••• financial research

Hopeful for a debt-free future

Gen Z optimistic about financial security

Despite most Americans having modest expectations of what it means to attain financial freedom, just 11% report they are living their definition of it, according to a new survey by digital personal finance company Achieve.

Amid a challenging economic landscape including a potential recession, consumer credit card debt surpassing $1 trillion and the restart of student loan repayment on the horizon, it's understandable that many Americans are feeling financially defeated. The survey asked consumers to select the ideas of financial freedom that they most agreed with and found the most common definitions were living debt-free (54.2%); living comfortably but not necessarily being rich (50%); the ability to regularly meet all their financial obligations and still have some money left over each month (49%); and never having to worry about money (46%). Far fewer respondents believe financial freedom means being rich (13%) or having enough money to give up working altogether (32%).

While attitudes about most topics can vary wildly across generations, when it comes to defining financial freedom, it's unanimous: living debt-free tops the list. More than half of consumers across each generation surveyed agreed that being debt-free is their No. 1 financial goal (52% of Gen Z, 56% of Millennials, 52% of Gen X, 55% of Baby Boomers). Baby Boomers (15%) are the generation most likely to be living their definition of financial freedom, compared to Gen X (8%), Millennials (9%) and Gen Z (12%).

Over half of respondents (58%) indicated that they are not anywhere close to reaching their personal definition of financial freedom. At the forefront of this challenge is that many Americans lack a well-funded savings account, with 40% of respondents lacking a basic bank savings account. Among those that do have a savings account, 36% said they have less than $1,000 in it. 

Whether these individuals believe they are close to reaching their definition of financial freedom or not, many are optimistic. More than half (52%) of respondents say their journey toward this ideal is getting better, compared to 37% who report it's getting worse.

Seventy-eight percent of consumers report having a checking account (65% of Gen Z, 76% of Millennials, 81% of Gen X and 86% of Baby Boomers), compared to 60% of consumers with a savings account (58% of Gen Z, 61% of Millennials, 57% of Gen X and 62% of Baby Boomers). Surprisingly, more consumers reported having a cryptocurrency wallet (13%) than a professionally managed investment account (10%). Only 33% of respondents reported having an IRA/401(k) retirement account and just 41% of respondents said that they are very confident they will be financially secure once they retire.

Meanwhile, older generations were more likely to feel uncertain about their retirement prospects, with those closer to retirement saying they are not confident they will be financially secure when they retire (35% of Gen X and 34% of Baby Boomers). On the other hand, Gen Z, the generation furthest away from retirement, is the most optimistic with 51% saying they are very confident about being financially secure when they retire.

The data and findings are based on an Achieve survey conducted in July 2023 with 1,000 U.S. consumers ages 18 and older and is representative of Census Bureau benchmarks of the U.S. population for age, gender, race and ethnicity.

••• sports research

Fanhood grows with us

Sports fans want social experiences

Shifts in technology and consumer behavior are redefining the way fans enjoy sports, both at home and in person. Despite the rapidly evolving landscape, Deloitte found that fans are quite passionate and willing to invest their time and money into their fandom.

Nearly 90% of fans say their fanhood has grown (37%) or stayed relatively the same (52%) over the past three years. Almost 70% of respondents say they’re sports fans because sports are entertaining. Participation in sports is also a common thread, with 68% of fans indicating that they currently participate in sports or have in the past. When asked to pick a single reason for the genesis of their fanhood, approximately a third of fans attribute it to their participation in youth sports. 

Gen Z fans crave a social sports experience. Most of the time (61%) when watching live sporting events from home, Gen Z fans say they’re watching with other people, compared with 53% of Generation X and 48% of Baby Boomer fans. This communal experience is a substantial draw for many – nearly 40% of Gen Z fans say they’d be more likely to watch an event from home if they were watching with friends or family. Gen Z fans are also tapping into technology to expand their communities and their sports fandom. Approximately half of Gen Z fans say they have used social media either to read comments and opinions from others or to interact with others while watching live events from home.

Fans want subscription video on demand (SVOD) features that enhance – but don’t overshadow – the game. Thirty percent of all fans – and 46% of Millennials – have paid for a subscription to a streaming video service to watch sports over the past 12 months, the research finds. When asked about watching a sporting event on a specific SVOD service, about half of fans say the experience is more interactive and personalized than watching the same event on cable or broadcast TV. Fans also indicate that they want more features as part of their SVOD services to enhance their sports-watching experience. For all fans, whether they currently subscribe to a video streaming service or not, about a third would want real-time stats and analytics (35%) and different camera angles (34%) included as part of their SVOD service.

