Having trouble focusing on your job? Productivity lagging? Calling in sick?
Blame it on your bills.
Human-resources managers say employees are so freaked out about their finances that it’s hurting their job performance, according to a survey released last week by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Your boss is on to you. The vast majority of the HR professionals recently canvassed say their employees are grappling with more personal financial challenges than they were five years ago. And a whopping 83 percent say those challenges have an obvious impact on overall employee performance.
The top performance problems:
- Ability to focus on work (47%)
- Overall employee stress (46%)
- Overall employee productivity (26%).
- Absent or late to work (24%)
- Health problems (12%)
Employees’ most common money worries?Almost one-half of HR professionals say an “overall lack of monetary funds to cover their personal expenses” was the biggest challenge employees face, followed by medical expenses, saving for retirement, credit card debt, and home mortgage payments.
Not surprisingly, organizations whose employees were primarily baby boomers said their workers were mostly worried they weren’t saving enough for retirement, while companies with younger workers said the culprit was high credit card debt.
The financial pressure is draining retirement accounts, too. The majority of HR professionals, 72 percent, say their employees were more likely to dip into employer-sponsored retirement savings plans in the past 12 months compared with previous years.
That finding is in line with what the 2011 Retirement Confidence Survey, conducted by the nonpartisan Employee Benefit Research Institute, turned up: A third of all Americans (34 percent of workers, 33 percent or retirees) say they had to tap an IRA, 401(k), savings or investment accounts, or had to take a loan against those accounts, in order to pay for basic expenses.
This, of course, begs the question. Are employers doing anything to help employees get it together? Well, not as much as they once did it seems.
Fewer firms offer financial help. The number of companies who provide any kind of financial education to their employees has actually dropped in the last two years from 64 percent in 2009 to 52 percent now, according to those surveyed. As I expected, big firms with 2,500 to 24,999 are more apt to provide financial education of some type than small businesses with fewer than 100 workers. And only 17 percent of those who don’t have any education for employees now plan to in the next 12 months.
What’s stopping them? Roughly one quarter of HR professionals say that the cost of providing financial education and lack of interest among its employees are the biggest obstacles holding them back.
What? Free financial advice and guidance is a lifeline that I’m amazed anyone who knew it was available would snub. But I suppose it’s possible.
For the companies that offer employees a hand, there are an array methods. Most provide an employee assistance program that includes some financial planning counseling. Others have education on budgeting, ways to pay for education, debt reduction, credit card use, homeownership, and taxes, according to the survey. That’s a good thing.
Many firms, however, limit the education to helping you figure out how to use your employer-provided benefits, such as 401 (k) plans, health insurance and flexible spending account info. Not as good, but take what you can get.
It’s possible you were told about your company’s financial education initiative during your new-hire employee orientation. Your firm’s intranet, too, may also have material. But seriously, who taps into their employer’s web site to learn about saving when they have time to float around online? Did someone say,Pinterest?
The upshot of the survey: The employer-employee financial stress breakdown is worrisome for both parties.
For me, it’s clear. You can’t skip financial literacy. And while it would be dandy if your employer would offer a helping hand, until a law is passed that requires them to do so, the final responsibility is yours alone.
It works like dominos. The less you know, the less you save, the lower your chances of living within your means and socking enough away for a retirement. If you’re feeling anxious about your finances, do something about it. Don’t moon around the office and call in sick.
—–Take an evening class in personal finance at a community college.
—–Go to the web site of the US Treasury:www.mymoney.gov, an independent educational resource.
—–Find a fee-only financial planner. See here for tips on how to find a planner.
—– If your employer doesn’t offer financial planning and retirement seminars, ask your HR department if they will do so if enough employees are interested.
Don’t risk losing a good job or a promotion because you’re so stressed out about finances. Put on your poker face. HR is watching.