The workplace remains the first and primary stop for Americans seeking to build and protect their overall financial security. Even in this tumultuous benefits environment, U.S. workers value their employee benefits and rely on them for their financial security as much as ever.
The third annual Guardian Workplace Benefits study revealed that 68% of employees rely on their benefits for at least half of their financial preparedness. Forty-two percent of employees surveyed rely on their workplace for all or most of their preparedness. Guardian's Benefit Value index, a benchmark of how employees feel about their company's benefits, remains high at 7.1, up from 6.8 in 2013.
Although Americans value their employee benefits, many are still underinsured and unprepared for retirement. Most U.S. workers have access to medical insurance for themselves and their families — mainly through an employer-sponsored plan. However, many do not own other forms of insurance, including disability and life insurance, or retirement savings plans if not offered through their employer. One in three workers has no disability insurance; one in four has no life insurance; and one in five has no retirement savings plan.
The biggest challenge for workers is getting the best information to make informed decisions. While the advantages of talking to a professional about their benefits might seem the most logical thing to do, 50% of employees do a Google search for information about life, disability or dental insurance. Only 35% speak to someone in human resources, while less than one in three talks to a financial adviser.
The situation is much the same during the annual open enrollment period. During this important window, most workers say they consult with friends or relatives (67%) when making benefits selections.
Given how much workers rely on their benefits for financial security, it's not surprising that nearly two in three strongly believe employers have a responsibility to offer insurance and retirement benefits to employees. Yet, the same responsibility is not felt as acutely among employers, who may underestimate the positive impact.
Sixty-three percent of employees strongly agreed that employers have a responsibility to provide benefits and ensure financial preparedness, whereas only 16% of employers strongly agreed with the same proposition. Employees are more likely to find that their employer places a higher value on benefit offerings if they have growing HR departments.
TAKE ADVANTAGE OF RESOURCES
Employees should take advantage of the support provided by their employers when it comes to decisions about signing up for insurance. These resources include decision support tools, emails, live presentations, videos and online enrollment.
Employer presentations can be an excellent way to learn about specific benefits. Many employers may offer enrollment or benefits meetings where employees can hear what offerings are available and how they work together. Employees can get professional guidance on what coverages make sense to sign up for based on personal situations and upcoming needs.
Too often, employees are not aware of the big picture. Employees should check if their employer provides a total compensation statement. A total compensation statement illustrates the monetary worth of benefits and is helpful in understanding your total benefits picture. Eighty-seven percent of employees who receive a total compensation statement feel confident in their benefits decisions.
Good financial health and security starts with the protection products offered at work. Employees need to start there, pay attention to what's being offered and engage with the resources that are provided.
Ray Marra is senior vice president of group products for The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America.