Fans are crafting their own perfect experience at home. On average, most sports fans (88%) surveyed watch live sporting events from home at least weekly. Seventy-one percent say that live sporting events are their favorite type of sports content. However, this drops to 58% for Gen Z and Millennial fans. They have a more diverse set of favorites which include highlights and clips, documentaries and sports-related social media videos. 

Fans use a television to watch live sporting events from home 74% of the time, on average. That percentage of time is 58% for Gen Z fans and 61% for Millennial fans. They are using their mobile devices, laptops and tablets the rest of the time. Many fans, especially younger ones, are multitasking while watching sports at home.

Bettors invest more in their fandom; non-bettors are more wary. Twenty-two percent of sports fans over age 21 say they’ve bet on a professional sporting event in the last 12 months. For Millennial and Gen Z sports fans, this increases to 30%. In general, sports bettors tend to be more active fans across the board. While at home, 58% of sports bettors say they have bet through a website or mobile app while they watched live sports. In venues, 23% of sports bettors say they use their mobile device to place sports bets while attending a live sporting event. Looking into the future, 66% of sports bettors say they want the capability to bet on different aspects of a game in real-time on their mobile device while they attend an event in person. Surveyed non-bettors report concerns however with 66% saying they are tired of seeing so much advertising around sports betting and 59% indicating they worry about the long-term impacts of sports betting on professional sports. 

Virtual reality (VR) is still on the undercard. Sports and VR seem like the perfect pairing but the market is still niche for now. Only 5% of all sports fans surveyed say they have used VR to consume some type of sports content in the last 12 months. However, when given a list of six different sports-related VR experiences, roughly 70% of Gen Z and Millennial fans were interested in at least one of them. The top activities of interest for Gen Z and Millennials include playing sports-related VR games, watching live sporting events from an athlete’s point of view, remotely attending a live sporting event and co-watching an event with friends and family. 

Fans prefer digital assets with real world benefits. Around 40% of Gen Z and Millennial sports fans say they are very or somewhat familiar with the use of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and fan tokens in sports. However, it’s still a niche market, with just about 5% of sports fans surveyed saying they have purchased or received a sports- or athlete-related NFT or received a team fan token in the last 12 months. 

For those who are familiar with NFTs, what value do they see? There’s currently no clear consensus, with 37% of fans seeing NFTs in sports as a fad, 32% as an investment and 24% as something fun to express fandom. What may help is a clear connection between digital assets and well-defined benefits for the fan. When given the definition of a fan token and asked how likely they would be to purchase a token if a specific benefit were offered, there was overall enthusiasm from fans. 

The Wall Street Journal recapped Deloitte’s survey which polled approximately 3,000 U.S. sports fans. 

••• employee research

Workers favor lunch-hour socialization

Employees lean towards on-the-clock experiences

Companies may want to hold off on adding another after-work activity to the calendar. Corporate food solutions provider ezCater found that over two-thirds of workers (68%) said they would prefer socializing with coworkers during their workday rather than off the clock.

Eighty-one percent of employees wish their workplace offered more bonding activities during work hours and the most desired time to socialize with coworkers was lunchtime (32%). With the return of the commute back in most employees’ routines, after-hours work events can take a toll. When asked how attending a work event outside of regular hours impacts respondents, 31% said they were concerned about losing time they want to spend with family, friends or recharging alone.

Employees feel obligated, not excited, to attend workplace events outside of work hours. Organizations encouraging employee attendance at events outside of traditional work hours may be putting unwanted pressure on employees. Over half of workers (64%) have felt obligated to participate in work events outside the office that they didn’t want to join and 51% of respondents have lied to skip an after-hour work event or snuck out altogether. 

Lunch in the office is a morale boost. Overwhelmingly, free lunch and time to eat with coworkers was the activity employees wished their workplace offered the most during working hours (87%). Less than half of respondents opted for other activities during work, specifically: cooking and cocktail demonstrations (41%), workouts (39%), art projects (36%) and guest speaker series (33%). Employees believe that daily (46%) or weekly (35%) catered meals would motivate them to be productive during the summer compared to after-work events.

“Lunch-citement” is a trend in the office. Nearly all workers (94%) feel excited if they know their office provides catered lunch. In fact, employees get so excited that nearly all of them scope out the menu at least one day in advance (92%) when their workplace provides meals. Saving money (63%), the variety of food (61%) and how lunch gives workers a real break during their workday (59%) contribute to employees’ feelings of excitement. 

