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Salary, Benefits Nearly Equal in New Job Consideration

Industry Trends and Research

Amid the Great Resignation, a new survey finds that workers are reevaluating what they want from their employers, with many considering leaving for better benefits and higher pay. 

In fact, more than two-thirds of American workers (67%) have reassessed what they want from their employers and nearly half (44%) have considered leaving or have left their jobs over the past year, according to Franklin Templeton’s Voice of the American Worker Survey.

When considering a new job opportunity, salary remains the top consideration, but benefits are not far behind. When asked about the importance of salary versus benefits, 51% of respondents agreed that salary is the most important deciding factor when weighing a new job opportunity, compared with 49% who agreed that benefits and financial wellbeing are the most important. In addition, 64% of respondents say they are looking for more out of their benefits than what their employer currently offers.

Drilling down further, workers in 2021 cited higher pay and increased 401(k) matching as the most-preferred benefits, at 51% and 40%, respectively. The survey also found that more than 8 in 10 employees would be interested in a deferred annuity benefit, but only 2% of their employers offer one.

As employees seek opportunities to improve their financial wellbeing, most are interested in benefits such as access to a financial professional (56%), financial planning tools, such as an online dashboard and retirement savings recommendations (62%), and financial education resources (54%).

For employers, “there has never been a more urgent time to evaluate benefit offerings and consider ways to evolve how they are supporting employee needs,” says Yaqub Ahmed, Head of U.S. Retirement, Insurance & 529 at Franklin Templeton. “With turnover at an all-time high, improving employee wellbeing is vital to the health of any business.” 

Now in its second year, the survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Franklin Templeton and the firm’s Retirement Innovation Initiative, which launched in January 2020. 

Financial Independence

Like last year, employees in this year’s study continue to redefine financial milestones with an eye on freedom and flexibility. According to the findings, 76% of workers say that financial independence is a primary priority, with 84% more focused on becoming financially independent than on traditional retirement. Among married workers, 58% say they think about retirement and financial independence as partners instead of individually. 

Additional findings show that 87% of employees would be willing to give their employer some form of personal information in exchange for more personalized benefits, while 68% indicate they would like their employer to recommend financial strategies based on their income and financial goals. “Personalization has empowered consumers and is becoming the market standard,” observes Vince Morris, President of OneDigital Retirement + Wealth. “While employees consider the trade-off of providing more information in order to have a more personalized benefit experience, employers have an opportunity to educate, provide transparency and build trust among their employees.”

Debt Issues

Meanwhile, despite trying to optimize their mental, physical and financial wellbeing, workers in 2021 still do not feel as much control over their financial health as they do in other areas, with debt as a significant contributing factor, Franklin Templeton notes. The survey found that 83% of U.S. workers carry at least one form of debt, with a majority carrying several forms of debt concurrently. Among workers who currently carry debt, the majority say their levels of debt impact their lives, jobs and decision-making. 

Most workers feel their current level of financial stress affects their overall wellbeing (59%), expect that stress to remain the same or increase one year from now (68%), and agree this is an ongoing issue caused by factors other than COVID-19 (64%).

Moreover, among workers with student loan debt (19% of U.S. workers), a large majority (76%) say they would have approached their education differently if they’d known they would accrue as much student loan debt as they did.

“Workers are looking to their employers for help,” says Jacque Reardon, Director of Retirement Marketing, U.S. at Franklin Templeton. “Employees are interested in financial management and education benefits, and a majority favor benefits that can help them learn about financial management in addition to benefits that help manage their money directly.”

The survey of 1,005 employed U.S. adults with some form of retirement savings was conducted Oct. 28–Nov. 15, 2021.