, ,

The Cost of Employee Financial Stress

How Wisconsin employers can best invest in the security of their team

By Hannah Flanders

As inflation and the cost of living across the country continue to rise, more employees are feeling the increasing strain of financial burden in their day-to-day lives. While some individuals may choose to seek higher paying positions to combat this stress, many are looking to their current employer to assist them in finding new solutions to managing these burdens.

Financial stress is often defined as any emotional tension an individual may experience related to money, debt, or upcoming expenses. According to a survey by Purchasing Power in March 2022, 97% of all full-time employees reported that they experience financial stress.

While monetary stress manifests in many different ways, employers should be concerned that these stressors weaken productivity, negatively impact company culture, and decrease overall talent retention.

What Can Employers Do?

According to the 1,100 full-time employees surveyed by Purchasing Power, 57% say the benefits their employer offers have a major to moderate impact on their decision to stay at their current job. While unemployment rates return to pre-pandemic lows, employers must develop attractive benefit packages that not only meet the needs of incoming talent but set current employees up for success.

These benefits — ranging from health insurance and vacation time to retirement planning and financial wellness programs — impact overall employee satisfaction, both personally and professionally, and save businesses billions of dollars each year.

In a survey conducted by the American Psychological Association (APA), money stress experienced among Americans registered at its highest recorded level since 2015. By regularly reassessing employee benefit plans, businesses are better able to accommodate for common stressors — such as retirement and emergency savings — in relation to current events. Additionally, these opportunities allow greater chances for Wisconsin employers to integrate new, relevant, and cutting-edge tools for members of their team.

The Importance of Financial Wellness Programs

More than ever, employees consider it the employer’s responsibility to help employees with their financial well-being. In addition to providing employees the resources they need to feel secure, businesses that invest in financial wellness programs are more likely to retain current talent and save on the cost of recruiting and training.

Today, wellness is no longer determined solely by physical health. In order to wholly provide for employees, employers must account for all aspects that create tension in one’s life. By promoting resources that help employees stretch their dollar, employers are increasing productivity, engagement, and attendance among those who may otherwise be severely impacted by their financial worries.

PwC’s Employee Financial Wellness Survey, conducted in early 2022 on over 3,200 full-time employees, highlighted that among the 29% of employees currently looking for a new job, 65% cite money as their primary reason. However, both financially stressed and non-stressed individuals surveyed reported being more likely to accept a position or stay with a company that they feel cares about their financial well-being.

Wisconsin employers who are not doing so already should consider adopting financial well-being into benefit packages and adding financial education opportunities such as private coaching as resources for every employee. As housing costs, gas prices, and living necessities skyrocket around the country, individuals are seeking additional initiatives that aid in overcoming the recent additional stress.

A Growing Need for Assistance

Similar to how the nature of work and its demands have evolved over the last three years, workers too are reassessing their financial priorities.

The U.S. Census Bureau states that, according to the most recent census data collected in 2020, Wisconsin’s median household income is $63,293, over $4,000 below the national average. Although the importance of establishing and ensuring a health emergency saving fund has been emphasized even more since the onset of the pandemic, a quarter of consumers still have no savings set aside for emergencies, according to the 2022 Emergency Savings and Financial Security report by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). Additionally, 39% have less than a month’s worth of income saved for emergencies.

This lack of funds directly originates from, according to the CFPB, an individual’s knowledge on how to save. Whether it be lack of information relating to saving or financial constraints, those without emergency saving funds are nearly three times as likely to “not know how to save” than those who have a fund of some proportion.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) states that while upwards of 95% of organizations offer retirement savings plans, less than 35% offer financial planning/ coaching, and even less (15%) offer emergency savings funds or payroll advances, causing many individuals facing an emergency to charge a credit card, borrow money, or cut other expenses.

However, as the prices for necessities such as groceries, shelter, and gasoline rise — more Wisconsinites than ever are struggling to set aside funds for emergencies, their future, or even other commodities. In addition to setting a 40-year record for total increasing prices (a 9.1% increase since June 2021), both food and energy prices increased by 10.4% and 41.6% percent, respectively, in the last 12 months. These skyrocketing prices represent the largest price jumps consumers have seen since the early 1980s, according to data presented in the June 2022 Consumer Price Index.

Resources Available

Financial wellness programs, such as America Saves and Wisconsin Saves, not only help employers meet the growing demand for budgeting tools, but these campaigns also build consumer confidence, assist individuals in reaching their financial goals, and save businesses added expenses caused by absenteeism or low productivity.

America Saves and Wisconsin Saves provide individuals with the tools and education needed to effectively approach savings goals such as retirement, debt repayment, or vacations. Be it a long- or short-term goal, America Saves supports low- to moderate-income households in saving money, building wealth, and preparing for the unexpected.

The Wisconsin Saves initiative, brought forth by a coalition of Wisconsin organizations including the Wisconsin Bankers Association (WBA), promotes automatic saving opportunities through split deposit. The program, launched in 2021, encourages small- and medium-sized employers to promote the ease and benefits of saving automatically for emergencies through split deposit.

By promoting the success of these programs, encouraging employees to take the America Saves pledge to access additional resources, or motivating teams to split their deposit into a savings fund — Wisconsin businesses can play an important and impactful role in helping their employees improve their financial well-being.