While financial stress increased overall this past year, the pressure and uncertainty of the COVID-19 crisis has caused workers to prioritize financial wellness and seek guidance for both short and long-term financial planning, a new survey finds.
John Hancock Retirement, a company of Manulife Investment Management, today announced the results of its seventh annual financial stress survey of retirement plan participants, revealing the weight of financial stress on workers and its impact on employers.
The 2020 financial stress survey was expanded to include respondents in both the United States and Canada and captures similar sentiment across the two countries.
"Given the upheaval experienced in 2020 to date, it's no surprise that retirement savers are more stressed today than they were pre-COVID," said Sue Reibel, global head of retirement, Manulife Investment Management. "The silver lining in this year's data is that people are more open to financial advice than in years past. In this environment, when faced with managing multiple pressures, stress is high and responsibilities are piling up, and retirement investors are looking for a trusted source of advice when it comes to navigating their finances."
The pandemic's impact on financial stress is evident and significant; in fact, the number of individuals reporting high levels of financial stress more than doubled from 11% pre-COVID to 27% since the crisis struck. Further, while only 44% of participants reported experiencing financial stress prior to the pandemic, the number grew to 67% following the outbreak. Based on today's realities, including roughly 28% dipping into their emergency savings and 19% increasing credit card balances since the beginning of the pandemic, only one-third of survey participants feel their situations will improve in the coming year.
Simultaneously, the survey results reveal an increased interest in receiving advice from professionals both on retirement saving and investing, particularly among U.S. respondents compared with prior years. Nearly three-quarters of U.S. participants reported that they would seek advice on retirement planning, up from two-thirds of respondents in 2019. When it comes to investment advice, 63% responded that they would seek it out in 2020 versus 50% in 2019. In Canada, more than half of the respondents indicated they were interested in retirement planning and investing advice, at 58% and 51% respectively.
"This year has delivered many challenges and both employers and employees have been asked to reimagine how they work," added Lynda Abend, chief data officer, John Hancock Retirement. "Employers are uniquely positioned to provide relief in many forms, including alleviating financial stress for their employees by revisiting the benefits playbook. Employees are looking for advice and guidance, which employers can provide through a holistic financial wellness offering."
Opportunity for employers
With survey participants reporting increased interest in advice and 75% claiming that an employer-sponsored financial wellness program would positively affect their financial stress, the data suggests employers can have a direct impact on the financial wellness of their teams beyond salary. Overall, 80% of respondents report that simply setting financial goals would be at least moderately helpful.
Ninety percent of respondents feel it's important for employers to offer financial wellness programs, including roughly four in ten who find them highly important. Thirty percent of Canadian respondents claim their employers offer a fairly or very extensive financial wellness program and just 12% of U.S. respondents report the same experience. U.S. workers are also more than twice as likely as Canadian respondents to say they are unsure of whether or not their employer offers a program at all (39% and 18%, respectively).
Additional noteworthy data from the 2020 Financial Stress Survey include:
- Personal finances and economy: More than a third (35%) of U.S. respondents say their overall current financial situation is fair or poor. Three-in-ten Canadian respondents agree. When it comes to financial concerns, workers rate the state of the current economy as the top concern, followed by not having enough retirement savings. One in four of all respondents say they worry a great a deal about losing their job – an increase for U.S. respondents from 2019 - likely due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on the economy.
- Employees are tuning in to their progress: Despite consumers' increased worries about their current and future financial positions, they are more tapped into their financial needs than ever before. More than two-thirds of participants visit their retirement plans at least once a quarter to monitor their finances, including roughly four in ten or 39% who visit their plans once a month.
- Employees are looking for personalized retirement projections: Ninety-five percent of U.S. participants and 89% of Canadian participants said that projections of estimated income and expenses in retirement, including healthcare expenses, would motivate them to prepare for retirement.
To see the 2020 financial stress survey white paper or learn more about John Hancock Retirement, please click here.
John Hancock Retirement and Manulife Investment Management are not affiliated with Greenwald & Associates and are not responsible for the liabilities of the other.
The 2020 Financial Stress survey was commissioned by Manulife Investment Management and John Hancock Retirement and conducted by Greenwald & Associates. An online survey of 589 John Hancock Retirement plan participants and 1,026 plan members in Canada was conducted in August 2020.
About John Hancock Retirement
John Hancock Retirement is the U.S. retirement business of Manulife Investment Management. For nearly 50 years, we've helped people plan and invest for retirement; today, we're one of the largest full-service providers in the United States.¹ We take a hands-on consultative approach based on the idea that no two plans - and no two plan participants - are exactly alike. We partner with plan sponsors, financial professionals, and third-party administrators to ensure that every plan is personal to the participant and helps deliver results.
As of June 30, 2020, John Hancock serviced over 51,000 retirement plans with over 3 million participants and over $177 billion in AUMA. 2
1. "2020 Defined Contribution Recordkeeper Survey," PLANSPONSOR, 2020.
2. As of June 30, 2020, John Hancock Life Insurance Company (USA) supported 46,942 plans, 1,590,762 participants, and $88,315,505,455 in AUMA. John Hancock Life Insurance Company of New York supported 2,511 plans, 78,978 participants, and $5,286,691,809 in AUMA. John Hancock Retirement Plan Services, LLC supported 2,009 plans, 1,348,513 participants, and $83,944,095,426 in AUMA. Participant Counts reflect all active participants with a balance. Approximate unaudited figures for John Hancock, provided on a U.S. statutory basis.
About Manulife Investment Management
Manulife Investment Management is the global wealth and asset management segment of Manulife Financial Corporation. We draw on more than a century of financial stewardship and the full resources of our parent company to serve individuals, institutions, and retirement plan members worldwide. Headquartered in Toronto, our leading capabilities in public and private markets are strengthened by an investment footprint that spans 17 countries and territories. We complement these capabilities by providing access to a network of unaffiliated asset managers from around the world. We're committed to investing responsibly across our businesses. We develop innovative global frameworks for sustainable investing, collaboratively engage with companies in our securities portfolios, and maintain a high standard of stewardship where we own and operate assets, and we believe in supporting financial well-being through our workplace retirement plans. Today, plan sponsors around the world rely on our retirement plan administration and investment expertise to help their employees plan for, save for, and live a better retirement.