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Press Release

More U.S. employees willing to sacrifice pay for better health and retirement benefits

Willis Towers Watson survey finds employees prefer choice and flexibility in benefit options

March 17, 2020

Health and Benefits|Retirement

ARLINGTON, VA, March 17, 2020 — With their desire for greater security rising, a growing number of U.S. employees are willing to sacrifice additional pay in exchange for more generous retirement and health care benefits, according to the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. The survey also found half of employees would rather receive more substantial benefits (37%) and time off (13%) than additional pay or bonuses.

According to the survey, over half of respondents (57%) say their benefit package is more important to them than ever before, driven largely by their desire for greater security. Fully two-thirds of respondents (67%) are willing to pay a higher amount each month for more comprehensive retirement benefits. That’s up from 55% in 2011. More than four in 10 workers (42%) would sacrifice additional pay each month for a more expansive health benefit plan, a sharp increase from 27% in 2013.

“For the vast majority of employees, benefits indeed matter,” said Steve Nyce, senior economist, Willis Towers Watson. “Employees of all ages want more security, and getting benefits through their employer is an important way to obtain it. They also want choice and personalization and are looking to their employers to provide tools to ensure they make good decisions on issues that are often quite complex.”

Other highlights from the survey include:

  • Resources lacking for many employees. Only 40% of employees feel the resources their employer provides to support their health and wellbeing meet their needs. Even fewer (32%) say the resources to help manage their finances meet their needs. Interestingly, while 70% of all employees surveyed say their health care benefits meet their needs, that figure drops to 56% among respondents who are in poor physical and mental health.
  • Employees want meaningful choice. Nearly two-thirds of employees (64%) prefer a moderate number of benefit choices, an indication that they are happy to choose their benefits, but having too many options can be confusing. Only two in 10 (20%) favor a large number of options from which to choose.
  • New entrants to the workforce favor pay over benefits. Half (50%) of Generation Z employees ranked more pay as their highest priority, compared with 35% who ranked more generous benefits as a top priority. Only 15% were more interested in additional time off.
  • Voluntary benefit preferences vary by age. Nearly half of respondents (46%) would be interested in purchasing home and automobile insurance if offered by their employer, followed by long-term care insurance (36%). Baby boomers are most interested in long-term care insurance compared with millennials (46% versus 28%) while millennials favor auto and home insurance (52%) more than baby boomers do (35%).

“Employees want benefit packages that meet their specific needs but don’t overwhelm them with too many options. While this balance may be tricky, employers can help employees by offering education, communication and decision-support tools. This approach not only leads employees to make more informed benefit decisions but also boosts their financial wellbeing,” said Jennifer DeMeo, senior director, Retirement, Willis Towers Watson.

About the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey

The Willis Towers Watson 2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey measured attitudes of over 40,000 employees at medium and large private sector companies in 27 countries. A total of 8,000 U.S. workers participated in the survey, which was conducted between July and September 2019.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at

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