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Why Employers Should Care About Employee Financial Stress

While some may be dismissive of the notion, new research makes the case that employers should care about their employees’ stress levels if they aren’t already.

Personal finances are a significant cause of stress, which can lead to lost productivity, a diminished ability to save for retirement and adverse health effects. But helping employees reduce their financial worries shows promise for employers, according to John Hancock’s fifth annual Financial Stress Survey of 1,352 retirement plan participants.

The findings reveal that a majority of workers (69%) are stressed over their finances, costing companies an estimated $2,000 per employee. In addition, the survey shows that 76% of respondents cited a lack of retirement savings as a leading factor affecting their stress, with nearly half reporting they worry about it “a great deal” and only 40% expecting to retire “about when planned.”

Most respondents (72%) admitted to worrying about personal finances while at work, with one-third doing so more than once per week. In addition, nearly half of respondents (47%) admitted they spend an hour or more per month on their personal finances at work, while 19% said they spend more than three hours a month.

Help Wanted

To help deal with the stress, more than two in five respondents believe they would be more productive if they did not spend time worrying about their finances at work. Moreover, three in five respondents think getting financial advice at work would reduce their stress and 65% believe it would help them start saving more for retirement.

When asked what financial issues they would like help with, 75% of respondents cited retirement income preparation aid, followed by Social Security and Medicare claiming (60%) and debt counseling (32%).

As for how respondents prefer to receive advice, the findings show a mix of methods:

  • Face-to-face meeting with a financial professional (30%)

  • Using online investment tools and services (24%)

  • Online chat with a financial professional (13%)

  • Webinars from a financial professional (13%)

  • By phone with a financial professional (12%)

In addition to worrying about retirement savings, the other leading causes of financial concerns were college loans (76%), monthly rent payments (64%), lack of emergency savings (59%) and overall current financial situation (62%).

“Financial stress is one of the biggest concerns among our participants — and it has implications for their health, healthcare costs, and premiums, and ultimately, their productivity,” notes Patrick Murphy, president and CEO, John Hancock Retirement Plan Services. “People need help managing competing financial obligations, and it is up to providers, advisors and employers to offer participants a holistic approach to financial wellness.”

The online survey of 1,352 John Hancock plan participants was conducted in June 2018 by Greenwald & Associates.