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Retirement trumps health in benefits survey

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in Employee Benefits Program,Human Resources

Employees are more satisfied with their company-sponsored retirement benefits than they were five years ago, but satisfaction with health care benefits, especially the cost of medical benefits, has declined, according to a new survey by the Towers Watson consulting firm.

How big is the satisfaction split? Towers Watson found that 62% of employees would take a pay cut in exchange for more secure and generous retirement benefits. Only 27% said they would give up pay for better health benefits.

The Towers Watson Global Bene-fits Attitudes Survey found that 67% of respondents are satisfied with their employer-sponsored retirement plans. That’s up from 54% in 2009, with much of the increase concentrated among younger employees.

Conversely, the number of employees who are satisfied with their health care benefits has declined from 69% in 2007 to 59% in 2013.

The survey found rising costs fueled most of the decline, with only 38% satisfied with costs they must pay in 2013 versus 53% in 2007.

The economic downturn gave “employees a reason to evaluate their finances and retirement plans,” said Kevin Wagner, a senior consultant at Towers Watson. “They are increasingly concerned that their retirement income will come up short when they exit the workforce. Most employees view their employer plan as their primary retirement savings vehicle, perhaps explaining why they are willing to give up a portion of their paycheck for more generous and secure retirement benefits.”

Apparently current health takes a back seat to future wealth.

“While employees rely on and value their health care benefits, they are clearly not happy about their health care costs. At a time when costs are consuming a significant share of their household budget, it’s no surprise that employees are less willing to trade some pay for either more generous health benefits or more predictable costs,” said Towers Watson’s David Speier.

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