40% of UK employees live payday-to-payday and half overspend each month, straining family relationships

Two-in-five (40%) UK employees say they are living payday-to-payday and have no emergency savings, and nearly a third (29%) have financial problems that are negatively affecting their lives, according to a study of more than 4,000 UK employees by Willis Towers Watson. Women were a third more likely than men to be financially stressed (48% vs 34%), and younger ‘millennial’ workers were nearly three times more likely than older ‘baby boomers’ (56% vs 20%).

The Financial Wellbeing Report, part of the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey, also found that, for those in a relationship, half (50%) said either one or both partners in their household overspends each month. A third (33%) admit that discussing family spending is ‘very stressful’ and over a quarter (27%) say money concerns are causing strained family relations.

Richard Sweetman, UK Financial Wellbeing lead at Willis Towers Watson, said “With wages increasing just 1% per year on average between 2013-2018, and debt increasing at 3.5% per year over the same period, it’s clear that many employees are struggling with budgeting and other essential costs. This can put pressure on personal lives, which in turn can affect people’s performance at work, as well as their mental and physical health.”

The study found that the role employers can play in helping employees manage their finances is increasingly important, particularly among younger workers. Half of the employees surveyed think that their employer should be providing tools to help improve their finances, particularly among millennials (59%), compared to baby boomers (37%).

In a similar trend, half (50%) of millennials said they would trust their employer’s tools more than those found online, compared to just a quarter (26%) of the baby boomers surveyed.

Sweetman said: “Employers have an increasingly important role to play in helping employees to manage their finances by providing tools and access to suitable products and services. In particular this research shows the differing needs of employees of all ages and circumstances, in particular among younger workers who are less financially literate than their older colleagues and clearly looking at their employer to help them in this area.

“The trust that certain groups of employees have in their employer should provide encouragement for further progress in this area. However, employers should still be sensitive to the fact that there are other groups that will find their involvement in personal finance matters intrusive.”

Other notable findings from the Financial Wellbeing report include:

  • Top three financial priorities for employees:
    • 1) Savings 52% 2) Managing spending 42% 3) Paying off debt 38%
  • 60% of ‘financially struggling’ employees would change employer for a 5% pay rise, compared to just a third (33%) of those who are ‘financially unworried’
  • 70% of employees are saving less for retirement than they think they should
  • 66% would be willing to contribute more from their monthly pay for a more generous retirement benefit – up from 53% in 2013
  • Two-thirds (67%) think that their generation will be worse off in retirement than their parents and that state benefits will be less generous when they retire
  • ‘Overspenders’ are twice as likely to be in a relationship with other ‘overspenders’

Jenny has been reporting on small business issues since 2001 where she held a number of freelance positions across the leading SME publications in the UK. Specialist subjects included SME financing and tax.

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