In the absence of a crystal ball to determine how long we will live and what we will need to live well, planning for health and financial security remains a challenge. As part of our Healthy, Wealthy and Workwise initiative, we surveyed 7,000 adults and 600 senior leaders in 12 countries. That research helped us to identify some imperatives for financial security and the need for employers to play a big role.
If they stopped working at the traditional retirement age of 65, most people would need savings to support them for 15-20 years. But the survey found that 71% of Americans say they do not ever expect to retire or expect to keep working in some capacity after retirement. Given increasing life expectancy, generally low levels of retirement savings, and changing preferences, our traditional notions of retirement need to be re-examined. Without adequate savings, people are relying on their health to be able to work as long as they need to. Such realities require flexibility in benefits, systems and structures as retirement needs, investment and savings vary and affect decisions to continue working or adjust lifestyles accordingly.
One of the key findings from our research is that 79% of employees trust their current employer to give sound advice on planning, saving and investment for retirement. This suggests that employers have a critically important role to play in helping their employees achieve financial security. But first we need to address a disconnect. The business leaders we surveyed see savings as the most important factor for a financially secure retirement, with health ranked fifth. Participants ranked health as the number one priority in retirement by far, followed by close relationships and having enough income for basic necessities.
Employers must look at the importance people place on health and how health and financial security are inextricably linked. Given the importance of health in enabling people to contribute productively and to enjoying a good life, investing in health as well as financial wellness at work is imperative. As people continue to work longer and at older ages, employers will be faced with increasing health risks and associated medical costs. Employer-sponsored programs to raise awareness and maintain or enhance health can have an impact today and tomorrow.