Aviva research shows nearly two in three employees are ‘just getting by financially’

Older woman reading from a smart phone
  • Two-year study of ambiguity at work highlights the personal and business benefits of good saving behaviours, yet only 35% of employees are showing positive signs across all five key indicators
  • 65% of employees find their saving habits leave them feeling financially exposed in at least one area, while more than one in four (28%) feel their finances control their lives
  • More than two in five employees (43%) do not feel financially on track for the future
  • Soaring inflation and a competitive job market will challenge employers to support employees’ financial preparedness to attract and retain staff

Aviva has called on businesses to focus on support for employees’ financial wellbeing or face increasing pressure to attract and retain talent, as a record 1.17m jobs stand open and more than four in five industry sectors report unprecedented demand for staff¹.

The call for action comes as new findings from the third instalment of a two-year study into the evolving workplace reveal that only 35% of employees  are showing signs of practising good saving behaviours.

Research from Aviva’s report, Evolving in the Age of Ambiguity, highlights the positive influence of good financial wellbeing on individuals and businesses. It shows the associated benefits range from better mental and physical health outcomes to improved feelings of job satisfaction, security and stability.

Yet the findings also reveal more than two in five employees (43%) do not feel financially on track to live the kind of life they want in the future. The results highlight the need for businesses to better support financial education in the workplace, at a time when rising inflation² is likely to mean money matters have a bigger impact on people’s sense of wellbeing and decision-making.

Nearly two in three feel financially exposed

The third in-depth report from Aviva’s study into accelerating change at work – which has been gathering data since before the Covid-19 pandemic started – explores practical steps employees and employers can take to stay on track for healthier financial futures and cope with widespread uncertainty.

The study highlights five key indicators of good saving behaviours in people’s perceptions of their everyday life. 

Table 1: Key indicators of good saving behaviours among the UK workforce




I have money left over at the end of the month



My finances control my life



Because of my money situation, I feel like I’ll never have the things I want in life



I’m concerned that the money I have or will save won’t last



I’m just getting by financially



The report warns of significant challenges ahead as nearly two in three (65%) employees are showing signs of being financially exposed in at least one area.

Most seriously, 65% feel they are ‘just getting by financially’, with nearly half (45%) typically finding they have no money left over at the end of the month. More than one in four (28%) employees surveyed feel their finances control their lives.

Looking ahead to the future, nearly half of the working population (44%) feel their money situation means they will never have the things they want in life. Even more (57%) are concerned the money they have or will save won’t last.

Harnessing the power of personality

Aviva’s findings seek to address the issue by drawing insights from in-depth qualitative and quantitative research to help employers understand the major influence of personality on people’s saving behaviours.

Among four main personality types examined by the study, ‘Resilient Completers’ – people who are characterised by high emotional stability and conscientiousness – are the most likely to report strong saving behaviours (50%) and are more than twice as likely to do so as ‘Impusive Worriers’ (24%).

The findings show the ability to maintain good saving behaviours is strongly linked to people’s current and future financial health. More broadly, the feelings engendered by the act of saving also play a significant role in ensuring people’s financial situation does not impact negatively on their mental or physical health.

Unlocking hidden business benefits

Employers can also unlock hidden business benefits by encouraging and enabling a saving culture among their staff. The study shows good saving behaviours can result in a number of positive outcomes for firms, including:

  • Boosting employees’ sense of job security and stability;
  • Reducing employees’ sense of being stuck in a job due to a lack of opportunity elsewhere
  • Boosting employees’ sense of being on the right career path
  • Boosting employees’ job satisfaction and enjoyment.
"With many people facing financial challenges, these findings present a new opportunity for employers to build deeper, lasting relationships with their employees by taking steps to support their financial education and wellbeing".

Laura Stewart-Smith, Head of Workplace Savings and Retirement at Aviva, comments: “The pay-off from practising good saving behaviours extends well beyond a number on a bank statement and being able to afford what you want now and in the future. Our research shows people’s underlying sense of security and wellbeing – physical and mental, at work and at home – can be fundamentally impacted by the act of saving, with potential benefits in almost every aspect of day-to-day life.

“With many people facing financial challenges, these findings present a new opportunity for employers to build deeper, lasting relationships with their employees by taking steps to support their financial education and wellbeing. Saving behaviours are not only good for financial preparedness, they can also empower people in their careers, which has a knock-on effect on their sense of job satisfaction and optimism for the future.

“The fact so many people feel financially exposed suggests there is a mountain to climb, but as people start to plan career moves for 2022, now is the time for businesses to act to support employees’ wellbeing and engagement to boost retention. The majority of people³ recognise their employer is not responsible for keeping staff financially on track, but businesses can play a key role in achieving this goal and reap the collective rewards.”



¹ Office for National Statistics (ONS), Vacancies and jobs in the UK: November 2021, published 16 November 2021

² ONS, Consumer price inflation, UK: October 2021, published 17 November 2021

³ Aviva’s research shows all personality types strongly agree that it’s their responsibility to feel financially on track, rather than their employer’s responsibility. Across all respondents, 98% of employees agree it is their responsibility to plan financially for the future , while only 30% agree they are/would be reliant on their employer.


The third instalment of Aviva’s Age of Ambiguity study uses two data sources to establish its findings: around 1,100 cases from Robertson Cooper’s iResilience personality questionnaire with 25 additional Age of Ambiguity questions, and a larger survey by Quadrangle consisting of employee-experience questions answered by 2,000 respondents. Quadrangle data was collected in March 2021, following previous waves in February 2020 and August 2020, while the Robertson Cooper data was collected during summer 2021. 

Media Enquiries

Fiona Whytock

Retirement, Savings and Investments

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