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

Younger workers want more help from their employer to manage their finances

February 12, 2020

Work Transformation|Health and Benefits

London, 11 February 2020 – 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.

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”

Richard Sweetman
UK Wellbeing Lead, Willis Towers Watson

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

About the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey

The Willis Towers Watson 2019/2020 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey measured attitudes of over 40,000 employees at medium and large private sector employees in 27 countries. A total of 4,001 UK workers participated in the survey, which was conducted between July and September 2019.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has 45,000 employees serving more than 140 countries and markets. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at

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