Wellness Barometer Study

New Study: 64% of Workers Say Financial Stress Has Impacted Relationships and Nearly Three-Quarters Have Passed Up Social Opportunities Due to It

BrightPlan 2023 Wellness Barometer Survey reveals financial stress has skyrocketed amid economic uncertainty, affecting employee well-being and organizational success

San Jose, CA, May 4, 2023 – BrightPlan, a leader in Total Financial Wellness, today announced the results of its third annual Wellness Barometer Survey on the state of workforce well-being. Among the survey’s key findings is that an overwhelming 92% of employees are stressed about their finances. And leaders are by no means immune — 76% of the C-suite and HR leaders report financial stress. This high level of stress is impacting employees’ overall well-being and productivity, potentially costing U.S. employers nearly $200 billion annually.*

A majority of those dealing with financial stress say it has worsened their mental and physical health (72% and 60%, respectively), and 64% say it’s impacted their social well-being (i.e., their relationships with friends and family). 72% of respondents have passed up opportunities to spend time with family, friends, and co-workers because they couldn’t afford to, skipping important events like weddings and birthdays or turning down invitations to get drinks or food.

Uncertain economic conditions are a top source of financial stress, with both employees and leaders concerned about:

  • High inflation (96%)
  • A potential recession (93%)
  • Rising interest rates (90%)
  • Market volatility (89%)

These concerns are reflected in a notable shift in how leaders rank their biggest people-related challenges this year. Supporting the holistic well-being of employees emerged as a top challenge, along with career growth and development (both 53%). This is in stark contrast to the challenges facing leaders a year ago when attracting and retaining talent and engaging employees topped the list.

Cost of Financial Stress
In addition to impacting employees’ health, financial stress is negatively affecting people’s engagement (50%) and productivity (48%) at work. Respondents say, on average, they lose over one day of work per week due to financial stress, which potentially costs U.S. employers nearly $200 billion annually.*

Notably, the C-suite and HR leaders are significantly more likely than employees to say financial stress has worsened their productivity at work, with C-suite reporting an average loss of 16.8 hours per week and HR leaders reporting 12.4 hours per week.

“The impact of financial stress on people’s mental and physical health is well-established, but few studies have examined how this can affect our relationships and our social health,” said Marthin De Beer, founder and CEO, BrightPlan. “Employers need to recognize that when workers are stressed about their finances, this carries over into all aspects of their well-being, which ultimately affects their performance and engagement at work.”

Financial Preparedness is Low
The survey points to an overall poor state of financial well-being and low financial preparedness. Most respondents (85%) have debt, and 48% have more debt than is manageable. Over a third have no emergency savings or only enough for up to 2 months, and 52% are only setting aside less than 10% of their income each year for retirement, or nothing at all.

Low financial literacy is partly to blame. However, the survey revealed that most people don’t realize their financial knowledge is lacking. Just 18% of respondents answered at least 4 out of 5 basic financial literacy questions correctly, yet 73% think their financial literacy is “high” or “very high.”

Benefits Utilization is a Problem
Although 95% of leaders agree that their company should offer financial wellness benefits, almost three-quarters of employees are not satisfied with the financial benefits available to them and many aren’t using them. Other than retirement matching (used by 87% of employees who have this benefit) and company stock options (used by 58%), less than half of employees use any of their other financial benefits.

“By not using their benefits, workers are missing out on important opportunities to improve their financial situation,” said Dan Schawbel, managing partner, Workplace Intelligence. “Employers need to upgrade the quality of these benefits, and they also need to ensure people know what’s available to them. For most of the financial benefits we asked about, we found that around 1 out of 4 employees have no idea if their company even offers them.”

Employer Trust is Declining
When it comes to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I), 81% of respondents say their company is doing a good job. However, feelings of trust, safety and belonging are dwindling. Only 63% of workers trust HR and upper management (down from 83% in 2022) and 64% believe that their organization places more importance on profits than employee well-being.

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