As Congress pushes the debt ceiling debate farther down the road, Americans’ personal finances are worse than ever. According to a new survey by the Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation, only 24% of respondents say they have “little financial stress.” That leaves 76% who would likely benefit from a financial education plan at work. According to PFEEF, a workplace financial fitness program can not only improve productivity, but also boost morale and company loyalty.

Although the current number of financially stressed-out Americans may be at an all-time high, Judith Cohart, an expert on financial education in the workplace and president of PFEEF, says one way to reduce financial stress is to help employers have a conversation with employees about taking care of their finances. Even the simplest education plan that uses questionnaires and other personalized tools can make a difference, according to PEEFE. “When people are financially competent, everyone benefits,” Cohart says.

The last time the non-profit organization, which provides and promotes financial education in the workplace, did a similar survey was in 2004 — before the Great Recession. At that time, 42% of Americans surveyed said that they had “little financial stress.”  Adds Cohart, “One of the things that the financial crisis made us acutely aware of is that so many people are living on the edge.”

PFEEF cites publishing powerhouse Meredith Corporation as a success story for the benefits of workplace financial education. Levels of high financial stress reported by employees who used a PEEFE financial education product dropped from 21.9% in 2010 to 12.9% in 2011.

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