Employers Are Acutely Aware Of Their Workers’ Financial Struggles

Employees are making it known in a roundabout way that their paychecks don’t go far enough in covering living expenses. And their employers are hearing the message and taking notes.

According to new research from Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company, eight in 10 employers with retirement plans believe their employees are struggling financially, as they face persistent problems such as saving for retirement, paying down debt, stressing over child care and dealing with medical expenses.

The larger the employer, the more likely respondents were to express concern about employee financial wellness issues, the research found.

Employer estimates vary about how many employees are plagued with financial problems. However, half of the employers (51%) estimate that at least 25% or more of their workers struggle financially and 15% of employers say at least half of their workers are plagued by financial woes, the survey finds.

Employers become aware of their employees’ worries because the signs are apparent. The study found that 53% of managers say they hear workers and co-workers commiserating about their struggles; 46% said their workers do not participate in the company’s retirement plan as much as they would like; 46% are aware that their employees are holding down second jobs; 44% are taking out loans from their retirement plans; 42% tell their managers about their struggles; and 33% ask for paycheck advances.

What concerns employers the most, the research found, is that their workers are not retirement ready (67%). They are also worried that employees are not prepared for medical costs (64%), and they lack participation in the retirement plan (62%). Moreover, 60% are worried about their workers’ overall financial situation.

The research showed that employers believe that their workers’ top financial problems stem from credit card and consumer debt (61%); housing costs (58%); emergency expenses (52%); medical costs (50%); and childcare costs (49%).

The research noted that employers with retirement-plan assets in the $15 million to $25 million range were more likely to indicate that they struggle with child care costs. Employers with a majority of millennials also were more concerned about child care costs, retirement plan participation, and student loan debt.

Additionally, the research said nearly six in 10 employers believe employees look to them for support in managing their finances. The research also noted that employers with retirement plans in the largest asset class ($25 million to $75 million) are more likely than those in the smallest to agree employees are looking to them for help.

It should also be noted that seven in 10 of employers surveyed believe workers face issues not addressed by their benefits plan offering. The top unaddressed issues include the cost of living/housing/financial stability/paycheck to paycheck, according to 28% of employers. That was followed by debt at 17%, not saving and planning at 16%, child care at 15% and medical issues and costs followed by 11%.

The survey, which represented the second phase of a two-phase study, was conducted in August and September. It included a total of 863 plan sponsors with retirement plan assets between $1 million and $75 million.

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