Few Offered Financial Literacy and Wellness Programs, But Most Would Participate if Offered

As many state and local employees face increased financial challenges and stress amid the coronavirus pandemic, a new report finds that these public employees already were worried about their personal finances. Prior to the current global health crisis, the vast majority, 88 percent, worried about their personal finances and financial decisions, and many worry while on the job (66 percent).

A Focus on Public Sector Financial Wellness Programs: Employee Needs and Preferences details the results of a national survey of 507 state and local government employees assessing their needs and preferences regarding employer-based financial literacy and education programs. Authored by Rivka Liss-Levinson, Ph.D., director of research with the Center for State and Local Government Excellence (SLGE), the survey was conducted with Greenwald & Associates and sponsored by the Wells Fargo Foundation.

Register here at no charge for a webinar on Wednesday, April 22, 2020, at 1:00 PM ET that will provide a review of the findings and an opportunity to ask questions.

The results of the survey indicate that strengthening financial literacy and education programs by public sector employers is needed and would be highly valued by state and local government workers. Whether living paycheck- to-paycheck or saving for retirement, public sector employees believe that financial literacy is important, that it can help them make sound financial decisions, and that employers play a key role in providing these programs.

“As we are seeing real-time during the COVID-19 crisis, state and local government employees deliver critical services to taxpayers – from public safety to health care,” said Rivka Liss-Levinson, report author and SLGE research director. “It is in the public’s best interest for these workers to be focused on their jobs and not worried about their financial security. We know that financial wellness programs aren’t just the right thing to do – they also make good business sense. These programs result in more productive and engaged workers, improved morale, lower absenteeism, lower stress and lower healthcare costs. And, our research shows that although few public employers currently offer these programs, employees want these programs and believe that they are important,” she explained.

The report key findings are as follows:

  • Most survey respondents (88 percent) worry about their finances/financial decisions, with 66 percent worrying at work.
  • Only 29 percent of survey respondents are offered a financial literacy or financial education program by their employer. Thirty-eight percent of those who have been offered a financial literacy/education program have participated, and 67 percent of those participating in programs were satisfied.
  • 68 percent of respondents would be likely to participate in a financial wellness program in the near future or if offered one.
  • The three financial wellness topic areas of greatest interest to employees are: retirement planning (66 percent); investments (39 percent); and budget and planning (23 percent).
  • The top three reasons why individuals participate or would be likely to participate in a financial wellness program are: a desire to be more knowledgeable about finances (87 percent); a desire to know more about financial topics beyond those related to one’s job (51 percent); and rewards or financial incentives that are offered for participating (45 percent).

“Even before the COVID-19 crisis, far too many households were struggling to make ends meet and save for emergencies and the future. Knowing that many workers will be forced to navigate significant financial challenges for the foreseeable future, employer-offered financial wellness programs are needed more than ever before,” said Darlene Goins, head of Financial Health Philanthropy at Wells Fargo. “We appreciate SLGEs efforts to bring these financial challenges into focus, and through collaboration across the public and private sector, we can expand access to financial empowerment tools, education and counseling and help workers and families build financial stability.”

Information for this report was collected from a 12-minute survey of 507 full-time state and local government employees ages 18 and older. The online survey was fielded by Greenwald & Associates from July 17- 29, 2019. The final data were weighted by industry type, age, and income to reflect the distribution of state and government employees.


Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investment and mortgage products and services, as well as consumer and commercial finance, through 7,950 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet (wellsfargo.com) and mobile banking, and has offices in 37 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 262,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 26 on Fortune’s 2018 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.

For more than a decade, Wells Fargo has offered its Hands on Banking/El futuro en tus manos program, which is a free, engaging, non-commercial financial education program available in both English and Spanish. The program teaches people in all stages of life about the basics of responsible money management, including how to create a budget, save and invest, borrow responsibly, buy a home, and establish a small business. Since 2003, Hands on Banking has reached nearly 7 million people through classes, workshops, webinars and websites.


Media Contacts: 

Kelly Kenneally, Center for State and Local Government Excellence | 202.256.1445 | [email protected] | @4GovtExcellence

Kristopher Dahl, Wells Fargo & Company | 612.667.7271 | [email protected]