June 14, 2013

Women More Likely to Have High Financial Stress

High stress can cost employers in lost productivity

Women are almost twice as likely as men to report high or overwhelming levels of financial stress, according to research from Financial Finesse.

Furthermore, mothers between 30 and 44 and with incomes under $60,000 were nine times more likely to face high levels of stress than men between 55 and 64 without minor children and who had an income above $100,000.

Financial Finesse found that having young children appears to lead to higher stress over all. Almost twice the percentage of workers with children under 18 reported overwhelming stress as those without children.

While certain demographics report high levels of stress, overall stress has been trending down, falling significantly from 32% in 2010 to 18% in 2012. For the first quarter of 2013, 16% of employees reported stress levels that were high or overwhelming. Seventeen percent said they had no financial stress at all.

More vulnerable employees can end up costing their employers due to health issues commonly associated with high levels of stress: anxiety, depression and even heart attacks, according to an AOL/Associated Press poll. Financial Finesse referred to data from a 2010 Federal Reserve study that found the average cost of lost productivity is $5,000 per year.

Liz Davidson, founder and CEO of Financial Finesse, noted in a statement that the actual cost of lost productivity depends on the individual employer’s work force demographics. To determine how much they may be losing, employers need to examine their demographics and identify the warning signs of stressed-out employees, such as a high percentage of hardship withdrawals or 401(k) loans.

“Employers who have high levels of employee financial stress are best served by financial wellness programs that focus on basic money management issues, since the source of stress is predominantly short-term, day-to-day concerns,” Greg Ward, director of the firm’s Think Tank, said in a statement. “However, employers with low levels of employee financial stress usually need proactive financial planning since their employees are concerned about how to invest effectively in an uncertain economy to grow their wealth over the long term.”

Financial Finesse scored respondents across all stress levels in several categories, including money management, retirement planning and investing. A score between 3 and 5 indicates employees who may be “sabotaging” their financial situations and need more basic information, while a score lower than 3 indicates employees who are facing serious financial consequences.

Unsurprisingly, the least stressed workers rated very highly in money management: 8.6 for unstressed workers and 7.3 for those with some stress, indicating they have good financial skills and habits, but may need to do more to protect themselves from unexpected challenges in the future. Those who are highly stressed scored 4.2, while overwhelmingly stressed workers had a score of just 2.5.

Workers with higher stress levels scored better in retirement planning than they did in money management, though. Highly stressed workers scored 4.5 and overwhelmed workers scored 3.1. Less stressed workers seem to struggle more with retirement planning than with day-to-day money management, as their scores were lower in this category: 6.9 for unstressed workers and 6 for those with some stress.

In investing, the category where even the least stressed employees scored less than 5, scores for employees at high and overwhelming levels were abysmal. Highly stressed workers scored 1.6, and overwhelmed workers scored just 0.2.

Financial Finesse asked respondents who reported some level of stress what was causing it and found the least stressed workers tended to worry about external factors like the economy or stock market. Those with higher levels of stress were most worried about not being in control of their current financial situation. Not being able to meet their goals was the second most common cause of stress among the higher stressed groups.

All three groups reported similar levels of concern about who to trust with their money, with over a quarter of each group saying they didn’t know who to turn to.

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Check out The Successful Retirement Plan Advisor: Separating Fear From Risk by Liz Davidson on AdvisorOne.

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