Employees Need More Help Feeling Financially Well

A study suggests progress on a variety of personal financial goals appears to have taken a negative turn in the past two years, including saving enough for retirement.

Concerns about financial security have the greatest impact on employees’ feelings of overall well-being, according to findings from the Fourth Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study.

As part of the study, Guardian created the Workforce Well-Being Index (WWBI), which measures consumer attitudes about their financial, physical, and emotional wellness. Workers feel less positive about their financial wellness (3.19 self-evaluation rating out of 5) than they do about their physical (3.26) or emotional wellness (3.45). The WWBI identified financial wellness as the most significant driver of working Americans’ overall well-being, constituting 40% of the average index score.

The study suggests progress on a variety of personal financial goals appears to have taken a negative turn in the past two years. In 2014, 81% of respondents indicated they were saving enough for retirement, compared to 65% in 2016. Eighty-seven percent reported in 2014 that they were paying off or reducing household debt versus 79% in 2016. And, in 2014, 78% said they were saving for children’s college education, while only 57% said so in 2016.

In addition, the study found one in five (21%) working Americans have no retirement plan—and Millennials and single parents are even less likely to be saving for retirement. Just 41% of workers feel they are making good progress toward their retirement goals—down from 60% in 2014. Only 22% say they have access to college savings or tuition benefits through their place of work.

According to the study, Generation X (ages 35 to 54) and single parents are feeling particularly strapped. They have some of the lowest well-being scores, driven mainly by personal financial concerns, including paying bills, reducing debt, and absorbing higher out-of-pocket costs for medical care. 

Gen X and single parents share other similar financial concerns:

  • They are having more difficulty making ends meet—three in five feel they are keeping up with basic bills and expenses;
  • Only half feel they are successfully managing their debt;
  • One in four feel on track saving for their children’s college education; and
  • Few feel they are saving enough to live comfortably in retirement.

Employers increasingly are seeking ways to improve workforce health and productivity, which often begins with a strong financial foundation. “Taking a more holistic approach to managing workforce well-being—one that addresses not only physical and emotional health but also employee financial security—will produce better results for employers looking to reduce medical benefits costs, improve absenteeism/presenteeism, and increase employee productivity and engagement,” Guardian says.

The report of survey results, “Mind, Body, and Wallet,” may be downloaded from here.