Family Financial Stress: Where to Find Help
You don’t have to be poor to experience significant financial stress. Even people with good jobs and substantial salaries can find themselves in situations where their family finances become precarious, setting off a cascade of stressful complications. I grew up in a home where there was substantial financial stress and I know from personal experience exactly how disruptive this can be to a family’s sense of well-being.
According to a recent survey by PwC, nearly a third of employees report being distracted at work by concerns about their personal finances. In addition, nearly half (47%) of those surveyed reported feeling stressed by their financial situation. You may be surprised to learn that employees consider financial worries (40%) more stressful than any other problem. Job stress (21%), health concerns (15%), and relationship problems (15%) were all ranked lower than financial worries.
Less than half of the employees surveyed say they feel confident about being able to retire when they want and nearly two-thirds worry that their retirement plans and Social Security won’t be adequate to support their retirement.
The survey also revealed that among employees with adult children 42% are providing some financial assistance. In addition, nearly one in four employees is providing financial support for parents or in-laws. These employees are more than twice as likely to use credit cards to pay for monthly necessities they couldn’t otherwise afford and to have withdrawn retirement funds for non-retirement purposes.
Fortunately, most full service EAPs offer an array of educational and counseling services (at no cost to the employee) specifically focused on helping employees avoid and/or cope with financial problems. These services include:
Telephonic counseling– Financial counselors and educators provide objective and pressure free advice on consumer debt, budgeting and saving issues.
Community referrals to local financial professionals when face-to-face services are preferred.
Identity theft consultation– Consumer credit counselors help assess, create an action plan and provides tools for employees concerned that their financial identity may have been compromised.
Legal advice– As part of a broader array of EAP legal services, affiliated attorneys can advise employees various on financial matters including consumer fraud, bankruptcy, harassing calls from debt collectors, small claims court matters, etc.
Financial education resources– EAPs typically offer on-line training modules, webinars, calculators, and commonly used legal and financial forms through their website and can help source options for on-site financial training programs.
Research has demonstrated that these EAP financial and legal consultation services are effective in reducing employee stress. In a study using a sample of more than 3200 employees who used their company’s EAP benefit, Dr. Mark Attridge found that 91% of clients who received financial and legal consultation services felt these services were effective and 74% reported that their stress level was reduced.
What if your company does not offer an EAP?
There are many useful financial information resources available from both governmental and private sources:
- www.mymoney.gov is the federal government’s website dedicated to teaching all Americans the basics of financial education.
- www.hopenow.com is a non-profit alliance of housing advocates, mortgage lenders and government agencies which provides free foreclosure prevention assistance and in-depth credit counseling.
- www.debtadvice.org is a service of the National Foundation for Credit Counseling which helps consumers understand the wise use of credit and locate a trained, certified counselor.
- www.360financialliteracy is a volunteer service sponsored by the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants to help Americans understand their personal finances and develop money management skills.
- https://articles.extension.org/personal_finance offers multiple resources on financial matters, the opportunity to ask questions of experts and links to local resources.
Financial stress is a triple threat to family well-being, personal health, and job performance. Employers should make every effort to let employees know that there is help available.
If the pressures of financial stress are making your situation feel hopeless, remember that unbiased, free and effective assistance is available.