While the economy has steadily improved over the past five years employees are still experiencing a great deal of financial stress.

A report on stress by Financial Finesse found that more than half of working moms between the ages of 30 and 55, who make less than $60,000 a year, experience high or overwhelming levels of financial stress.

Only 23% of all employees that completed a financial wellness assessment in 2014 and 40% of similar-aged male parents in the same income group claimed to be that financially stressed.

“While it’s no surprise to any working mother that juggling competing financial needs is stressful, small steps over time can create financial balance for families at any income level,” says Liz Davidson, CEO of Financial Finesse.

Also see: Female-focused benefits education can transform women’s health, retirement outcomes

Davidson recommends building an emergency fund over time, tracking expenses to find ways to save and pay down high-interest debt and taking full advantage of employer-sponsored benefits at work.

In Financial Finesse’s 2015 Financial Stress Report, a person’s stress levels varied by employee demographics.

Twenty-six percent of men under the age of 30 reported that they have no financial stress at all. Women were more likely to report high levels of financial stress than men. Age is also a contributing factor, along with income and whether a person has children or not.

“There have been so many changes in health care on the employee benefits level that people feel general pressure to understand new plans, high deductibles, HSAs and do they need to carry more of the health care costs,” says Cynthia Meyer, a chartered financial analyst and certified financial planner who heads up workplace financial education at Financial Finesse. “Americans in general and employees are still carrying high levels of debt. That has a cascading effect. …Those with overwhelming stress are not managing their cash flow as optimally as they can be.”

Also see: New benefits help employees shed their debt weight

Employers can help financially stressed employees by providing unbiased workplace financial wellness programs that offer an opportunity to learn practical money skills, Davidson says.

“Employers can offer workshops, webcasts, an online financial wellness center and one-on-one financial coaching to help simplify financial complexities and help busy employees get the most out of their benefits,” she says. “A workplace-based financial wellness program saves busy parents time and has been proven to reduce financial stress as well as create a sense of loyalty between employee and employer.”

Financial Finesse believes the workplace is the best place to reach women who are stressed about their finances because the study showed that women are more likely to take advantage of workplace financial wellness programs.

“What we see in the corporate financial wellness space is that the more touches an employee has with a financial wellness program, the more likely they are to make significant changes over time,” says Meyer. That means attending seminars, taking a financial wellness assessment or using online tools such as retirement income calculators.

Also see: Aetna makes financial wellness part of its culture

Lower income employees have seen great progress in the areas of debt management and cash flow management because of their participation in a workplace wellness program, she said.

The main thing employees should do to lower their financial stress is to build up an emergency fund that can pay for at least three to six months of expenses, she said.

“People need an emergency fund. That is the first line of defense. People working in the corporate world generally have health insurance but everybody has a situation where their car breaks down or they have an unexpected dentist bill that can set off a cascading effect of debt,” she said.

Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver.

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