Americans aren’t able to save for their financial goals, and that stress is affecting their emotional and physical well-being.
A new study by Guardian Life Insurance found that financial outlook is the most significant driver of working Americans’ overall well-being, constituting 40% of the insurance company’s Workforce Well-Being Index, and money is cited as the No. 1 source of stress for a majority of workers.
“Even among people working full-time with benefits, many still do not have access to adequate insurance coverage or retirement plans,” says Dave Mahder, vice president and chief marketing officer of Guardian’s Group and Worksite Markets business. “And few take advantage of the health and wellness programs available through their employers, which often contain a much broader menu of resources than workers realize.”
Millennials are one of the subsets of employees who do participate in benefits that can help alleviate financial stress, the survey found.
“Millennials want marketing to them,” says Gene Lanzoni, assistant vice president of thought leadership for Guardian Life. “It’s not enough these days to say, “This is someone like you,” to do with your benefit selection. That’s what the challenge is for millennials. It’s not enough of an engaging process for them.”
Half of millennials surveyed in Guardian Life’s “Fourth Annual Guardian Workplace Benefits Study” said they don’t have disability insurance, while a third have yet to sign up for a retirement plan.
They are not the only group of employees struggling to purchase voluntary benefits like disability and life insurance; single working parents are also feeling the heat.
One in three single working parents does not have a retirement plan, compared to 20% of the 1,439 workers surveyed. Similarly, one in four workers doesn’t have life insurance, and one in three workers doesn’t have disability insurance, according to the survey.
“Many of those working parents are struggling to balance work and personal life, and they may not be able to afford some of the protection products,” says Lanzoni. “Some of that discretionary income might not go toward paying a voluntary disability plan.”
To offset expenses, Americans are increasingly turning to debt, whether through loans or credit cards, to temporarily relieve their financial burdens.
Four in 10 Americans have car loans, 32% of workers are carrying a mortgage, 17% have student loans and 12% have home improvement debt, according to the study. Overall, 75% of Americans are carrying debt.
Non-mortgage debt — particularly auto and education loans — contributes to lower financial wellness; those carrying the most total debt, including mortgages and rent, report considerably lower overall well-being, according to Guardian Life’s report.
Employers can also help alleviate the burden by providing education to employees, among other services, says Lanzoni.
The survey found that employer-sponsored voluntary insurance products and college tuition or loan repayment programs help with financial wellness, as well as employee assistance programs that can identify financial, emotional and physical issues that lead to stress.
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