Few Public Workers Participate in Employer-Provided Financial Education Programs

As inflation and economic turmoil linger, a new report from MissionSquare Research Institute finds 88% of public service employees are worried about their finances and financial decisions. Among those who worry, 77% report doing so while at work, an increase from 66% in 2019.

The research also finds 40% of public service workers report that their employer offers a financial literacy or financial education program, up from 29% in 2019.  Among those offered a financial literacy program by their employer, only 35% have participated in the program. However, 67% of those not offered or not participating in an employer-provided financial education program indicate they would likely participate in the near future or if offered one.

These findings are detailed in a new research report, Public Sector Employee Financial Wellness Program Needs and Preferences: 2022 Survey Results. Read the research.

A webinar is scheduled for Tuesday, May 9th at 1:00 PM ET to review the research. Register here.

“With the vast majority of public sector workers worried about their personal finances while on the job, effective employer-based financial literacy programs can benefit both employees and employers” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, PhD, MissionSquare Research Institute Senior Research Manager and author of the report. “Public service workers are showing a strong interest in financial wellness, and they believe it is important for their employer to provide such programs. The good news is that we’re seeing an uptick in public employers offering financial education programs, along with positive changes to financial behaviors among program participants.”

Additional key research findings are as follows:

  • Only 19% of workers currently offered a financial literacy program report that their employer offers any rewards or financial incentives for participating in or successfully completing the program. Yet, 74% of those interested in a financial literacy program said that rewards or financial incentives would motivate them to participate,
  • The three topics most frequently covered by financial education programs are planning for retirement (58%), investments (49%), and insurance (35%).
  • While financial literacy programs are most often offered through an in-person class or workshop (32%), a webinar (31%), or one-on-one in-person coaching (23%), respondents’ preferences for how a program would be offered are quite different. Among those currently being offered a program, the top three preferred approaches were webinars (51%), interactive online courses (47%), and one-on-one in-person coaching (45%). Among those without a program, the top preferred approaches were interactive online courses (45%), in-person classes or workshops (43%), and one-on-one in-person coaching (41%).
  • Program information is most likely to be communicated by the employer via email (67%), through the employer website/intranet (33%), or with printed flyers/materials (19%). These are also the top three ways that employees would like information communicated.
  • Only 14% of financial literacy programs are offered to non-employees, such as spouses and dependents. And while 68% of respondents believe programs should be tailored to different groups of employees, far fewer report any program tailoring.
  • Of those who participate in their employer’s financial literacy program, 68% are very or somewhat satisfied with the program. Many report that their employer’s financial literacy program has led them to make changes to their financial behaviors (68%), has bolstered their overall financial health (62%), makes them less worried about their finances and more productive at work (60%), or has improved their general morale at work (52%).
  • Seven in ten respondents (71%) feel it is important for their employer to offer a financial literacy program. This is an increase of six percentage points from 2019. And 61% say they rely on their employer’s financial wellness program as a source of financial planning information.

This report is based upon a nationally representative online survey of 1,002 full-time state and local government employees conducted by Greenwald Research from November 7 through November 30, 2022. The survey assessed public sector employees’ financial wellness program needs and preferences.

MissionSquare Research Institute gratefully acknowledges the support of the Wells Fargo Foundation to undertake this research project.


MissionSquare Research Institute promotes excellence in state and local government and other public service organizations to attract and retain talented employees. The organization identifies leading practices and conducts research on retirement plans, health and wellness benefits, workforce demographics and skill set needs, labor force development, and topics facing the not-for-profit industry and education sector. MissionSquare Research Institute brings together leaders and respected researchers. More information and access to research and publications are available here.