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401k Financial Scarcity Rears its Ugly Head

Survey finds sharp increases in financial angst

401k, financial scarcity, retirement,An unhappy worker is a very unhealthy worker.

Financial scarcity is the scourge of positive participant outcomes, and a large number of employees say financial woes are negatively affecting their lives, thereby darkening prospects for their future retirement success.

So says Willis Towers Watson in a biennial survey. It found the financial well-being of U.S. employees reversed direction this year following several years of steady improvement.

The 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey also revealed that barely one-third of U.S. workers were satisfied with their financial situation this year, a sharp decline from 48 percent just two years ago.

The number of employees who were satisfied with their financial situation had been improving steadily since 2009, when just a quarter were satisfied.

The survey also found more than a third of U.S. workers now believe their current financial concerns are negatively affecting their lives, compared with just 21 percent two years ago.

“The ongoing financial worries that are plaguing so many employees are taking a toll on their financial confidence,” Vincent Antonelli, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, said in a statement. “We know from our research that more than half of all workers have experienced a major financial event in the past two years, such as divorce; a significant medical experience; or borrowing money from a friend, family member or payday loan. These factors, combined with growing debt and low wage growth, are leading to heightened worker angst.

The worsening financial well-being is also having a negative effect on employees’ productivity, engagement, and health.

This is especially true among “struggling” employees, identified in the research as those worried about their short- and long-term finances. About 30 percent of the employees surveyed identified as struggling.

Employees without money worries were in good health (35 percent) or very good health (55 percent) while only 5 percent reported high-stress levels.

“Employers understand that financial worries, which are linked to stress, can have a negative impact on their employees’ personal and work lives,” Shane Bartling, senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson, added. “And there is an array of service providers and technology solutions available for employers to offer to employees on personal financial issues. The research provides powerful clues as to why many of these approaches are under-utilized and how we can do better.”

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