There appears to be a growing consensus among employers that they should do more to help their workers manage their finances.
Many middle-aged and older employees are struggling to save for retirement and younger workers are increasingly weighed down by student loans. Bosses worry those stressors, which lead workers to distraction or depression, may harm productivity.
A new study by PricewaterhouseCoopers displays the extent of financial anxiety among workers.
The survey of 1,600 full-time employees finds the top financial concern, cited by half of all workers, is not having enough money to cover emergency expenses.
Other commons concerns include not being able to retire on time (29 percent) and not being able to pay for monthly expenses (29 percent). Just under a fifth of workers say they are worried about losing their job due to layoffs.
Predictably, millennials are far less likely to cite retirement (20 percent) as a concern than members of Generation X (29 percent) and baby boomers (41 percent).
Employees’ definition of financial wellness also differs based on age. The most common definition among young employees is “not being stressed” about finances, cited by 25 percent of millennials. Only 14 percent of baby boomers chose that definition, however, while twice as many went with “financial freedom to make choices to enjoy life.”
Kent Allison, who heads PwC’s employee financial wellness practice, says the results reflect why employers no longer feel that they are taking care of their employees’ financial security simply by helping them save for retirement.
“Employers are beginning to realize they have to be more holistic in their approach to improving employee financial wellness and reducing stress,” he says.
In what may be a statistical aberration, the percentage of Gen Xers who say they are worried about retirement declined from 37 percent last year to 29 percent in this year’s survey. And yet the percentage of that generation who say that they struggle to pay monthly bills rose from 25 percent to 34 percent in the same timeframe.
The survey also shed light on the varying views among workers about what impact, if any, the current political climate will have on their financial well-being. Thirty-eight percent believe it will have a positive impact, while the same percentage say the impact will be negative. Twenty-four percent don’t anticipate any effect.
The interpretation of the political situation also vary dramatically based on gender. Among men, roughly half expect their financial situation to improve as a result of what’s going on in D.C. and only 28 percent expect the effect will be negative. Among women, the numbers are reversed: 46 percent believe the Trump era will hurt them and only 29 percent believe it will help them.
Those with the highest incomes are also most likely to believe their bank accounts will get a boost from today’s politics. Fifty-three percent of those making north of $100,000 are optimistic, compared to only 28 percent of those making less than $30,000.
Workers are similarly divided on how they believe the next generation will fare economically.
A solid majority of baby boomers — 53 percent — say their kids’ generation will be worse off than they are, while only 20 percent believe they will be better off. Forty-six percent of millennials say those younger than them will be better off, while 39 percent say they will be worse off.
The responses employees gave about what would reduce their financial stress highlights the challenges employers face in coming up with a solution that makes everybody happy. About a fifth of employees said better job security would be the greatest help, but nearly as many said the lower health costs or lower inflation would be best.
Relatively few employees (8 percent) say what they needed most was the assistance of a financial planner, which is what many employers are offering as a means to reduce employees’ anxiety about money.
Nevertheless, says Alison, “more and more employers are expanding their benefits and rolling out financial wellness support services to address the broader issues like student debt and cash flow management, with hope that it will help address both the retirement savings deficiency and employee financial stress.”