Employees improved all areas of their personal finances last year, according to a study by El Segundo, Calif.-based Financial Finesse, but many are concerned they haven't saved enough to retire.

"Employees are the shining light of this recovery," says Liz Davidson, the founder and CEO of Financial Finesse, a company that provides personalized financial education and counseling programs to over 500,000 employees at more over 400 organizations. "They are making far more progress than the economy as a whole, creating personal recoveries for themselves amidst what is proving to be a slow economic recovery."

According to the study, calls to the company’s Financial Helpline about retirement planning jumped to 24% from 15% in 2009, while calls about debt dropped to 16% from 21% and calls about cash management fell to 14% from 17%. 

There was a slight increase in the number of employees reporting “no financial stress” and a decrease in those reporting high or overwhelming stress, to 32% from 33% in 2009. More employees, 51%, reported paying off credit cards in full each month, up from 44% . 

Forty-eight percent reported having an emergency fund, up from 41%. Sixty-four percent said they spend less than they make each month, up from 57% in 2009.

Davidson said that she believes employees are beginning to focus and prioritize, after overcoming the panic of recent years. The recession was a wake-up call, she said, that led to better habits for many.

“Once good habits form, the chances of lasting behavioral change go way up. That’s what we think we’re seeing among the more motivated employees who use our services — a changing view about money and its role in their lives.”

Davidson said, however, that employees continue to be “grossly underprepared for retirement,” with over 82% reporting that they are not on track to meet their retirement goals.

"Employees are on the right path, but much more change is needed in order for us to avoid a retirement crisis that will come to a head as more baby boomers near retirement age with insufficient assets to retire," she said. "After health care, the second most pressing topic for most HR and benefits managers is the cost of employees delaying retirement.”

Trisha Brambley, the president of fiduciary consulting firm Resources for Retirement, said that delayed retirement is becoming a big concern among investment committees responsible for 401(k) plans.

Davidson said: "Imagine the impact of millions of baby boomers delaying retirement. This has the potential to devastate an already fragile job market since fewer retirees means fewer job openings. It will induce more costs for U.S. companies and hugely impact our economy. It will literally affect everyone."

Ehrenfeld writes for Financial Planning magazine, a SourceMedia publication.

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