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U.S. workers: Feeling good now, but worried about the future

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Surveys on working Americans tend to be exercises in the observation of dichotomies: They point out inconsistencies, paradoxes and opposing views in how workers perceive their financial well-being today relative to an uncertain future. True to form, new research from Lincoln Financial Group carries forward the tradition.

The second in a series of releases from Lincoln Financial’s 2015 study, “Special Report: Measuring Optimism, Outlook and Direction (M.O.O.D.) of America on Employee Benefits,” finds that more than 8 in 10 employees (out of 933 workers polled) are not confident they could cover daily expenses in the event of a major injury or illness. Yet, three-quarters of them say they feel “in control” of their lives.

The contrasts don’t end there. Whereas nearly 9 in 10 employees (88 percent) are generally “optimistic” about their future, fewer than 1 in 5 respondents feel “very secure” about their financial future.

Why the difference in confidence today versus tomorrow? A key concern of respondents is their ability to fund health care expenses in their golden years. Four in ten (40 percent) believe health care costs will negatively impact their retirement.

Hence the need, the survey points out, to enroll employees in non-medical, voluntary benefits programs that can cover at least a portion of future health care expenses.

“Encouraging enrollment and providing education surrounding non-medical benefits can better prepare employees for unexpected expenses that arise from an illness or injury down the road,” says Eric Reisenwitz, senior vice president of group protection operations and product for Lincoln Financial Group. “These products help bridge the gap between current confidence and future concern in covering health care expenses — ultimately improving employee optimism.”

Among the report’s additional findings:

  • 49 percent of respondents are most concerned with getting cancer.

  • 27 percent of enrollees in employer-sponsored critical illness insurance believe they’ll be able to cover health care costs in retirement as compared to 17 percent of non-enrollees.

  • A comparable difference is noted among enrollees and non-enrollees in accident insurance (25 percent vs. 16 percent).

The survey also highlights several barriers that employees cite in preparing for their financial future:

  • 70 percent feel overwhelmed by insurance coverage options.

  • 67 percent feel overwhelmed by retirement planning.

  • 65 percent say they need to prioritize short-term expenses.

These perceived obstacles may help to explain why only 1 in 5 working Americans feel “very prepared” for retirement, protecting their wealth and handling income disruptions of varying durations.

Based on interviews with 933 employed adults ages 22-69, Lincoln’s survey focuses on non-medical employee benefits and the impact these products have on the financial and health care concerns of workers across the country. See the infographics beginning on the next page for additional highlights from the report.