Financial well-being and retirement readiness in the higher education workforce

October 2019

Achieving and maintaining financial well-being is a goal of many individuals. Increasingly, it’s a goal employers have for their workforce, as well.


Throughout their lives, people make myriad decisions that influence their financial wellness. Recognizing the importance of these decisions—and their effect on workforce productivity—employers have begun creating holistic financial wellness programs for their employees. This report examines the financial status and practices of the higher education workforce, with an eye toward helping human resources professionals address employees’ evolving needs.

Key Insights
Retirement plan participation is nearly universal among full-time academic employees, but many are concerned about how they will manage their savings in retirement.
Only 20% of higher education employees have received advice within the past three years about drawing income from savings in retirement, but 77% of those interested in receiving financial advice are interested in this topic.
Additional areas of concern include covering out-of-pocket medical expenses in retirement and potential long-term care expenses.
One-third of higher education employees are dissatisfied with their overall financial condition, often due to issues involving debt.

The authors use findings from the 2019 Higher Education Financial Wellness Survey to examine financial practices and well-being among the higher education workforce, with a focus on retirement preparations and expectations. The survey was fielded online in spring 2019 with a sample of 1,004 faculty, staff and administrators employed full time by a public or private nonprofit college or university.

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