A quarter of U.S. workers are considering a job change or retirement in the next 12 to 18 months, according to a new survey by Principal Financial Group®. The survey signals the continuation of a tight labor market in 2022 in which employer benefits and retirement plan options will play a role in workers’ decisions.
During August and September, the quarterly Principal® Retirement Security Survey asked retirement plan participants and plan sponsors about financial behaviors and planning as well as economic sentiment. According to the survey, 12% of workers are looking to change jobs, 11% plan to retire or leave the workforce, and 11% are on the fence about staying in their job—showing 34% of workers are unsettled in their current role. Employers echoed the findings, with 81% concerned about increased competition for talent.
Workers noted their top motives in considering a job change as: increased pay (60%), feeling undervalued in their current role (59%), career advancement (36%), more workplace benefits (25%), and hybrid work arrangements (23%).
“The survey shows a clear picture of a labor market still in flux in large part due to shifting habits and preferences brought on by the pandemic,” said Sri Reddy, senior vice president of Retirement and Income Solutions at Principal. “This open enrollment season is an important time for employers to get the pulse of their workforce and staffing needs as they face another year of competition for talent.”
Workers also identified a strong focus on retirement planning and security when making decisions. In fact, more than three quarters (77%) said the COVID-19 pandemic has driven them to focus more on saving for retirement. The most important retirement plan features workers consider when evaluating new job opportunities are:
- An employer match (91%)
- Eligibility (80%)
- Vesting requirements for company matches (74%)
- Investments options on offer (73%)
- Withdrawal options at job change or retirement (70%)
As such, retirement plan sponsors appear more focused on meeting workers’ retirement savings needs. The survey showed that 67% of plan sponsors intend to focus on “retirement planning education” in 2022, up from 48% this year. Meanwhile, more than half of workers considering a job change say they would roll over their current retirement plan to an IRA or to their new employer’s retirement plan.
Economic optimism declines
The survey showed a sharp decline in economic optimism among consumers, a contrast to the first half of 2021. In the third quarter, economic optimism for the next 12 months among workers dropped to 18% from a high of 32% in Q2—the strongest sentiment since surveying began in Q3 2020. Meanwhile, retiree optimism fell to 17% from a high of 34%.
The declines come as consumers face rising prices from inflation. Both workers and retirees noted increased spending on areas including groceries (79% for workers; 85% for retirees), gasoline (75% for workers; 74% for retirees), home repairs (52% for workers; 42% for retirees), and dining out (49% for workers, 52% for retirees). According to the survey, people are also holding off on spending on home repairs, travel, and purchasing a vehicle.
“We had seen a strong rebound in optimism through the first half of this year as consumers felt more positive about the management of COVID-19 and saw strong market gains,” Reddy said. “Now, new concerns over inflation, supply chains, and the continued impact of the pandemic are beginning to weigh on many Americans.”
See further results at: 4 insights on consumers' economic confidence and financial behaviors.
About the Principal® Retirement Security Survey
Principal conducts periodic pulse surveys with customers, financial professionals, and consultants to gain their insights about how timely topics might be impacting them. The third-quarter survey findings explore consumer and plan sponsor concerns and actions surrounding saving for retirement, financial behaviors, and COVID-19. More than 1,800 U.S. residents (51% workers and 49% workers) and 205 plan sponsors who have at least one financial product or service with Principal participated in the study between the months of August-September 2021. View the full research here: Retirement Research | Principal.
About Principal Financial Group®
Principal Financial Group® (Nasdaq: PFG) is a global financial company with 18,000 employees passionate about improving the wealth and well-being of people and businesses. In business for more than 140 years, we’re helping more than 49 million customers plan, insure, invest, and retire, while working to support the communities where we do business, improve our planet, and build a diverse, inclusive workforce. Principal® is proud to be recognized as one of the World’s Most Ethical Companies, a member of the Bloomberg Gender Equality Index, and a Top 10 “Best Places to Work in Money Management.” Learn more about Principal and our commitment to sustainability, inclusion, and purpose at principal.com.
 As of September 30, 2021.
 As of September 30, 2021.
 Ethisphere Institute, 2021.
 Pensions & Investments, 2020.
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