Study: Nurses Have 'Unwarranted Confidence Gap' Regarding Finances

A new study finds nurses lack confidence in their handling of financial matters, despite the fact they're generally doing a pretty good job.

A new study finds nurses lack confidence in their handling of financial matters, despite the fact they’re generally doing a pretty good job.

Those are the findings of a new study released Tuesday by Fidelity Investments in conjunction with National Nurses Week, which begins Wednesday.

Fidelity’s survey found 92% of nurses say they want to learn more about financial planning, but find it difficult to find the time to do so. Yet, an analysis of retirement savings data from 38,000 nurses noted nurses save about 12% of their income (including employer contributions), a rate significantly better than average, and close to Fidelity’s suggested rate of 15%.

The study also found 67% of nurses have an age-based asset allocation, which Fidelity says provides a strong financial foundation.

“[This] is what we actually call an ‘unwarranted confidence gap,’” said Alexandra Taussig, senior vice president at Fidelity Investments. “…We find this in women in general and in nurses as well, that they’re not confident.”

Fidelity is hoping to turn National Nurses Week into an annual financial self-assessment period for nurses. To make that goal a reality, the firm is encouraging employers to make financial guidance available and better-promote existing programs. For its part, Fidelity is working to make guidance available to nurses in a variety of formats.

“We know nurses don’t have a lot of time, so we’re trying to make guidance available however they want to consume it,” Taussig said.

For instance, while many resources are available online, Taussig many nurses don’t have regular access to personal computers at work. One way Fidelity remedies that problem is by sending out financial guidance representatives to employers, making them available for quick financial planning sessions or simply answering questions.

That flexibility is key because the study found 62% of nurses who have access to retirement guidance at work don’t take advantage of it. Once again, the biggest barrier was lack of time. Eighty-two percent of those who don’t take advantage of workplace guidance said they would do so if they were given more options and enhanced accessibility.

Though the report generally was good news, the one negative point related to borrowing from retirement plans. The study found 19% of responding nurses had an outstanding loan from their retirement account, up from 15% when Fidelity last conducted its survey, in 2012.

“That’s a pretty significant jump and we don’t know exactly why that is,” Taussig said. “If I had to hazard a guess, I would say it kind of goes back to that idea that they’re taking care of everyone else.”

However, Taussig said nurses ought to avoid such loans when possible, even if the money is seemingly being put to a good cause.

“You don’t want to see people borrowing from their retirement because that will affect them down the road,” she said.

Taussig remarked employers don’t need to be large to offer robust financial guidance. If an employer isn’t large enough to warrant an on-site visit from a representative, small employers can connect workers with guidance by phone or hold financial seminars in the workplace.

In order to solve the lack of time conundrum, Taussig suggested employers should consider offering such guidance during regular work hours. Though it may take nurses off their normal schedule for an hour or two, she said the added knowledge will benefit both nurses and employers. She noted that research has shown financial stress can be a major detractor from productivity at work, sometimes prompting employees to call in sick.

“I think this idea of helping your employees reduce financial stress is actually going to help them be more productive,” she said.