Financial Wellness: Trends for High Earners

What does financial wellness mean for employees at the top?

Workplace financial wellness programs continue to grow in popularity. Yet questions remain about the role they should play for high net worth individuals. Often, it’s assumed their higher incomes equate to better financial health and little need for help through the workplace. But is that true?

Morgan Stanley’s recent Investor Pulse Poll provides insight. We surveyed more than 1,000 high net worth investors between the ages of 25 and 75, with $100,000 in investable assets. One-third of them report investable assets of at least $1 million, which helps yield some powerful insights into what high earners think about financial wellness programs and how they’re using them.

Here are a few trends that may have important implications for the future of workplace financial wellness for high earners in your organization. 

Equity Compensation’s Stock Is Up

For one in five high net worth investors employed full-time, financial wellness at work includes some form of equity compensation.

These employees generally feel good about this benefit, as six in 10 rate equity compensation positively. They view it as a means of sharing in the company’s success.

Like many issues around money today, however, there’s a noticeable gap between men and women when it comes to equity compensation. Men are more likely to receive it. And women are twice as likely as men to feel uninformed about the topic. 

  • Six in 10 high net worth investors view equity compensation positively
  • Men are more than 2x as likely as women to receive equity compensation
  • Women are 2x as likely as men to feel uninformed about equity compensation

Certain Financial Wellness Benefits Rise to the Top

The financial wellness benefits high net worth employees find most appealing are assistance with retirement planning, access to a financial advisor or counseling, and general financial education.

While this may at first seem surprising, our poll shows that those who are somewhat or less confident in managing their personal finances gravitate even more to certain benefits. And that includes not just retirement planning and access to advice, but also budgeting and spending tools.

The takeaway? While high earners have generally achieved at least a basic level of financial wellness, many still admit needing help meeting both short-term and long-term financial goals

Financial wellness benefits of greatest interest to high net worth investors — the top three:

  • Retirement planning (69%)
  • Access to financial advisor or counseling (57%)
  • General financial education (41%)

High Net Worth Employees May Be Leaving Benefits on the Table

While almost half of those surveyed receive financial wellness benefits, nearly seven in 10 report taking advantage of only some or hardly any of them.

What’s more, of those who don’t have financial wellness benefits at work, only about half are moderately or very interested in receiving them.

While the news can seem discouraging, it also suggests an opportunity for better education and communication about the value of financial wellness offerings, specifically for high net worth employees. And outreach to this group may be even more effective if it’s targeted, as high-earning women without access to financial wellness benefits are much more likely to express interest than men. 

Nearly half of high net worth investors receive financial wellness benefits, and about half are somewhat or very interested in receiving financial wellness benefits. But almost seven in 10 use only some or hardly any of them

Women without access to workplace financial wellness benefits are much more likely to express interest than men (57% vs. 40%)

Many Are Working With Financial Professionals

Our survey reveals nearly six in 10 high net worth investors currently work with a financial professional, typically a Financial Advisor or CFP.

These investors are candid about what they’re looking for in an investment firm. More than half want to work with one that values diversity, demonstrated by both its hiring and promotion practices.  

What they want most from their financial advisors is clear communication about retirement, asset allocation and market analysis. But the list goes on: they’re also seeking help with changes in federal tax policy, downside protection, managing elder care costs, estate planning and more.

There may be an opportunity to help high earners — especially those who aren’t working with a professional — address their complex challenges because we know that many high net worth employees are not only open to working with a financial advisor, but are interested in accessing one through their financial wellness benefits at work. 

Nearly six in 10 high net worth investors currently work with a financial professional

56% of high net worth investors say it’s important that their investment firm hires and promotes those from diverse backgrounds

87% of high net worth investors seek guidance on retirement assets, asset allocation and market analysis

Bridging the Gap in Financial Wellness Benefits Usage

Today, financial wellness benefits are underutilized by high net worth employees. But for those responsible for managing the needs of high earning employees within your company, it’s important to know that these employees hold equity compensation in high regard, and they value services like professional financial advice and financial education.

Clearly, there’s room to improve both the perception and the usage of financial wellness benefits for top earners. Getting there may require targeted education and communication to better explain the value of financial wellness benefits and show how the benefits address their unique needs. A plan may begin with women in the executive ranks who are much more likely to express interest than men.

Morgan Stanley at Work is positioned to help you meet these challenges, with a suite of financial workplace solutions that includes Financial Wellness, Retirement, and Equity Compensation solutions. 

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