This survey was fielded in March with 500 in-person and/or hybrid workers nationwide.

••• employee research

Back to (in-person) work

Companies desperate for a return to office

COVID-19 changed workers’ expectations about where they can do their work. A Conference Board survey found that getting workers to return to the office was the second most difficult objective for companies, exceeded only by finding qualified workers (80%). Seventy-three percent of organizations reported struggling to get workers to return to the workplace. 

Most businesses are trying to increase on-site work. Sixty-eight percent are considering or implementing talent strategies to increase on-site work including team-building and celebratory events (62%), flexible days/hours (59%) and relaxed casual dress code (56%). Fifty-six percent of workers continue to work remotely at least part of the time, according to surveyed HR leaders, and 76% of professional and office workers work a hybrid or remote schedule.

Eighty-eight percent of organizations employing mostly manual services workers and 75% of organizations employing mostly office workers report difficulty finding qualified workers. Sixty-eight percent of organizations employing mostly manual services workers and 54% of those employing mostly office workers report difficulty retaining workers. 

Organizations mandating on-site work have much greater difficulty retaining workers with 71% reporting retention struggles, compared to 46% that give workers a choice of where to work. Voluntary turnover among fully on-site workers has increased 26% in the last six months, twice the rate of increase among fully remote workers at 13%.

Employee well-being including mental health and sense of belonging are suffering. Forty-three percent of surveyed HR leaders report decreased employee mental health compared to six months ago. Thirty-two percent report decreased sense of belonging/inclusion, 31% say they have lower levels of employee engagement and 30% saw a decrease in employee intent to stay.

Businesses are – or soon will be – cutting costs. Twenty-nine percent of respondents report that their organization had implemented layoffs in the last six months and 19% expect to implement layoffs in the next six months. Layoffs expected in the next six months are most prevalent in retail, wholesale, travel and entertainment, information services, publishing and telecommunications and manufacturing.

Employee well-being has declined more in organizations that recently implemented cost-cutting measures. Of those organizations, 46% saw a decline in employee mental health, compared to 36% who have not cut costs. Thirty-seven percent of organizations who have cut costs report a decline in employee sense of belonging, compared to 26% of those who have not and 36% of organizations who have cut costs report a decline in employees' intent to stay, compared to 22% of those who have not.

The Conference Board conducted this survey with 185 U.S. human resource executives from April 25 to May 14, 2023.

••• environmental research

Flying the eco-friendly skies

Sustainable travel practices increasingly valued

According to finance technologies provider Emburse, 38% of businesses reported an increased investment in sustainability, with 71% having a formal policy or guidelines set in place. However, only 37% of these businesses actively enforce these policies during bookings and travel expense approvals.

Only one in six employees cited sustainability as their key priority when making travel plans, significantly below both cost and traveler convenience. While environmental concerns remain a low priority during the booking process for business travelers, 71% said their employer should do more to enable sustainable travel. Meanwhile, the majority (76%) of employees also agreed they would take a more sustainable mode of transportation if financial incentives or sustainability programs were available.

Seventy-one percent of businesses currently provide guidance for sustainable travel, of which, 38% have a formal policy and 33% have a set of guidelines in place. Beyond hybrid working structures, only 37% actively enforce policies to encourage sustainability for both the commute and business travel. Forty-three percent are considering implementing initiatives and incentives like travel budget incentives, cycle-to-work schemes and remote training to encourage sustainable employee travel. Twenty-five percent of businesses do not have a business travel sustainability policy and 6% do not plan to implement one.

Thirty-eight percent of businesses have increased their investment in sustainability and over a quarter (27%) have reduced sustainability investments due to the higher cost of doing business. When booking business travel, 31% prioritize cost-effectiveness, followed by convenience and accessibility (27%), loyalty and rewards programs (21%) and sustainability (16%). Only 26% would proactively cut down on travel to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Seventy-one percent of employees want their employer to do more to enable sustainable travel. Only a small minority (7%) of employees do not want employers to do more to enable sustainable travel and 76% of employees would choose a more sustainable mode of transportation if their employer provided programs or financial incentives. Employee demand for incentivized sustainable travel has increased by 19% since 2021. Seventy-four percent of employees believe it is their organization’s responsibility to do more to enable sustainable business travel, regardless of cost.

This survey was conducted by Censuswide on behalf of Emburse with 1,257 U.K. respondents, made up of 1,003 British employees and 254 employers from May 17-22, 2022.