Just 3 in 10 Americans aspire to the C-suite, according to new Empower research

Money is the top driver of job satisfaction over moving up the ladder; study reveals a “Workplace Wishlist” of benefits people value.

Who wants to be the boss? Just 3 in 10 Americans* say they aspire to a C-suite role, according to new research from Empower, a leader in financial planning,1 investing, and advice, with Millennials showing the highest interest in becoming a top executive (39%). In fact, 31% of people don’t want their job description to change – even if it means sacrificing a promotion or raise. 

Money is the number one driver of job satisfaction (67%) over being a boss: a higher salary, which many Americans believe is linked to financial happiness, trumps the value people say they place on being an inspiring leader and leading by example (32%). Still, many are stressed about working with an incompetent manager (24%) or colleagues (26%). People say work satisfaction comes from being rewarded for loyalty and longevity at a company (40%) more than taking on challenging projects (24%) and recognition for the job performed (34%).  

Job satisfaction survey results for the question "When it comes to work satisfaction, what do you value the most?" Money (67%), loyalty at a company (40%), an inspiring leader (32%).

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 less focus is placed on rising through the ranks, what do people value at work? Respondents point to greater access to financial advice and benefits; over 2 in 5 Americans (44%) wish their employer offered more one-on-one financial help.  

Survey results showing what respondents said is important: 75% said bonuses, 71% said retirement matching, 48% said financial coaching.

The “Workplace Wishlist” people are seeking: 

  • 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 towards 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. Some 34% feel their paycheck isn’t enough to cover their mortgage, but confidence remains strong: 58% of respondents believe they will continue to make more money. 
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Making money in 2024: Economic outlook 

Six in 10 people feel their income isn’t keeping up with inflation and the cost of living, and only 11% “strongly agree” that inflation will go down (33% agree overall). These two factors are the top economic concerns for those surveyed (inflation 42%, cost of goods 23%), which far outweighs worries about the strength of the job market (7%) or career growth (4%). 

Survey results showing that in 2024, people want to make enough money to pay their bills on time (45%), retire when they want (39%), and go on vacation when they want (36%).

Despite these concerns, 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 about the future – just 5% listed the stock market as an economic concern, and most are bullish about their earning potential (64% men, 50% women) looking ahead. 


The Empower “Who’s the Boss” study is based on online survey responses from 1,117 American workers ages 18+ fielded by Morning Consult from January 3-4, 2024. 

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The information contained herein is being provided for discussion purposes only and does not constitute an offer to sell, or a solicitation of an offer to buy or sell securities. All visuals are illustrative only.  

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