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Worksite Smarter.
Are today's working Americans financially stable?

Phyllis Falotico headshot

By Phyllis Falotico

Head of Worksite Marketing and true believer that good financial health and well-being for today's working Americans begin with their workplace benefits.

Posted on: July 25, 2023

Part 1: Three different perspectives to consider

The question asked unfortunately does not have a singular answer. It’s a bit more complex and it varies—but probably not based on the factors you might think! While it is true that demographics may play a role in the response, what may matter more are perceptions of financial well-being and feelings of confidence in the future. Why this matters to your business will become clear to you shortly.

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For the past year, we’ve been observing the sentiments of working Americans through trend-following surveys, capturing employees’ reactions from a diverse group of occupations and industries, and publishing a Workforce Financial Stability Score (also known as the WFSS) monthly. If you are on the MassMutual Worksite email list or follow us on LinkedIn, you may already be familiar with our monthly score and may even keep an eye out for each month’s results.

Specifically, each month we have been collecting and tracking working Americans’ perceptions regarding the following six dimensions:

  • Ability to manage expenses between paychecks
  • Ability to withstand unexpected expenses
  • Ability to help others financially
  • Overall net worth
  • Confidence in meeting longer-term goals
  • Likelihood of reaching personal retirement goals

But that was not all we asked. We didn’t just want to know ‘what’ they were thinking in terms of financial well-being, we wanted to know ‘why.’ So, every month we asked working Americans related questions,1 which helped us to uncover three distinct cohorts, briefly described below. (The full analysis, planned for release in the coming weeks, will provide greater detail.)

The Financially Challenged. This group of working Americans are the most sensitive to changes in the economic environment. They have the highest level of concern and are more likely to actively take measures to deter both short-term and long-term spending (e.g., postpone home or car maintenance, switch to less costly stores or brands, cancel subscriptions, drive less, or cancel vacations).

They are also less likely to be funding an array of financial vehicles, including voluntary benefits. This could be because they are experiencing greater struggles living paycheck to paycheck and any efforts to save more are focused on establishing and building an emergency fund.

The Financially Stable. These are working Americans who are generally managing paycheck to paycheck, able to manage their current financial burdens, but an unexpected event could be detrimental to their current stability. This group is focused on building savings, including adding to their emergency fund. They are working to reduce or stop spending money (especially discretionary income) and avoid incurring any additional debt.

Better budgeting is a common goal for this segment. When it comes to spending, you can expect that it will be the same budgeting buckets as the previous year. This includes contributions to their 401k, emergency savings, HSA, investments, IRAs—and voluntary benefits.

The Financially Healthy. Unlike the other two groups, who may be focused on solely improving their financial well-being, these working Americans are also seeking to maintain theirs. They expect to continue or increase their funding toward financial means that either build wealth or protect income. They are also more likely to be taking advantage of financial vehicles such as investments, contributing more to a 401k, and participating in voluntary benefits.

Overall Mindset. In terms of the overall sentiments of all working Americans at the beginning of 2023, we derived from ancillary questions that Working Americans were three times more likely to be setting goals to improve their financial well-being compared to maintaining it. In general, they are setting goals to save more, spend less, increase their income, and invest. Actions around saving more include building savings or emergency funds, budgeting, consulting a financial professional or utilizing more online financial resources, having a financial plan, working more (increase income), and saving for retirement (contributing to a 401k or similar retirement account).

However, what if an employee were to experience an unexpected event such as a job loss, major health issue, or unplanned expense? The impact could be exponentially harder for financial recovery—especially for those Financially Challenged.

Voluntary benefits can play an important role to help working Americans achieve more financial well-being and security for themselves and those that count on them. The concern I have is whether employers and employees are able to make that connection, which is why this upcoming enrollment season, coupled with economic uncertainty, will be an opportunity to improve communications with your clients and their workers.

Consider these three segments as you build your enrollment communication plan for this enrollment season. Ask yourself which cohorts might be a greater population for each of your clients and cater messages accordingly to attract more interest in the value of voluntary benefits.

Stay tuned for part 2 next month where I’ll be taking a deeper dive and offering five actionable steps you can take to improve your enrollment communications. Until then, continue to make Worksite Better!

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1 Working Americans are defined as: Household Income range: $40,000-$150,000 AND Assets less than $300,000; all genders between the ages of 22 to 67, nationwide, employed for a company with 25 or more full-time employees (30 or more hours weekly) and that provides voluntary benefits. Representation include individuals from a variety of occupations and a survey sample size limited to approximately 1,000 participants each month.

FOR FINANCIAL PROFESSIONALS. NOT FOR USE WITH THE PUBLIC.

Insurance products issued by Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company (MassMutual) and its subsidiaries, C.M. Life Insurance Company (C. M. Life) and MML Bay State Life Insurance Company (MML Bay State), Springfield, MA 01111-0001. C.M. Life and MML Bay State are non-admitted in New York.