs. 13%)
  • Managing debt (54% vs. 15%)

“Over the last decade, we've seen a significant increase in the range of financial wellness programs, which have become an integral part of employer benefits offerings,” said Lorna Sabbia, Head of Retirement and Personal Wealth Solutions for Bank of America. “While this growth is essential and encouraging, the pandemic has brought the topic of holistic well-being into sharper focus. Though the effects of these times have yet to be fully understood, employees are facing greater stress and demands on their time, straining their overall sense of wellness. More needs to be done to ensure employees feel supported at work - financially, physically, emotionally and mentally.”

The report examines trends in workplace financial benefits and wellness, tracking both employee and employer sentiment. Based on a nationwide survey of 996 employees and 808 employers, key findings include:

  • Financial wellness and productivity are interconnected. 83% of employers believe employee financial wellness programs and tools help to create more productive, loyal, satisfied and engaged employees. This works both ways, as 57% of employees feel their well-being has a great impact on productivity. When asked what factors contribute to their overall sense of well-being, employees cited physical (51%) and mental wellness (54%) only slightly more so than financial (49%).
  • Financial wellness has declined since 2018, and varies by generation. In March of this year, 49% of employees rated their financial wellness as good or excellent, down from 55% in 2019 and 61% in 2018. Fewer Gen Z (41%), Millennial (41%) and Gen X (38%) employees rate their financial wellness as good or excellent today, compared with 60% of Baby Boomers and the Silent Generation.
  • Professional financial advice and holistic support remain top priorities. Fewer than four-in-10 employees say they have made significant progress toward specific personal financial goals. The top obstacle cited for not achieving their goals is a lack of disposable income after monthly expenses. Employees ranked advice from a financial professional as the top employer-offered resource, with whom they want to discuss a range of topics, and have flexibility in terms of how they access advice.
  • Debt is a multifaceted challenge. 82% of employees have some type of debt, with the most common types being credit card (50%), mortgage (46%) and student loans (21%). Debt can erode a sense of overall well-being. Fifty-nine percent of employees say they do not have a high level of control over their debt, and 36% say it affects their ability to achieve financial goals.

Women need financial wellness programs tailored to their unique financial journey

The report found that 41% of women rate their financial wellness as good or excellent, compared to 58% of men. This - combined with the fact that women often make less than their male counterparts, are more likely to take time out of the workforce to raise a child or provide care for a family member, and typically live longer - underscores the need for financial wellness programs tailored to women's unique financial journeys and life paths. The study revealed several differences between men and women, including on the topic of debt:

  • Women are more likely to have credit card debt (56% vs. 43% of men) and student loans (30% vs. 11% of men), and are more likely to feel a lack of control over their debt (67% v. 49% men).
  • Women are more than twice as likely to rank paying off credit card debt among their top financial goals (21% vs. 9% of men).
  • Women are nearly twice as likely to cite lack of cash after monthly expenses as a primary challenge to achieving financial goals (47% vs. 27% of men).

“Women have inherently different financial journeys than men, creating a clear need for employers to target financial wellness solutions by both age and gender,” said Kevin Crain, Head of Workplace Solutions Integration for Bank of America. “At Bank of America, our goal is to work with employers to provide wellness programs that address the diverse needs of their workforce. These programs can be more critical today as the pandemic creates new challenges to maintaining financial wellness.”

Bank of America's Retirement & Benefit Plan Services organization serves more than 30,000 companies of all sizes and nearly 6 million employees. Bank of America offers institutional client employees a range of financial benefit programs and solutions to help them pursue their financial future. Earlier this year, the company launched Financial Life Benefits, a comprehensive suite of workplace benefits and solutions bringing together traditional financial benefits - including retirement, health savings, equity compensation and non-qualified deferred compensation plans - with a corporate employee banking3 and investing4 offering that can help address employees' everyday needs.

More findings, including action steps for employers, are available in the Bank of America 2020 Workplace Benefits Report.

Workplace Benefits Report Methodology

Escalent surveyed a national sample of 996 employees who are working full time and participate in 401(k) plans, and 808 employers who offer both a 401(k) plan and have sole or shared responsibility for decisions made in the plan. Of employees surveyed, 48% were men and 52% were women, and they were represented across life stages such as Gen Z and Millennials (414), Gen Xers (229) and Baby Boomers & Silent Generation (353). The sample employer population included 401 Small companies (<$20M in 401(k) plan assets), 208 Mid-sized companies ($20M to <$100M in 401(k) plan assets), and 199 Large companies (≥$100M in 401(k) plan assets). The survey was conducted between February 27, 2020 and March 27, 2020.

Financial Wellness at Bank of America

At Bank of America, we know that supporting the physical, financial and emotional wellbeing of our employees in their personal life also supports them in their work life - so they can be the best at work and at home. When it comes to financial wellness, we believe that the more informed people are about their money, the clearer their financial outlook can be. This applies not just to our clients, but to our employees, as well. This is why we offer robust financial offerings that focus on driving better behaviors across life priorities and the financial spectrum - budgeting, planning, saving, investing and more. Our competitive financial benefits - including 401(k) contribution matches, free retirement advice, health savings accounts, educational resources and financial wellness tools - help employees address money issues in the here-and-now, prepare for retirement and protect their family in the long term.

Bank of America

Bank of America is one of the world's leading financial institutions, serving individual consumers, small and middle-market businesses and large corporations with a full range of banking, investing, asset management and other financial and risk management products and services. The company provides unmatched convenience in the United States, serving approximately 66 million consumer and small business clients with approximately 4,300 retail financial centers, including approximately 3,000 lending centers, 2,600 financial centers with a Consumer Investment Financial Solutions Advisor and approximately 2,200 business centers; approximately 16,900 ATMs; and award-winning digital banking with approximately 39 million active users, including approximately 30 million mobile users. Bank of America is a global leader in wealth management, corporate and investment banking and trading across a broad range of asset classes, serving corporations, governments, institutions and individuals around the world. Bank of America offers industry-leading support to approximately 3 million small business households through a suite of innovative, easy-to-use online products and services. The company serves clients through operations across the United States, its territories and approximately 35 countries. Bank of America Corporation stock (NYSE: BAC) is listed on the New York Stock Exchange.

For more Bank of America news, including dividend announcements and other important information, visit the Bank of America newsroom.

Bank of America is a marketing name for the Retirement Services business of Bank of America Corporation ("BofA Corp."). Banking activities may be performed by wholly owned banking affiliates of BofA Corp., including Bank of America, N.A., member FDIC. Brokerage and Investment advisory services are provided by wholly owned non-bank affiliates of BofA Corp., including Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated (also referred to as “MLPF&S” or “Merrill”), a dually registered broker-dealer and investment adviser and member SIPC.


Reporters may contact:

Don Vecchiarello, Bank of America
Phone: 1.980.387.4899



12013 Workplace Benefits Report

22012 Workplace Benefits Report

3Bank products are available from Bank of America, N.A., and affiliated banks.

4Investment products are available from Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated.