New financial wellness survey shows that financial courage – not financial literacy – is the true catalyst to improving financial wellness

Mercer, a global consulting leader in advancing health, wealth and careers, and a wholly-owned subsidiary of Marsh & McLennan Companies (NYSE: MMC), today announced the launch of two new indices, the Financial Courage Index and the Financial Wellness Index, which were created in part due to the findings from Mercer’s new Inside Employees’ Minds™ Financial Wellness survey. The survey found that financial knowledge/literacy is not as important as often thought. Instead, helping individuals to become more confident about engaging in financial matters – improving their Financial Courage – is more critical than employers providing benefits that focus solely on financial education.

“We want to help employers understand what benefits they can provide that can enhance their employees’ personal financial wellness. Financial courage is key. If they don’t have financial courage, our research shows that employees are much less likely to use financial wellness tools given to them by their employers.” said Betsy Dill, US Financial Wellness Leader, Mercer. “When employers understand their employees’ financial wellness issues, the better they can help them with relevant offerings. Increased financial wellness improves employees’ stress levels, which in turn can have positive impact on productivity.”

The survey provides employers with an opportunity to better understand the motivation behind employee decision making and personal financial wellness and help them to optimize their financial wellness benefits, ensuring a more customized offering for employees.  Other conclusions arising out of Mercer’s research include:

  • 16% of employees spend 20 hours per month or more on worrying about money at work; the average was 13 hours and the median was 5 hours.

  • Though financial wellness is impacted by a whole variety of factors it is a personal experience.  Financial concerns are not consistent for any one group based on gender, age, income level or other factors.

  • Financial difficulties can occur at any level of income. As an example, some individuals with high Mercer Financial Wellness Index scores had household income below $25 000, and some individuals had lower Mercer Financial Wellness Index scores despite having household income exceeding $150 000.

  • Where employees have Financial Courage, engagement with a financial wellness program when prompted (triggered) is likely to occur.  This in turn should lead to improved financial wellness (and increased Financial Courage, the “Virtuous Circle”).

  • The converse is also true: where there is low Financial Courage engagement in financial wellness programs will be challenging.  For these individuals, greater support including the “do it for me” options (as has been introduced to 401K plans) need to be the focus.

Mercer’s Financial Wellness Index and Mercer’s Financial Courage Index can be used by employers to assess their employee’s current state of financial wellness, as well as their Financial Courage.  Through this survey and the indices, employers have the chance to identify sub-groups or clusters within their organization, which in turn can help them to better assess how a financial wellness program should be directed within their organization for maximum positive impact.

Survey details:

Go to for more information about the survey findings.