Employees' Top Financial Challenges

People worry about money. Not shocking news perhaps, but it may surprise you how much financial stress affects the workplace.

In a new Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) survey that polled HR professionals,  70% reported that money-related stress had some impact on employee performance at their company. The most oft-cited negative effects of employees' financial worries were increased stress levels and a reduced ability to focus on work. Outside of these hidden costs to productivity, financial challenges have very visible consequences in the workplace. 62% of HR professionals reported that employees were more likely to take a loan from their retirement plan in this past year than ever before, and 44% reported a greater likelihood of hardship withdrawals.

Top Sources of Financial Stress

What kinds of financial challenges are workers dealing with? It depends primarily on their age.

According to a recent Gallup Poll, employees over 50 years of age cite healthcare costs as their top financial concern. Young adults and mid-career professionals (ages 18-29 and 30-49), however, name education costs as their primary financial problem. Concern for the cost of college appears to be on the rise: each year, more respondents have cited college costs as the most important financial problem their family faces, while concern over wages, home ownership, and utility costs have dropped.

Tuition worries are not solely the burden of lower-income households. While respondents from lower income households (less than $30,000 to $74,999) cited low wages and cost of living as their primary financial concerns, workers from higher income household ($75,000+) named college costs to again be their top financial challenge, followed by healthcare costs and retirement savings.

 A Call to Diversify Employer Financial Assistance

While employer assistance for healthcare and retirement costs are quite common, support for employees dealing with college costs is a much rarer commodity. And it's well-established that college is more important now than ever. Perhaps that's why 95% of employees with access to the College Coach benefit, which offers programs on saving & paying for college and loan repayment (in addition to a number of college admissions programs) say that the benefit increased their positive feelings about their employer. The vast majority also report reduced stress, increased job satisfaction, and workforce time savings.

These survey results, along with the SHRM study and Gallup poll noted above, stress the pressing need that employees have for college assistance as part of any comprehensive financial wellness initiative, and the appreciation that they have for employers who provide such a unique and valuable benefit.  

Read an example of how College Coach works on-site to educate and counsel employees on all aspects of the college process. Then, click here to learn more about putting College Coach to work at your organization.   

Written by: Shannon Vasconcelos

About the Author

Shannon works with Bright Horizons Education & College Advising corporate clients to deliver college financing workshops and provide personalized counseling to employees. She has over 10 years of experience in student financial assistance, at Boston University and Tufts University, and has also served as an active member of MASFAA’s Early Awareness and Outreach Committee, as a trainer for DOE’s National Training for Counselors and Mentors, and as a volunteer for FAFSA Day Massachusetts.