Are your employees financially stressed?

by Iain Hopkins25 Aug 2016
Death and taxes may be the only two certainties in life, but it seems for the majority of Australians there’s a third contender: financial stress. Financial Fitness of Working Australians, a survey of 1,617 employees conducted by Map My Plan, shows that 48% of working Australians are worried about their financial situation. Headline statistics include:
  • Personal finance is a major cause of stress for one in three working Australians
  • Personal finances keep 23% of working Australians up at night
  • Only people on an annual salary of $150,000+ report a slightly lower level of financial stress
When asked how much time per week Australians think about or deal with personal financial affairs at work, the answer equates to 9.55% of their working hours.

  • 39% spend 2+ hours per week (with 26% spending 3+ hours per week)
  • Gen Y spend on average of 4+ hours per working week worrying about money
Purely in terms of dollar value, personal financial stress costs every employer (in terms of lost salary) an average of $5,202 per employee, per year. This figure is even higher for government employees at $5,749 per employee, per year.
“There’s a wide range of issues people are concerned about but for a lot of people they’re really worried about basic things like having emergency savings – how long will they last if they’re sick or they lose their job,” says Gavin Glozier, co-founder of Your Wealth Hub, who adds that the average amount of emergency savings for most people is just $3,000 (for others it’s as little as $1,000).
Other employees have concerns based on stage of life: some are concerned about retirement planning; others are looking to save to buy a home or have a family. Others are coping with large debts (see end of article).
Where do employers fit in?
While there are clear productivity issues associated with financial stress, Map My Plan research indicates only 13% of employers are offering any type of financial wellbeing services. Nineteen per cent offer advice on retirement planning – mainly by inviting representatives of superannuation funds to provide seminars. However, 56% of employees are interested in employer sponsored financial wellbeing programs.
“There is a significant gap in what is being provided by employers and what employees are seeking,” says Paul Feeney, ‘chief mapper’ at Map My Plan. “Our meetings with many companies revealed that they place a high priority on the independence of the content and advice that their employees would receive in a financial wellbeing program.”
There are limits and restrictions on the type of advice employers can offer, especially when it comes to superannuation (see HRD’s superannuation feature in this issue) – and Glozier recommends employers always advise employees to seek the assistance of qualified financial advisors as early as possible. He concedes it’s a fine line between providing support and services and giving advice. “First and foremost the line is drawn as soon as you give an opinion around what someone should do with their finances. It’s being able to be that person who can guide employees to get help with whichever party is applicable,” he says.
While it’s now commonplace for employers to offer financial counselling via EAPs, a range of dedicated financial wellness options are also available.

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