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Franklin Templeton’s Voice of the American Worker Study Indicates Employees are Re-evaluating What They Want from Their Employers

Traditional retirement indicators remain less important, while living comfortably and independently are top financial concerns; Well-being is key component to financial health

A majority of American workers (67 percent) have re-assessed what they want from their employers due to the ongoing pandemic, with nearly half (44 percent) having considered leaving or having left their jobs over the past year, according to Franklin Templeton’s Voice of the American Worker Survey. Over half of workers (64 percent) surveyed also believe that shifts brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic have changed the employer-employee relationship for the better. However, 64 percent are looking for more out of their employment benefits than what their employer currently offers.

“For employers across the country, there has never been a more urgent time to evaluate benefit offerings and consider ways to evolve how they are supporting employee needs,” said Yaqub Ahmed, Head of US Retirement, Insurance & 529 at Franklin Templeton. “With turnover at an all-time high, improving employee well-being is vital to the health of any business. Having a deep understanding of the current mindset of the American worker will help employers determine how best to meet their expectations.”

Now in its second year, the survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Franklin Templeton and the Retirement Innovation Initiative (RII), which launched in January 2020 and brings together industry experts to help improve the future of retirement in the US.

Focus on well-being is key part of employer-employee relationship

As employees seek opportunities to improve their well-being, most are interested in benefits such as access to a financial professional (56 percent), financial planning tools (62 percent) and financial education (54 percent). When considering a new job opportunity, employees rate the importance of salary vs. benefits nearly equally, with 84 percent of respondents noting the importance of benefits that support financial well-being. Three-quarters of American workers (75 percent) also indicate it is now more important to work for a company that reflects personal values than this was to them a year ago.

Workers are looking to their employers for help,” adds Jacque Reardon, Director of Retirement Marketing, US 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.”

Workers remain more focused on financial independence vs. traditional retirement

Like those surveyed in 2020, employees in this year’s study continue to re-define financial milestones with an eye on freedom and flexibility. Seventy-six percent of workers say that financial independence is a primary priority, with 84 percent more focused on becoming financially independent than on traditional retirement. Overall, 87 percent of employees would be willing to give their employer some form of personal information in exchange for more personalized benefits, while 68 percent indicate they would like their employer to recommend financial strategies based on their own income and financial goals.

“Personalization has empowered consumers and is becoming the market standard,” said Vince Morris, President, OneDigital Retirement + Wealth and RII member. “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.”

Workers continue to re-evaluate how they think about finances, with debt a major issue

Workers assign almost equal value to mental (79 percent), physical (79 percent), and financial health (77 percent) when considering their overall well-being. Despite trying to optimize across all three areas of well-being, 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. Eighty-three percent of US workers carry at least one form of debt, with a majority carrying several forms of debt concurrently. Credit card debt (54 percent) is the most common, followed by mortgage/home equity debt (40 percent) and utility, cell phone, or auto loan debt (38 percent).

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 well-being (59 percent), expect that stress to remain the same or increase one year from now (68 percent), and agree this is an ongoing issue caused by factors other than COVID-19 (64 percent).

Additional Key Findings

  • Among workers with student loan debt (19 percent of US workers), a large majority (76 percent) say they would have approached their education differently if they’d known they would accrue as much student loan debt as they did.
  • More than 8 in 10 employees would be interested in a deferred annuity benefit, but only 2 percent of their employers offer such a benefit.
  • Workers in 2021 were most interested in increased pay and increased 401(k) matching. Demand for increased salary jumped more than 10 percent from 2020, surpassing 401(k) matching as the most-desired benefit among American workers.


This study was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Franklin Templeton from October 28 to November 15, 2021, among 1,005 employed US adults. All respondents had some form of retirement savings. This online survey is not based on a probability sample and therefore no estimate of theoretical sampling error can be calculated. Findings from 2020 reference a study of a similar nature that was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Franklin Templeton from October 16 to 28, 2020, among 1,007 employed US adults.

About Franklin Templeton

Franklin Resources, Inc. [NYSE:BEN], is a global investment management organization with subsidiaries operating as Franklin Templeton and serving clients in over 165 countries. Franklin Templeton’s mission is to help clients achieve better outcomes through investment management expertise, wealth management and technology solutions. Through its specialist investment managers, the company brings extensive capabilities in equity, fixed income, multi-asset solutions and alternatives. With offices in more than 30 countries and approximately 1,300 investment professionals, the California-based company has 75 years of investment experience and over $1.5 trillion in assets under management as of December 31, 2021. For more information, please visit and follow us on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook.

Franklin Distributors, LLC. Member FINRA/SIPC. Franklin Distributors, LLC is a Franklin Templeton affiliated company.

Copyright © 2022. Franklin Templeton. All rights reserved.


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