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Just 3 in 10 Americans say they aspire to the C-suite: New study

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(BPT) - Who wants to be the boss? Just 3 in 10 Americans say they aspire to hold a C-suite role, according to new research from Empower, a leader in financial planning, investing, and advice. Out of all generations, millennials show the highest interest in becoming a top executive (39%), though nearly a third of people don’t want their job description to change — even if it means sacrificing a promotion or raise.

The study reveals that the number one driver of job satisfaction is money (67%), which Americans say trumps being rewarded for loyalty and longevity at a company (40%), recognition for the job performed (34%) and being an inspiring leader or leading by example (32%).

The paycheck paradox

For some, there may be a paycheck paradox — a chicken or the egg dilemma: 38% (and 55% of Gen Z) believe they don’t get paid enough to go above and beyond their current job description. At the same time, nearly 1 in 4 people say they’re not working at full capacity, and nothing will motivate them to work harder (23% overall, 37% Gen Z).

More Americans plan to increase their contributions to their retirement savings in 2024 (34%) than ask for a promotion (23%) or quit to find a higher paying job (14%). Of all generations, Gen Z is looking to make more money by “job zwitching” (16%).

So, if people are placing less focus on rising through the ranks, what do people value at work? Let’s take a closer look.

What’s on the Workplace Wishlist?

Respondents point to greater access to financial advice and benefits as topping the list; over 2 in 5 Americans (44%) wish their employer offered more one-on-one financial help.

  • Advice advantage: 39% say their employer doesn't offer enough financial planning support. Half (48%) say financial coaching is a major must-have and 52% wish their job would provide more financial literacy opportunities.
  • Retirement roll: 71% of Americans say retirement plan matching is an important employee benefit and over half (54%) wish their job automatically enrolled them into a 401(k) plan.
  • Betting on a bonus: Bonuses are important to 75% of Americans, though nearly 1 in 5 respondents (17%) say their employer doesn’t offer one. One in 4 put their annual bonus toward essential items (24%), savings (44%), and retirement (28%), though 32% plan to spend it on a vacation.
  • The big flex: 48% say they'd be willing to go back to the office if their employer offered a four-day work week — just 6% would be willing to take a pay cut to go remote. On the flip side, 1 in 4 Americans (26%) say if their employer asks them to go back to the office more this year, they'll quit.
  • Paycheck principles: When it comes to salary/compensation goals in 2024, Americans are focused on making enough money to pay their bills on time (45%) and to retire when they want to (39%). Over 1 in 4 want to make enough to avoid working multiple jobs.

Top money goals for the year ahead

Inflation and cost of living continue to be top concerns for Americans, as 6 in 10 say their income isn’t keeping up with rising prices. These economic concerns far outweigh worries about the job market (7%) or career growth (4%).

Despite these challenges, just a third (31%) plan on asking for a raise this year, and the trend of “quiet quitting” seems to be waning: 9% plan to employ this strategy in the year ahead. Some 44% feel they make enough money to live comfortably, and overall, Americans feel optimistic, with 58% of respondents believing they will continue to make more money in the future.

Access the full report on The Currency.

Methodology: This study is based on online survey responses from 1,117 Americans ages 18+ commissioned by Empower and fielded by Morning Consult from January 3-4, 2024.


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