The markets might be casting a rosy glow over the economy, butemployees aren’t feeling the love. In fact, after several yearsof steady improvement, according to a new survey by Willis TowersWatson, their feelings have taken a sharp turn south.

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Findings from the biennial 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Surveyindicate that just a bit more than a third of U.S. workers (35percent) were satisfied with their financial situation this year;that’s a tumble from two years ago, when close to half—48percent—said they were satisfied. That’s a sharp reversal of atrend of improved satisfaction since 2009, when only a quarter saidthey were satisfied.

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That’s not the only downturn in employee attitudes. In the last survey, 21percent of U.S. workers believed their current financial concerns were negatively affectingtheir lives, but this year that’s risen sharply, too—to 34 percent.And 59 percent are worrying about their future financial state,compared with just under a half (49 percent) two years ago.

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Should employers be worried about this downward trend?Absolutely—since another survey finding is that employees’worsening financial well-being is also having a negative effect ontheir productivity, engagement and health—particularly among“struggling” employees, identified in the research as those worriedabout their short- and long-term finances. About 30 percent of theemployees surveyed identified as struggling.

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An overwhelming majority, 81 percent, of struggling employeessay they’re living paycheck to paycheck, and only 20 percent ofthem manage to pay their credit card in full each month. Andoverall, more than a third of U.S. workers experienced a moderate(24 percent) or severe (13 percent) financial hardship. Ten percenthave taken a loan from their 401(k) plan, while 6 percent have madea permanent hardship withdrawal.

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Among that struggling group, 31 percent said worrying aboutmoney kept them from doing their best at work. They also had higherlevels of absenteeism. Then there’s the stress effect: strugglingemployees reported high (37 percent) or above-average (33 percent)stress levels, and 30 percent said their health was poor.

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Employees without money worries, on the other hand, reportedthemselves as being in good health (35 percent) or very good health(55 percent), while only 5 percent reported high stress levels.

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Unsurprisingly, just 29 percent of the struggling employees werefully engaged at work, compared with more than half of employeeswithout any worries who were fully engaged.

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When it comes to getting help with those financial woes,employees definitely have mixed attitudes. While a majority ofemployees (53 percent) would like their employers to offer toolsthat provide suggestions on how they can improve their financialsituation, even more—57 percent—say it’s not the role of anemployer to send personalized messages to employees who faceimportant financial decisions. And half say employers should notsend personalized messages to employees who are not saving enoughfor a secure retirement.

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