Personal Financial Stress Affecting Employee Performance and Retirement Savings Shows SHRM Survey

January 24, 2012

Alexandria, Va. A survey of employer-sponsored financial education initiatives shows that U.S. workers’ money worries are impacting their work performance and retirement savings plans.

The survey from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) asked HR professionals key questions, including, “In the past 12 months, have employees been more likely to dip into their employer-sponsored retirement savings plans compared with previous years?” More than half—55 percent—of HR professionals agreed while 17 percent strongly agreed. A little less than a quarter, or 24 percent, disagreed, and three percent strongly disagreed.

When asked the impact of employees’ personal financial challenges upon work performance, roughly one in five—22 percent—of HR professionals cited a “large impact.” Sixty-one percent noted “some impact” while 16 percent responded, “slight impact.” Only two percent of HR professionals observed “no impact” upon workers.

“The source of money woes is unsurprising but the toll it’s taking on both workers and their employers, in addition to the persistence of the weak economy, are all troubling issues,” said Mark J. Schmit, Ph.D., SPHR, vice president of research at SHRM.

A closer look at the impact on work performance shows that:

  • 47 percent of HR professionals noticed employees’ struggle with their “ability to focus on work”;
  • 46 percent noticed issues with “overall employee stress”;
  • 26 percent observed a negative impact on “overall employee productivity”;
  • 24 percent said money woes are leading to “employee absenteeism and tardiness”;
  • 20 percent are concerned about “overall employee morale”;
  • 12 percent noticed a negative impact on “overall employee health” ; and
  • Seven percent said “working relationships with other employees” are the least impacted.

To understand what employer-sponsored financial education programs need to cover, the survey examined the sources of personal financial stress.

Nearly half—49 percent—of HR professionals said employees are stressed by an “overall lack of monetary funds to cover their personal expenses.”

Some money woes were more specific like “medical expenses” and “saving for retirement” said 35 percent and 26 percent of HR professionals, respectively.

Twenty-two percent of HR professionals attribute worker money woes to “credit card debt” and the same number also cited “home mortgage payments.”

Roughly 12 percent of HR professionals said “education expenses” were causing workers’ financial stress that was noticeable in the workplace. Education expenses include the employee’s own tuition costs, that for dependent children, or other family members.

More than half, 52 percent, of organizations represented in the survey currently provide financial education to their employees. A closer look shows that 79 percent offer access to an employee assistance program that includes financial counseling and resources. Sixty-eight percent provide financial education specific to employer-provided benefits such are retirement, medical insurance, and flexible spending accounts. Nearly half, or 47 percent, offer financial education limited to retirement-related planning.

Among the 52 percent of organizations that teach employees about financial planning, 39 percent cover budgeting, paying for education, debt reduction, credit card use, homeownership, and taxes.

SHRM surveyed 458 randomly selected HR professionals from its membership.

For details, visit the survey section of SHRM Online at

Follow SHRM Research on Twitter @SHRM_Research.

For more news, follow @SHRMPress.

About the Society for Human Resource Management

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) is the world’s largest association devoted to human resource management. Representing more than 250,000 members in over 140 countries, the Society serves the needs of HR professionals and advances the interests of the HR profession. Founded in 1948, SHRM has more than 575 affiliated chapters within the United States and subsidiary offices in China and India. Visit SHRM Online at and follow us on Twitter at



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