Almost one in seven Americans has absolutely no plan for their future financial and health care needs, new research suggests.
A recent study of 2,000 employed Americans found that only 26% have a one- to four-year plan in place.
And even with many believing they had factored health care costs into their future plans, seven in 10 respondents grossly underestimated the amount of money they think the average retirement-aged couple needs for health expenses.
For long-term financial goals, nearly three in five are using a 401(k) or other retirement account and 31% are leveraging a health savings account.
But despite that, nearly three-quarters of Americans admitted they had no clue how 401(k)s, health insurance or HSAs worked when they got their first job.
Conducted by OnePoll on behalf of Bend Financial, the study also discovered nearly 40% of respondents weren’t well-informed about health benefits at their first professional job and were left to research the benefits offered on their own.
Moreover, more than half felt overwhelmed by the mountain of paperwork surrounding their benefit options.
More than three in five have also felt stuck in a job, but not always for obvious reasons. While nearly half feared they wouldn’t be able to find a similar or better salary, 41% were afraid of losing their benefits — much more than those who feared their skills weren’t transferable (22%).
Respondents noted a number of changes that could have been made to improve the role they felt stuck in. While a better salary was key for 64%, half said they’d prefer better health benefits — more than those who mentioned a better work/life balance (46%) and tuition assistance (25%).
But while an increased salary and better health benefits stand out as driving forces behind improved job satisfaction, confusion surrounding benefits still looms. More than half of respondents said they felt as though they are flooded with information about their health benefits, to the point where it's overwhelming.
That may be why 73% wish they had learned about HSAs and how health insurance works before they entered the workforce.
“Selecting benefits and understanding how high deductible health plans and HSAs work are the last things that should be stressful about anyone’s job,” said Bend Financial co-founder and CEO Tom Torre. “Yet our study shows people often feel bombarded with information surrounding benefits, which can add to their stress and lead to choosing options that might not be the best fit for them short or long term.”
To better understand health benefits, most respondents consulted their parents (43%) and co-workers (42%), while only 31% reached out to HR representatives.
Respondents also shared various knowledge gaps regarding their health benefits. Of the 871 who knew what an HDHP and an HSA are, more than one in five incorrectly stated that HSAs don’t stay with you if you lose your job or insurance coverage.
And of those currently using an HSA, 62% cited lack of HSA information and knowledge as the biggest challenge they faced when opening and beginning to use their account.
“Forty-six percent of respondents who were offered an HDHP/HSA option chose to stick with a traditional health plan because they didn’t receive enough information on what HDHPs and HSAs are and how they work,” Torre added. “With employees continuing to shoulder more of the costs surrounding their health care, employers and HSA providers need to work together to provide clear, comprehensive educational tools and resources to help employees feel confident in making the best benefit choices.”