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Finance-induced stress among employees holds steady

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The number of employees who reported experiencing high levels of financial stress in 2012 held steady, according to new research.

Financial Finesse Inc., El Segundo, Calif., published this finding in a survey based on financial wellness data compiled by tracking employees’ usage of Financial Finesse’s Online Financial Wellness Assessment and Learning Center. The latter provides employees with a personalized financial education plan and analysis of their current financial wellness.

Fewer than one in five employees surveyed indicated experiencing “high” or “overwhelming” levels of stress in 2012. This compares with 19 percent, 32 percent and 33 percent of employees who felt highly stressed levels in 2011, 2010 and 2009, respectively.

The survey authors suggest the declining unemployment rate and an extended bull market of the past two years “may have contributed” to the reduced stress levels.

“Although these numbers are good, we are not out of the woods yet,” the survey states. “Eighty-two percent of employees are reporting some level of financial stress, which has been linked to problems with health and may be a contributing factor in the rising cost of health care.

“Employers should be especially concerned, as health care costs is generally one of the larger expenses behind payroll on the corporate balance sheet,” the report adds.

The reduced level of financial stress compared to the levels witnessed in 2010 and prior years is mirrored in the strong cash flow position of most employees. Almost 7 in 10 respondents (68 percent) report “having a handle” on cash flow. That’s down modestly from 2011 (72 percent), but up from the 64 percent recorded in 2010.

Additionally, more than half (56 percent) of employees report they regularly pay off their credit card balances in full. This compares to 62 percent in 2011 and 51 percent in 2010.

The survey reports that most employees remain focused on long-term financial issues in the wake of the 2012 presidential election and passage of the American Taxpayer Relief Act. The types of questions received by Financial Finesse’s planners break down as follows:

Retirement planning: 31 percent

Taxes: 14 percent (up 7 percent from 2011)

Investing: 12 percent (down 2 percent from 2011)

Debt management: 12 percent (down 2 percent from 2011)

Budgeting and saving: 12 percent

Real estate: 6 percent

Education: 4 percent

Insurance: 3 percent

Other long-term issues: 6 percent