Chinese-Speaking Workers Less Concerned Than Peers about Financial Security, Study Shows

April 12, 2004

Findings from MetLife’s 2003 Employee Benefits Trend Study reveal that Chinese-speaking workers are significantly less concerned than the general employee population about financial security, ranging from issues such as having enough money to make ends meet (19% vs. 69% overall), job security (19% vs. 71% overall), outliving retirement money (20% vs. 48% overall) and having appropriate health insurance for them and their family (19% vs. 76% overall).

Perhaps this is because many Chinese-speaking employees already feel financially secure – only 5% of Chinese-speaking workers live paycheck-to-paycheck, compared to 52% of the overall population. However, some Chinese-speaking families may not realize the additional risk of their situations: nearly half (46%) of these workers have children under 18, while more than one-third of these workers (34%) have parents who are financially dependent on them (compared with 5% overall). It’s very important for this “sandwich generation” to make sure that they have adequate life insurance and disability income insurance protection. However, while 69% of Chinese-speaking workers have basic term life insurance, only 56% have disability insurance.

No Plan, No Gain
An alarming number of Chinese-speaking employees have not evaluated their personal situations to assess the magnitude of additional financial risks, nor have they surveyed the marketplace for appropriate solutions. Twenty-nine percent have done no specific planning towards financial goals, and 37% have not begun planning for retirement. Only half have done research on their own regarding planning for financial goals (51%) and retirement (47%), while even less have formally consulted a financial planner regarding financial goals (16%) and retirement (15%).

The Longevity Factor
Many Chinese-speaking employees may be underestimating their own longevity, and therefore how many years to plan for retirement. One in five (20%) are planning for 0-5 years (vs. 4% overall), while another 12% are planning for 6-10 years (vs. 4% overall). Half of Chinese-speaking workers (48%) are unable to estimate what their annual income needs will be during retirement.

“The fact that so many Chinese-speaking employees have not begun planning their financial future and are not sure how to estimate their retirement needs underscores the importance of education for this segment of the population,” notes Beth Hirschhorn, chief marketing officer for MetLife’s U.S. Insurance and Financial Services businesses. “For employees charged with providing for their parents’ retirement as well as their own, careful planning is a must. It can mean the difference between security and financial hardship.”

Diverse Needs Require Diverse Solutions
Employers are looking for ways to address the diverse needs of their workforce, according to the survey. One in ten employer respondents cite the need for multi-lingual benefits communication materials; among this group, 20% indicate a need for Chinese language materials. This need increases with employer size. Employers also note the importance of receiving multi-lingual benefits support in the way of communications (63%), enrollment (62%), call service support (51%) and online service (49%).

“As the American workforce grows increasingly diverse, it is becoming more difficult for HR/Benefits managers to implement a ‘one size fits all’ benefits program,” says Hirschhorn. “Targeted communication and education are critical.”

The MetLife Employee Benefits Trend Study was conducted during the third quarter of 2003 and consisted of two distinct surveys. The employee survey polled 728 full-time employees, age 21 and older, at companies with at least two employees. In addition to the base sample, the survey was completed by 113 Chinese-speaking employees with Asian backgrounds. The second survey polled 1,548 HR/Benefits executives from companies with at least two employees. Both surveys were fielded during September and conducted by NFO World Group via a Web-based survey methodology.

For a copy of the survey’s executive summary, please contact:

Gene Lanzoni
(908) 253-1775
Glanzoni@metlife.com

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