Edelman Financial Engines Survey Finds That Inclusivity Is Critical to Improving Employee Participation in Financial Wellness Benefits

BOSTON, September 28, 2022 - Edelman Financial Engines, America’s top independent wealth planning and investment advisory firm,1 released findings from a recent survey that explores employers’ opportunities to promote more inclusive messaging in their benefits communications. The report, Representation Matters When Employees Consider Financial Benefits, examines how improving inclusivity in benefits communications can encourage greater engagement in these services and, ultimately, drive better wellness outcomes.

Many employee groups feel disconnected from benefits communications

The survey, which polled 1,000 U.S. employees 25 years and older with access to employer-sponsored benefits, revealed wide disparities in how well different groups felt represented in benefits programs. Overall, a clear majority (62%) said they “don’t always feel represented” in their company’s messaging about benefits. Women fared even worse – more than two-thirds (68%) confirmed they did not always feel included – considerably higher than their male counterparts (58%).

Beyond gender, those in nontraditional households also felt a regular lack of representation in their employer’s benefits communications. Two-thirds (68%) of single employees and nearly the same amount (66%) without children reported that they did not always feel adequately included.

Benefits use increases with better representation

The research reinforced a simple but compelling point – if workers can’t relate to the way their employers are positioning financial wellness capabilities, then it’s even more difficult to get them engaged in these important services. For example, less than half (46%) of employees who felt they were being represented only “occasionally or less” admitted to using their company’s financial wellness benefits. Alternatively, nearly three-quarters (74%) who “always or often” felt represented in communications used these same benefits.

“Representation matters. Our survey shows that employees will be more receptive to financial help and services that connect to their background, lifestyle and unique needs,” said Kelly O’Donnell, executive vice president and head of Workplace at Edelman Financial Engines. “As employers continue to ramp up investment and focus on improving diversity and inclusion, it is critical they don’t miss this impactful opportunity. Ensuring inclusivity is integrated into benefits communications and offerings can have significant impact on all employees.”

Paths for improving engagement with benefits plans

To optimize financial wellness benefits for a diverse workforce, messaging must show that the company recognizes and understands employees’ particular financial challenges. An overwhelming 93% of employees who “don’t always feel represented” in their company’s benefits materials said they’d be more likely to take advantage of financial wellness support if it was personalized to their specific background and family circumstances.

When working with a financial advisor, more than 4 in 5 employees (82%) said they prefer to work with someone from a similar background or family situation. Across a variety of employee populations, this was true. Black or African American employees (91%) and Hispanic employees (89%) strongly preferred working with financial advisors who share common ground.

“Through my daily interactions with clients, I’ve seen firsthand the difference representation can make when people are tasked with difficult and personal conversations around their finances,” said Rose Niang, director of financial planning at Edelman Financial Engines. “Building trust through similar backgrounds and life experiences can help people feel more comfortable accessing help through their workplace.”

Survey Methodology

The Edelman Financial Engines survey was conducted by Wakefield Research among 1,000 nationally representative U.S. employed adults ages 25+ whose employers offered benefits between June 1 and June 12, 2022, using an email invitation and an online survey, with “employed” defined as those working full or part time. This survey has been weighted to ensure accurate representation.

Results of any sample are subject to sampling variation. The magnitude of the variation is measurable and is affected by the number of interviews and the level of the percentages expressing the results. For the interviews conducted in this particular study, the chances are 95 in 100 that a survey result does not vary, plus or minus, by more than 3.1 percentage points from the result that would be obtained if interviews had been conducted with all persons in the universe represented by the sample.

About Edelman Financial Engines

Since 1986, Edelman Financial Engines has been committed to always acting in the best interests of our clients. We were founded on the belief that all investors – not just the wealthy – deserve access to personal, comprehensive financial planning and investment advice. Today, we are America’s top independent financial planning and investment advisory firm, recognized by Barron's1 with 145+ offices2 across the country and entrusted by 1.3 million clients to manage more than $245 billion in assets.3 Our unique approach to serving clients combines our advanced methodology and proprietary technology with the attention of a dedicated personal financial planner. Every client’s situation and goals are unique, and the powerful fusion of high-tech and high touch allows Edelman Financial Engines to deliver the personal plan and financial confidence that everyone deserves. For more information, please visit EdelmanFinancialEngines.com.

1. The Barron’s 2023 Top 100 RIA Firms list, a ranking of independent advisory firms in its eighth year, is qualitative and quantitative, including assets managed by the firms, technology spending, staff diversity, succession planning and other metrics. Firms elect to participate but do not pay to be included in the ranking. Ranking awarded each September based on data within a 12-month period. Investor experience and returns are not considered.

2. Edelman Financial Engines data, as of Dec. 31, 2022.

3. Edelman Financial Engines data, as of September 30, 2023.

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