U.S. workers are depending more heavily on employers to help them manage their personal finances.

Executives from a unit of MetLife Inc., New York, talked about that point here today when they unveiled the company’s Sixth Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study.

The researchers who conducted the study polled 1,380 full-time employees ages 21 and older at companies with at least 2 employees, and they also interviewed 1,652 benefits decision-makers at employers with 2 or more employees.

The majority of the survey participants – 52% – said they get most of their retirement products and other financial products through their employers, MetLife executives reported.

About 72% of employees agreed that retirement benefits are a “very important” factor in promoting employee loyalty, and 81% agreed that health benefits are very important in promoting loyalty.

Meanwhile, only 60% of the employers said they think health benefits are very important in promoting employee loyalty, and just 41% said retirement benefits are very important loyalty builders.

Employees’ answers to other questions suggest that employees recognize that the U.S. population is aging and that benefits costs are skyrocketing, according to Bill Mullaney, president of institutional business at MetLife.

Employees “are ready to do something,” Mullaney said. “They understand it’s up to them.”

More employees are expressing an interest in getting health benefits advice and retirement benefits guidance through the workplace, Mullaney said.

Mullaney said answers to a question about how much employees are contributing to 401(k) plans suggest that guidance is desperately needed.

About 36% of the participating employees said they contribute the maximum allowable by law to their 401(k) plans, but other studies show that the percentage who really contribute the maximum is much lower.

The gap implies that many employees who participated in the latest MetLife survey “don’t even know what the maximum is,” Mullaney said.

Other trends MetLife researchers found include expanded use of wellness incentive programs and growing interest in phased retirement programs.