Employees shared their biggest financial fears, and the results are scary

Posted by Brin Chartier

What is keeping your hard-working employees up at night? No, it’s not nightmares from the latest horror movie to hit Netflix. It’s their financial fears.

Each year PwC polls working adults nationwide to track the financial wellbeing and retirement readiness of the modern employee. Their recent survey has some interesting insights. The results might be surprising (and are definitely a bit scary). 

Here are the top four financial fears that are frightening employees the most.


Not having enough emergency savings for unexpected expenses.

Reported by 62% of Millennials, 55% of Gen X, 44% of Baby Boomers

Having emergency savings to fall back on is essential for your employee’s financial wellbeing. It means that when an emergency or unexpected expense comes up, they don’t need to borrow or sell something to cover the cost.

The truly terrifying fact is that nearly 40% of American’s can’t cover a surprise $400 expense. This leads many workers to resort to debt, which leads to bills and more stress. It’s a scary cycle. Especially during financially challenging times (like an ongoing global pandemic), emergency savings is essential for employee's peace of mind.


Not being able to retire when I want to.

Reported by 18% of Millennials, 38% of Gen X, 52% of Baby Boomers

With financial stress on the rise, many employees are expected to delay retirement. This is simply because they don’t have enough savings to cover their cost of living and healthcare in their golden years, so they have to work longer.

The LearnLux Financial Wellbeing Methodology suggests that workers save 1x their gross income by age 30, stash away 3x by age 40, have 6x banked by 50, and 10x ready for retirement by 67. However, those savings goals are often out of reach for most Americans.

And, the shift from pension plans to self-managed 401(k)s means employees now have two jobs - making money, then saving it for the future. On top of life’s other stresses, this can make planning for retirement a big struggle.


Not being able to meet my monthly expenses.

Reported by 41% of Millennials, 31% of Gen X, 21% of Baby Boomers

Fearing unexpected expenses is common, but many employees report that meeting their routine monthly expenses is financially stressful, too. With the cost of living on the rise, many Americans are struggling to keep up with the compounding expenses of housing, food, transportation, childcare, health care, and their smartphone bill. 

Living paycheck to paycheck puts an incredible amount of stress on an individual and their family, too. While Millennials are nearly 2x as likely to report this financial concern over boomers, it’s important to note that it’s a serious fear across the board.


Not being able to keep up with my debts.

Reported by 29% of Millennials, 20% of Gen X, 14% of Baby Boomers

It isn’t Freddy Kreuger chasing your employees in their nightmares. It’s Freddie Mac. Americans are in more debt than ever, and the numbers continue to rise. In 2019, credit card debt reached a record high at more than $1 trillion, and student loan debt has jumped 150% in just a decade.

An employee’s Debt to Income ratio (DTI) can be a good indicator of financial health and is calculated by dividing the total of all monthly debt payments by gross monthly income. If DTI is 20% or less it’s considered low, while above 40% is a sure sign of significant financial stress.


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Ready to start helping employees overcome their financial fears? Benefits teams aren’t always equipped to help financially stressed employees on their own.

Today’s top employers are bringing on workplace financial wellbeing programs to fill these gaps, and seeing big results. By becoming an ally for their workers, employers and employees can fight financial stress together.


Source: PwC’s 8th annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey - 2019 Results. Employees could choose up to 2 answers to the question, “What are your top financial concerns?” 

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