With a solid economy and the jobless rate at a 49-year low, one would expect that financial stress among workers would be on a steady decline. However, according to “PwC’s 8th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey,” workers’ financial stress is on the rise due to cash flow and debt challenges, supporting adult children and helping parents. Many workers say they are struggling to keep up with their bills and would not be able to cover an unexpected significant expense.
“As a result, we believe that employee anxiety will continue to mount without a greater emphasis on increasing savings and improving longer-term financial well-being,” the report says. “Stressed employees are nearly three times as likely to say they expect to spend the majority of their time ‘working in retirement’ because they’ll need to financially. We foresee critical issues for organizations if the root causes of this financial stress are not addressed.”
PwC says that while 80% of employers report having a financial wellness program, some of these programs are still primarily focused on retirement savings and fail to address the wide variety of financial issues that workers are grappling with every day. As well, they do not offer workers an opportunity to sit down one-on-one with a financial adviser.
“Employees crave the element of human interaction,” PwC says. “Successful financial wellness programs find the optimal way to shape the relationship between technology and human interaction, delivering the motivation employees need to achieve their goals.”
As Kent Allison, a partner with PwC, tells PLANSPONSOR, the vast majority of employers may believe they offer an effective financial wellness program, but only 24% of workers say their company offers such a program. The reason for this disconnect is because many companies have simply renamed their retirement planning education as financial wellness, and in other cases, employees don’t know that a financial wellness benefit is being offered, Allison says.
Companies need to step back to ensure they are offering holistic financial wellness programs that address the myriad of issues facing employees, including saving for education, paying down debt, insurance, etc., Allison says. Then they have to ensure that they are delivering this information on an engaging digital platform that explains to workers which benefits suit their needs, he says.
PwC’s survey asked 1,686 full-time employees what financial wellness means to them. Thirty-four percent said not being stressed about their finances, 18% said being debt-free, 16% said having money to cover unexpected expenses, 16% said the financial freedom to make choices to enjoy life, and 12% said being able to meet day-to-day expenses—but only 4% said being able to retire when they want to. Clearly, retirement is not top of mind.
By generation, the top financial concern for Millennials (62%) and Gen Xers (55%) is not having enough money to cover unexpected expenses. For 52% of Baby Boomers, it is not being able to retire when they want to.
Asked what could help them achieve their financial goals, for both Millennials (31%) and Gen Xers (25%), it is better job security. Boomers say it is both lower health care costs (27%) and a rising stock market (24%). All generations think they are doing worse financially compared to prior generations, with this being the case among 62% of Millennials, 46% of Gen Xers and 40% of Boomers.