Three Reasons Cities Should Tailor Employee Financial Wellness Programs


  • MissionSquare Retirement
August 7, 2023 - (3 min read)

With 88% of public sector workers worried about their finances, and 77% of those worried about their finances or financial decisions while at work, employers have good reason to implement an employee financial wellness program or strengthen an existing program. It’s not just the right thing to do – it also makes good business sense.

According to a recent MissionSquare Research Institute survey of more than 1,000 state and local government employees, participating in an employer’s financial wellness program has: led them to make changes to their financial behaviors (68%), bolstered their overall financial health (62%), made them less worried about their finances and more productive at work (60%), and improved their general morale at work (52%).

While the prevalence of employee financial wellness programs has increased over the past several years (from 29% of employers offering one in 2019 to 40% in 2022), tailored programs are not yet widespread, with only 31% of programs tailored to different portions of the workforce to address the unique needs of those groups.

Here are three reasons cities should consider tailoring financial wellness programs, especially by life/career stage.

  1. Financial wellness needs to evolve as employees reach different life/career stages. State and local government employees under the age of 40 are significantly more likely than their older peers to be worried about their finances often and while at work; to describe themselves as not too/not at all financially knowledgeable; to report that the pandemic has made them more interested in educating themselves about finances; and to turn to friends or family members who are not financial professionals for financial information. By tailoring financial wellness programs, employers have an opportunity to target concerns that are especially prevalent among younger workers and introduce them early on to reliable sources of information to help them make sound financial decisions throughout their career.
  • Preferences on program topic, channel, and mode of delivery vary by life/career stage. While 95% of workers over 60 surveyed are interested in a financial literacy program covering planning for retirement, only 38% of those under 40 are. Conversely, while 39% of those under 40 are interested in learning about debt, only 14% of those over 60 are. And while workers under 40 are also significantly more likely to be interested in programs offered through interactive online courses or mobile apps, those over 60 prefer in-person rather than virtual programs. Employers who recognize these variations in preferences are more likely to draw workers of all ages to participate in – and be satisfied with – financial wellness programs.
  • Tailored financial wellness programs can serve as an effective recruitment and retention tool. As public sector employers compete with the private sector and surrounding jurisdictions in search of talent, cities that offer financial wellness programs can have a competitive advantage. Offering workers the tools and resources they need to ensure they are financially secure (now and in the future) allows employees to focus on the critical services they provide to the public rather than on personal financial concerns.

About the Author

Rivka Liss-Levinson, PhD, is Senior Research Manager at MissionSquare Research Institute.

Gain More Insight

For more research findings on financial wellness from MissionSquare Research Institute, visit the Health & Wellness section on their website.