Financial Stress Impacting Performance and Retirement Savings

January 25, 2012 ( – U.S. workers’ financial worries are impacting their work performance and retirement savings plans. 

A survey from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), asked HR professionals, “In the past 12 months, have employees been more likely to dip into their employer-sponsored retirement savings plans compared to the previous year?” More than half (55%) of HR professionals agreed, and 17% strongly agreed. A little less than a quarter (24%) disagreed, and 3% strongly disagreed.

When asked the impact of employees’ personal financial challenges upon work performance, 22% of HR professionals cited a large impact. Sixty-one percent noted some impact, while 16% responded with slight impact. Only 2% of respondents observed “no impact” upon workers.

“The source of money woes is unsurprising, but the toll it’s taking on both workers and their employers, in addition to the persistence of the weak economy, are all troubling issues,” said Mark J. Schmit, Ph.D., SPHR, vice president of research at SHRM.

A closer look at the impact on work performance shows that:

•  Forty-seven percent of HR professionals noticed employees’ struggle with their ability to focus on work;

•  Forty-six percent noticed issues with overall employee stress;

•  Twenty-six percent observed a negative impact on overall employee productivity;

•  Twenty-four percent said money woes are leading to employee absenteeism and tardiness;

•  Twenty percent are concerned about overall employee morale;

•  Twelve percent noticed a negative impact on overall employee health; and

•  Seven percent said working relationships with other employees are the least impacted. 

To understand what employer-sponsored financial education programs need to cover, the survey examined the sources of personal financial stress.

Nearly half (49%) of HR professionals said employees are stressed by an overall lack of monetary funds to cover their personal expenses. Some money woes were more specific like medical expenses and saving for retirement said 35% and 26% of HR professionals, respectively.

Twenty-two percent of HR professionals attribute worker money woes to credit card debt and the same number cited home mortgage payments.

Roughly 12% of HR professionals said education expenses were causing workers' financial stress that was noticeable in the workplace. Education expenses include the employee's own tuition costs, that for dependent children or other family members.

More than half (52%) of organizations represented in the survey currently provide financial education to their employees. A closer look shows that 79% offer access to an employee assistance program that includes financial counseling and resources. Sixty-eight percent provide financial education specific to employer-provided benefits such are retirement, medical insurance and flexible spending accounts. Nearly half (47%) offer financial education limited to retirement-related planning.

Among the 52% of organizations that teach employees about financial planning, 39% cover budgeting, paying for education, debt reduction, credit card use, homeownership and taxes.

SHRM surveyed 458 randomly selected HR professionals from its membership.

For more survey details, visit the survey section of SHRM at