Employees are looking to employers for more financial guidance at the same time that they take advantage of more of the benefits being offered, according to a new study by Bank of America Merrill Lynch released Thursday.
In the first six months of this year, attendance at one-on-one meetings between employees and benefits providers increased by 192 percent and attendance at group meetings increased by 93 percent, the study says.
Bank of America Merrill Lynch reviewed data from 2.6 million employees at companies that use its financial benefits plans for its semi-annual Plan Wellness Scorecard.
Fifty-seven percent of companies offering Bank of America Merrill Lynch benefits plans now offer Advice Access, a saving and investment advice service tailored to the employee’s individual situation, a increase of 7 percent over the first half of 2014.
At the same time that employees are seeking more advice, they also are taking advantage of more benefits, the report says. Health savings account usage grew 42 percent during the first six months of the year. While baby boomers have the highest HSA balances and the fastest balance growth, Millennials now account for 33 percent of overall HSA enrollment, up from 9 percent in 2010.
The number of employees who enrolled for the first time in their employer’s 401(k) plan increased 44 percent year over year. Roth accounts also saw significant growth, with a 21 percent increase in the total number of contributors and a 20 percent increase in the average contribution amount during the same time period.
Employers also are increasing their use of automatic features for 401(k) plans. The number of 401(k) plans combining auto enrollment and automatic increases grew 40 percent during the first half of the year.
“We are pleased to see employees, particularly in the younger generations, become more engaged with their employer-offered benefits year after year,” says Lorna Sabbia, head of retirement and personal wealth solutions for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Employers play an integral role in the financial wellness of their employees. Strategic plan design, including diversification, automation and simplification, can make a tremendous impact in overall employee participation and engagement.”