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Survey Finds Three-Quarters of Workers are Living Paycheck to Paycheck

Written by FinFit on April 1st, 2024.
Posted in Press Releases.

Saddled with debt and stuck in a financial rut, workers express interest in employee benefits designed to help them save money and pay down debt.

VIRGINIA BEACH, April 1st, 2024 / HR Dive / — A new survey from FinFit, the most comprehensive financial wellness platform available to U.S. employers, and HR Dive’s studioID has revealed the financial realities of average U.S. workers. The “Inside the Wallets of Working Americans” report shows three out of four workers are living paycheck to paycheck, with minimal savings, mounting debt and increasing anxiety.

“Living paycheck to paycheck is, by definition, going to result in financial stress,” said FinFit Chief Commercial Officer Michael Woodhead. “That’s especially true when workers are faced with unexpected financial shocks.”

This financial stress played out again and again in the survey data. About 60% of respondents said they experienced stress and anxiety when thinking about their finances in the past week. These feelings weren’t contained to workers’ personal lives, many of whom reported spending hours at work thinking about or dealing with financial issues. Thirty-eight percent reported taking days off work to deal with personal finance issues. These findings and many more illustrate the perilous relationship between workers’ finances and business outcomes: Financial stress leads to lower productivity, increased absenteeism and greater carelessness. 

“That’s why employers need to think about how to solve this problem,” Woodhead said. “Workers who are stressed are not as productive because they cannot focus on the minute-to-minute and day-to-day activities that are required for them to execute their job.”

The survey report evidenced the deep-seated financial stress workers face, the hope they hold for the future, the challenges thwarting long-term change and the widespread desire for effective financial tools.

The source of financial stress: The survey illuminated several common struggles faced by the average worker: three out of four respondents considered themselves to be living paycheck to paycheck. If workers were to lose their current income, more than half said they could meet their regular expenses for just a month or less before needing to borrow money. Nearly three-quarters of respondents (72%) said they do not have cash buffers or liquid savings or that their cash buffers or liquid savings add up to less than $5,000. As a result, about 60% of respondents said they experienced worry and stress when thinking about their finances in the past week. Almost half said they’re losing sleep over money.

Workers’ hope for the future: Workers want to improve their finances. Paying off debt was the most popular change desired by respondents, and the runner-up was building up their emergency savings. Nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) said the change they would most like to make in their financial lives would be to start saving or saving more for their retirement. And slightly more than half of respondents (54%) said they regularly contribute to their retirement savings.

Systemic roadblocks: Respondents’ progress is frustrated by cyclical challenges stemming from their lack of savings, forcing them to fall back on adverse borrowing practices. The number one way workers used borrowed money was to pay for household bills and expenses — the most popular choice by 24 percentage points. As workers fight to make ends meet, their long-term goals suffer. More than two-thirds of workers said they do not know whether their savings will suffice for them once they retire. As a result, 53% of respondents said they feel stressed and worried over the state of their retirement savings. 

Need for targeted tools: Survey respondents expressed strong interest in employee benefits designed to help them save money and pay down debt. Among benefits respondents don’t already have, emergency savings accounts and hardship or emergency funds were the most popular by 10 percentage points. 

If employers were to offer the benefits workers desired, large majorities of respondents said they would be:

  • 80%: More likely to stay at their company.
  • 78%: More likely to recommend their company as an employer.
  • 68%: Less likely to seek new roles outside the company.
  • 65%: More engaged in their work.

These findings evidence the widespread demand for financial tools that target workers’ financial pain points. While employer-provided financial benefits have existed for decades, they have failed to account for workers’ needs.

“Most employer-provided financial tools presume that the problem is solely employee behavior,” Woodhead said. “The tools that have been provided are often offered with an aura of judgment. ‘You need to do better, and when you do better, you’ll be less financially stressed.’ Employees often feel talked down to because the problem is presumed to be a misalignment of behaviors and lack of financial literacy.”

However, he added that it’s encouraging to see more employers start to look beyond the status quo and toward more concrete, action-oriented solutions like FinFit.

To delve more deeply into the state of workers’ finances, download the report.

About the Survey

FinFit collaborated with HR Dive’s studioID to field an online, invitation-only survey in January 2024. It polled 1,200 U.S. workers, ages 18 to 65, who work at least 17 hours per week. The survey consisted of a mixed use of multiple-choice, Likert-scale and matrix questions to understand the financial realities of average U.S. workers. 

Survey respondents were fairly evenly split between women (54%) and men (46%), and most respondents (81.1%) were employed full-time at one job (35+ hours per week). The remaining were employed part-time at one job (more than 17 hours per week) (9.3%), self-employed at one job (more than 17 hours per week) (7.3%) or work multiple jobs or are employed as gig workers (more than 17 hours per week) (2.3%). Most respondents earned $55,00-$69,999 (46%) or $70,000-$84,999 (28%) annually, and all respondents earned less than $200,000. Respondents were primarily 35-44 years old (34%), 25-34 years old (29%), 45-54 years old (21%), 55-65 years old (10%) and 18-24 years old (6%). Most respondents hold undergraduate degrees (26%) or graduate degrees (25%), and the remaining respondents have high school diplomas/GEDs (25%), community college associate degrees (18%), PhDs or higher (2%) or other vocational/work-related qualifications (4%).

About FinFit: FinFit’s mission is to provide a financial safety net for the American workforce. Established in 2008, FinFit serves over 185,000 US employers reaching over 10 million workers. The platform includes a personalized financial assessment, premier educational resources, online money management tools, financial coaching, credit and loan solutions, and a member rewards program. Focus on creating positive, healthy financial behaviors and products to support behavioral change has proven to reduce financial stress and increase employee retention by more than 25%.

Media Contact:
Phil LeClare
Public Relations