Financially Stressed Employees Not Ready for Change

Research from the Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation (PFEEF) indicates that while employees often experience stress caused by financial issues, many have no plans to attempt to resolve these problems in the coming months.

PFEEF researchers surveyed employees in companies and government agencies in Montana and Wyoming to determine which financial topics caused them stress. Of those who responded, 22 percent reported retirement planning as most stressful, 21 percent reported debt management and 15 percent reported budgeting.

When asked if they intended to seek information about resolving the stressful topic within the next 6 months, however, approximately 50 percent said no.

"According to a leading change theory, the Transtheoretical Model of Change, these employees are in the pre-contemplation stage," said Jing Xiao, Ph.D., of University of Rhode Island. He explained this means that some employees believe if they don’t think about the problem, it will go away.

Others may be in denial, fear failure or assume the challenge is too difficult. George Haynes, Ph.D., of Montana State University commented that these employees “are hiding their heads in the sand."

Taking Action

According to researchers at PFEEF and TwoMedicine Health & Financial Fitness, asking employees to pinpoint financial topics that cause financial distress does not mean they are ready to change their situations.

"A crucial first step for employers with financial education programs is to help employees identify barriers that are keeping them from getting help with financial worries," explained PFEEF Director of Research Aimee Prawitz, Ph.D.

Next, offer employees assistance to change their financial behaviors. Taking action now could help prevent additional problems from developing. According to Pete Shatwell, the director of TwoMedicine Health & Financial Fitness, the stress from financial struggles could affect an employee’s well-being, and even create health concerns.

PFEEF President E. Thomas Garman offered his own advice for employers. "Don't just give employees a raise,” he said, “also give them easy access to quality financial programs that can change behaviors.”

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