Let's put some numbers behind the ordering:
- Health insurance -- 56%
- 401(k) match -- 56%
- Paid time off -- 33%
- Pension -- 31%
- Flexible work hours -- 21%
- Working remotely -- 15%
What I found remarkable about this is that five of those six get constant attention. In today's workplace, however, as compared to one generation ago, pensions get little, if any, attention yet nearly one-third of workers would rather have pensions than a raise.
Why is this the case? Neither the survey nor the article got into any analysis as to the reasons, so I get to way in here entirely unencumbered by nasty things like facts. I get to express my opinions.
Ask a worker what they fear. I think they will tell you that two of their biggest fears are losing their health and outliving their savings. The second, of course, can be mitigated by guaranteed lifetime income.
Workers are beginning to realize that 401(k) plans are exactly what Congress intended them to be -- supplemental tax-favored savings plans. In fact, generating lifetime income from those 401(k)s is beyond what a typical worker is able to do. Their options for doing so, generally speaking, are to self-annuitize (when you run out of money, however, the guarantee goes away) or to purchase an annuity in the free market.
That, too, comes with a problem. While that purchase is easy to do and does come with a lifetime income guarantee, it also comes with overhead costs (insurance company risk mitigation and profits plus the earnings of a broker). Roughly speaking, a retiree may be paying 20% of their savings to others in order to annuitize. That's a high price. Is it worth it? Is that why workers want pensions despite often not really knowing what they are?
Pensions are not for everybody; they're also not for every company. But, this survey strongly suggests that companies that provide pensions may become employers of choice. In the battle for talent, that's really important.
Many companies exited the pension world because the rules made those pensions too cumbersome. But, the rules have gotten better. They've put in writing the legality of plans that many employers wanted to adopt 15 to 20 years ago, but feared doing something largely untried. And, there is bipartisan language floating around in Congress that would make such plans more accessible for more employers.
Designed properly, those plans will check all the boxes for both the employer and the employees. It seems time to take another look.