Reason No. 1,467 for 401k Financial Wellness

Debt 'single biggest financial issue' facing Middle America

401k, retirement, financial wellnessIt's keeping us up at night.

Little surprise, falling behind in retirement preparedness is a major source of stress for Americans, causing anxiety and insomnia and reinforcing (for the umpteenth time) the connections between financial and health wellness.

Politics and personal finances took the top stressor spots, with retirement planning a significant ingredient in the latter.

“Our research shows that middle-income earners express widespread worry about a range of issues,” said Teresa Hassara, leader of Workplace Solutions at MassMutual, who released a new study. “Though nearly half report an improved sense of financial security during the past year, just as many say they worry about their household’s financial situation at least once a week, and 23 percent of those who earn less than $45,000 annually worry about money every day.”

Political Distress

The report, titled MassMutual Middle America Financial Security Study, found worries about politics and the direction of the country eclipse even concerns about household finances, the health and well-being of parents and children, personal health, and careers, the study found.

Two-thirds expressed concerns about the direction of the country, women far more so than men, and nearly half are troubled by potential changes to the healthcare system.

Those who expressed being “very” or “somewhat worried” were equally divided across the income spectrum.

Stress, Anxiety, Insomnia

Concerns about finances, however, had the most tangible, negative repercussions for many people’s health and personal relationships:

Do worries about money negatively impact any of the following aspects of your life? (Worries at least once a week)Total$35k-$44k$45k-$74k$75k-$150k
Your mental health/stress level57%52%59%56%
Your social life and ability to do things with friends40434834
Your diet or ability to eat healthy34463333
Your marriage or romantic relationship27253026
The frequency or quality of your family’s medical or dental care22262419
Your ability to perform at your job13151214

Those who worry about money at least once a week say their troubles cause a variety of health issues, including anxiety, headaches insomnia or difficulty sleeping, nausea or stomach issues, and clenched jaw or grinding teeth.

Some income levels reported more problems than others and women reported experiencing more headaches and insomnia than men.

Money worries accompany many Middle Americans to work.  Four in 10 respondents said they worry about money at least once a week while at work, the study found. Half of Americans who are less affluent—those earning less than $45,000—reported bringing their financial concerns to work at least once a week and 20 percent said daily.

“Financial issues are not only a significant problem for many people personally, they may have a big impact on employers who may face increasing costs for health care, disability leave and lost productivity,” Hassara said. “There is an overwhelming need for more education about personal financial issues and resources to help workers better manage their financial lives.”

Biggest Worries, Fears

Those surveyed indicated concerns about a wide range of financial issues, including lack of preparation for retirement, struggling to make ends meet, and potential changes in the healthcare system.

Many expressed a need for more education about retirement savings and personal financial management.

Eight in 10 respondents earning less than $45,000 annually “strongly agreed” or “somewhat agreed” with the statement that they are behind on preparing for retirement compared with 54 percent of those earning $75,000 to $150,000 annually. One in four admitted to a spending problem.

Do you agree or disagree with the following? (Strongly or somewhat agree)Total$35k-$44k$45k-$74k$75k-$150k
Behind on preparing for retirement63%84%73%54%
Wish employer offered more resources to help me prioritize my finances52625747
Wish employer did more to educate me on saving for retirement51555149
Unsure about whom to go for financial advice or guidance48545443
Worried that changes to health care system could lead to loss of health insurance47445345
Struggle to make ends meet35504428
Spending to enjoy myself now is more important than saving for future27353223
Spending is a problem26432921

Overall, what do Middle Americans most “fear”?

Survey respondents ranked their top “fears” as an illness to themselves or a family member, a financial emergency or major expense, a downturn in the stock market, a terrorist attack, a natural disaster, or a burglary or home invasion (. Percentages represent being “very afraid” or “somewhat afraid”.

Debt and Savings

Debt is the biggest single financial issue facing Middle America.

Overall, 22 percent of respondents cited debt as their top financial problem with more Millennials and Generation Xers saying the same, the study found. As Middle Americans age, respondents reported, healthcare costs rise in importance, becoming the No. 1 concern for baby boomers.

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