Survey: Most U.S. Workers Would Pay More for Better Retirement Benefits

Less than half feel the same way about healthcare.

Daniel B. Kline
Daniel B. Kline
May 10, 2018 at 6:05AM
Investment Planning

A majority of U.S. workers would be willing to contribute more of their paycheck for better employer-provided retirement benefits, but a much smaller fraction would choose to pay more for better healthcare benefits, suggests the 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by Willis Towers Watson, which questioned nearly 5,000 working Americans. Among other noteworthy results, while a majority of respondents said their benefits packages meet their needs, 43% said their employers' plans don't offer enough choices or flexibility.

A note says retirement plan.

A majority of U.S. workers would pay more for a better retirement plan. Image source: Getty Images.

What did the survey say?

Two-thirds of respondents (66%) said they would be willing to contribute more of their paycheck each month in exchange for better retirement benefits, according to the survey. Slightly smaller percentage (61%) would be willing to pay more in exchange for a guaranteed retirement benefit.

They were less enthusiastic about the idea of shelling out more for better healthcare benefits. While 46% said they'd pay more to have "lower, more predictable costs when using healthcare services," only 36% said they would be willing to contribute a bigger piece of their paycheck for a more generous healthcare plan. In addition, only 24% would pay more for access to tools and services designed to help them develop a more healthy lifestyle, and just 19% would pay for access to tools that help them improve their finances.

When it comes to employer-supplied benefits, though, it's important to remember that the value flows both ways.

"Employers need to recognize that employee appreciation of their total benefit package has a positive impact on employee engagement," said Willis Towers Watson Managing Director Julie Stone in a press release. "Our research shows just over half of employees whose benefit package meets their needs are highly engaged in their job compared to just 25% of employees reporting a high level of engagement when they believe their benefit package does not meet their needs."

Employees want flexibility

Healthcare plans and retirement income aren't the only benefit areas where a majority of U.S. workers would like the option of buying an upgrade. Fully 58% said they'd take an equivalent pay cut in exchange for more time off.

What's most clear from the results is that people like to have options. Almost 90% of those surveyed who had benefit choices and access to decision support said their employers' benefit programs met their needs -- more than twice the percentage who felt that way among workers without such choices.

Benefits can be a difference maker

With the official U.S. unemployment rate at near-record lows, companies face increased competition for workers. In a tighter marketplace, benefits can be a deciding factor when it comes to someone accepting or turning down a job.

That has been especially evident in the tech industry, where top players offer lavish benefits like child care, extended family leave, and an array of choices in healthcare and retirement packages. More companies across a broader range of industries may have to consider similarly enhanced packages if they want to fill their open positions with high-quality candidates.

And workers -- especially those with in-demand skills -- should fully weigh the value of a benefits package when looking at the overall compensation being offered for a new job. An offer with a slightly lower salary might be better for you than one that's higher, if the benefits and perks are more generous.