Nearly one-quarter, 23%, of employees feel “high” or “overwhelming” financial stress, up from only 18% in 2012 and 19% in 2011, according to a survey by Financial Finesse, a provider of financial education to workers.
Across all age groups, women experience significantly higher levels of financial stress than men, with the most frazzled group being women between the ages of 30 and 55 with minor children and annual incomes below $60,000. More than half, 55%, of this group feels elevated levels of financial stress. The least financially stressed group is men younger than 30 or older than 55 with no minor children and annual incomes above $100,000, with only 6% of these groups experiencing financial stress.
“While it’s no surprise to any working mother that juggling competing financial needs is stressful, small steps over time can create financial balance for families at any income level,” says Liz Davidson, chief executive officer of Financial Finesse. Three steps people can take to alleviate financial anxiety is to build an emergency fund, pay down high-interest debt and take advantage of employer-sponsored benefits at work, namely save for retirement.
Employers have a role in helping people with financial stress as well, Davidson says. They can offer financial wellness programs to teach their workers practical money skills, she says. “Employers can offer workshops, webcasts, an online financial wellness center and one-on-one financial coaching to help simplify financial complexities and help busy employees get the most out of their benefits,” Davidson says. “A workplace-based financial wellness program saves busy parents time, and has been proven to reduce financial stress as well as create a sense of loyalty between employee and employer.”
Underscoring the need for financial wellness programs is the fact that among all employees, 85% report at least some level of financial stress, Financial Finesse says. Among those who feel overwhelming financial stress, 84% say they feel like their financial situation is not under control, 56% are not confident they will be able to meet future financial goals, 26% do not know who to trust with investing their money, and 29% worry about the U.S. economy and/or stock market and how that will affect their financial future.
Not surprisingly, those who feel overwhelming financial stress have poor money management behaviors, with only 8% of this group having an emergency fund, a mere 14% comfortable with the amount of debt they are carrying, 18% having a handle on their cash flow, 53% paying their bills on time and 34% carrying a loan or hardship withdrawal from their 401(k) plan.