twin men in business suitsThe disconnect is even greater among younger workers, with 64percent of millennials saying they're “in control” but at the sametime 60 percent of them saying they live paycheck to paycheck.(Photo: Shutterstock)

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Are U.S. workers too optimistic about retirement? Apparently so, as yet another studyindicates that although more American workers are feeling positiveabout their finances, they really shouldn't be so cheerful.

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According to MetLife's 17th annual U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study, lots ofworkers are not financially healthy, even if 63 percent feelfinancially confident.

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Half of employees admit to living paycheck to paycheck; only 57percent have a savings cushion of about three months of theirsalary; and 30 percent of those with a defined contributionretirement plan have already had to pull money out of it.

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Then there's financial stress. Finances are the top reason thatworkers are stressed, the study finds, and the number of employeessaying they're less productive at work because of financial woeshas risen from 17 percent to 31 percent, a total of 14 percent,over the last five years.

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Employers hesitating over boosting pay and benefits might wantto be concerned about these numbers, since financial stress has adirect impact on them: stressed employees are more likely to beunhappy and less likely to be loyal and engaged—and maybe even lesshealthy.

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Financial wellness programs are a big deal these days, althoughjust 20 percent of employers offer such programs to their workers.It's not that workers don't want or need to learn more aboutmanaging the money they have and planning for their futures.

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They do, with the MetLife study finding that 80 percent ofworkers want access to financial planning workshops or financialwellness tools.

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And maybe they really need a dose of financial reality, sincedespite that majority of workers who say they feel financiallyconfident, their top source of stress is personal finances.

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The disconnect is even greater among younger workers, with 64percent of millennials saying they're “in control” but at the sametime 60 percent of them saying they live paycheck to paycheck.Something is definitely wrong with this picture.

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And although 76 percent say they're willing to make short-termfinancial sacrifices to have a secure retirement, just 50 percenthave some sort of direct allocation of money from their paychecksto a savings account.

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Medical bills don't help their long-term goals, with 63 percentof employees being behind on retirement savings goals thanks tosuch bills.

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In addition, 52 percent of employees say they're planning topostpone retirement thanks to their financial situation—and that'sup 15 percent since 2015.

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Women are particularly at risk, less likely to have a budget,more likely to be living paycheck to paycheck and less likely tohave a savings cushion of 3 months of salary—but of course thatcould be due to the fact that women are also likely to be makingconsiderably less than men, leaving them with substantially lessdisposable (or savable) income.

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READ MORE:

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Gulf in retirement preparedness mirrors gulf inbehaviors

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Race, ethnicity play huge role in retirementpreparedness

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5 retirement preparedness numbers foremployers

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Marlene Satter

Marlene Y. Satter has worked in and written about the financial industry for decades.