Redefining Wealth

Defining "Financial Wellness" -- What It Means to Investors After COVID-19

How your financial health can affect you physical and mental health

Empower Retirement and Personal Capital survey finds less than half (41%) of Americans feel financially well; 42% say their definition of financial health has changed since the pandemic

GREENWOOD VILLAGE, Colo., July 28, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — The term “financial wellness” has become a popular buzzword these days and it’s often described as part of one’s overall wellbeing. Research shows that an individual’s financial situation—and how they feel about it—can have a big impact on their overall wellness and mental health. In fact, a new joint survey released today from Empower Retirement and Personal Capital, shows 77% of Americans agree “my financial health also affects my physical and mental health.”

The study, conducted by The Harris Poll from March 23 to April 5, 2021 of 2,005 U.S. adults, found more than half (57%) of Americans connect financial health with their overall happiness. However, in the post-pandemic world we live in now, most respondents (60%) reported feeling confident in their ability to achieve financial health, but only 48% feel financially healthy today.

Since the onset of the global pandemic, many aspects of one’s financial life have changed as Americans report spending less on non-essential items (41%) and are focused on saving (41%). The survey shows 42% of Americans admit their definition of financial health also changed since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and 51% say having an emergency fund is the highest financial priority these days.

Focus On Your Financial Well-Being

Today, 60% of Americans feel confident in their ability to achieve financial health, but less than half actually feel financially healthy right now.

The good news is that Individuals can improve their current financial state of mind and outlook by starting with the basics. They can do this by getting a good grasp on where they stand with their money. This includes determining what individuals have versus what they owe—essentially creating a personal balance sheet, determining retirement readiness, and evaluating investment portfolio optimization among other actions. There are several free tools available online to help you establish a baseline when it comes to your money.

Once individuals have established a financial baseline, they can target the various roadblocks that are standing in the way of their financial wellbeing.

  • Are they sticking to a reasonable budget?
  • Do they have a sufficient emergency fund?
  • Do they have high-interest debt?
  • Are they on track to retire when they want?
  • Are they reaching your savings goals?

Having a comprehensive personal financial picture is essential– after all, individuals can’t improve what they can’t see or track. It also creates a greater sense of control over an individual’s money and goes a long way towards financial well being.

What Does Financial Wellness Actually Mean?

So what does the term “financial wellness” actually mean to the everyday investor? When asked to define the term in their own words, the results showed it’s less about money or retiring at a certain age, but instead around the concept of financial freedom and having the ability to choose how they want to spend their money. Below are top insights on the concept of financial wellness and what it means in this post-pandemic world.

Key Findings on “Financial Wellness” and what it means to everyday investors:

  • There’s no “one size fits all” state of financial wellbeing. A strong majority agree that “financial health is more of an ongoing journey” (72%), rather than “achieving a specific milestone” (28%).
  • Financial wellbeing is rooted in “freedom and independence.” The vast majority (81%) say, “I will feel financially well when I have the freedom and ability to spend how I want to.”
  • Financial wellbeing can also feel elusive. A majority (60%) feel confident in their ability to achieve financial health, but only 48% feel financially healthy today. Most think they won’t achieve financial health until nearly age 50 – or when they have over half a million dollars in the bank. But even more than dollar amounts, what’s most associated with financial wellbeing is peace of mind (for instance, having enough to pay bills and meet spending needs).
  • Most need help on their journey to financial wellbeing. Nearly 7 in 10 (69%) face at least one roadblock. Lack of income (27%) and constant expenses (23%) are top barriers. What’s more, 76% of Americans say “receiving helpful financial advice makes me more confident in my ability to achieve financial wellness.” And 69% believe “financial services companies need to re-define financial health to be more relatable and achievable.”
Now it becomes even more important to help Americans with a personalized, holistic view of their finances and savings goals...

“Now it becomes even more important to help Americans with a personalized, holistic view of their finances and savings goals,” said Edmund F. Murphy III, President and CEO of Empower Retirement. “In the wake of the pandemic, Americans have changed their relationship with money, and as a result how they define financial wellness. We are listening and are here to support American families as they navigate this new normal.”

Optimism and Challenges

Financial wellbeing status: Ultimately, Americans are confident and optimistic about their ability to achieve financial wellbeing, but they face a variety of roadblocks, including too little income and too many expenses.

Americans want help: Americans are open to getting help with their finances. In particular, they’d like to get help paying off debt and building an emergency fund.

Financial advice helps build confidence: Three-quarters of Americans say that receiving helpful financial advice makes them more confident in their ability to achieve financial wellness

For more information on the joint survey, an overview of the results can be found here.




This survey was conducted by The Harris Poll on behalf of Empower Retirement and Personal Capital from March 23 to April 5, 2021. We surveyed 2,005 people, all of whom were 18+ and living in the U.S. The online survey has a +/- 3% margin of error and a 95% confidence level.
About Empower Retirement
Headquartered in metro Denver, Empower Retirement administers approximately $1 trillion in assets for more than 12 million retirement plan participants as of March 31, 2021. It is the nation’s second-largest retirement plan recordkeeper by total participants. Empower serves all segments of the employer-sponsored retirement plan market: government 457 plans; small, midsize and large corporate 401(k) clients; non-profit 403 (b) entities; private-label recordkeeping clients; and IRA customers. Personal Capital, a subsidiary of Empower Retirement, is an industry-leading hybrid wealth manager. For more information please visit and connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram.