Study Reveals Financial Wellness Needs of Employees

Employees are racking up credit card debt and borrowing from retirement savings to pay for unexpected expenses.

An overwhelming majority of Americans who are employed full-time or who have a spouse who is employed full-time—87%—say they feel at least somewhat stressed about their current finances, Purchasing Power learned in an online poll of 952 adults, conducted by Harris Poll last December.

Asked what is causing this stress, the No. 1 reason is household bills, cited by 47%, followed by the lack of funds to cover unexpected expenses (43%), retirement planning (37%), health care expenses (34%), carrying a high credit balance (30%) and education (21%).

“Although the U.S. economy is healthy and the stock market continues to rise, employees are still stressed about their finances,” says Scott Rosenberg, president of Purchasing Power. “With employees’ financial stress affecting an organization’s bottom line in terms of productivity, higher absenteeism and more health care claims, employers today are compelled to pay more attention to their employees’ financial well being.”

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed said that their financial stress level has increased over the past 12 months. Among the 16% minority who said that their stress level had decreased, 57% said their household income had increased, 50% said they had paid off debt, and 20% said they had used financial tools to create a budget.

Only 20% expect their financial stress level to increase in the coming year. However, 74% had experienced an unexpected expense in the past 12 months—such as a vehicle repair/replacement (57%), medical cost (43%), home repair (40%), broken appliance (29%) and travel (18%).

As to how they covered these unexpected expenses, most, 49%, pulled out their credit card. Thirty-one percent used emergency savings, and 13% borrowed from family or friends. Only 7% borrowed from their retirement savings. Asked if they have $2,000 set aside for emergency savings, 59% said yes.