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Press Release

Despite improvement in their financial wellbeing, U.S. workers remain worried

Willis Towers Watson survey finds nearly two in five employees live paycheck to paycheck, lack emergency savings

February 11, 2020


ARLINGTON, VA, February 11, 2020 — U.S. employees’ financial wellbeing has improved, but many still live paycheck to paycheck, overspend and remain worried over the future state of their finances. The fallout from these financial problems leads to a broad set of issues that negatively affect many workers’ lives. These findings are according to a survey of 8,000 U.S. employees by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company.

The Global Benefits Attitudes Survey found 43% of U.S. workers are satisfied with their financial situation, an increase from 35% in 2017. Employee satisfaction with their finances has now recovered to levels seen between 2011 and 2015. Additionally, four in 10 (42%) say their financial situation has improved over the past two years, and nearly six in 10 (58%) believe their finances are heading in the right direction. However, the survey revealed some worrisome findings:

  • 38% of employees live paycheck to paycheck.
  • 39% of employees could not come up with $3,000 if an unexpected need arose within the next month.
  • 18% of employees making more than $100,000 annually live paycheck to paycheck.
  • 70% of employees are saving less for retirement than they think they should.
  • 32% of employees have financial problems that negatively affect their lives.
  • 64% of employees believe their generation is likely to be much worse off in retirement than that of their parents.

“Financial health is not just about income. The impact of financial problems on employees’ health and stress, even for those who aren’t living paycheck to paycheck, is unmistakeable,” said Steve Nyce, senior economist, Willis Towers Watson. “Many employees are struggling with their financial situation even as the job market and economic conditions improve. Some employees struggle to pay for their basic needs, including health care, while others are falling behind in saving for retirement. No matter the source, financial stress has a negative impact on their lives, underscored by hampering their ability to perform effectively at work.”

Financial stress is having a negative effect on employee productivity, engagement and health. This is especially true among “struggling” employees, identified as those who live paycheck to paycheck and have difficulty controlling spending. About one-fourth (27%) of respondents are classified as struggling. Among struggling employees, four in 10 (39%) said money concerns keep them from doing their best at work. Roughly half of struggling employees (49%) reported suffering from stress, anxiety or depression over the past two years, compared with just 16% of employees without any financial worries. And only 39% of struggling employees were fully engaged at work.

Employers’ role in helping employees

The survey also found that providing employees with tools and resources can help boost their financial wellbeing. Seven in 10 employees (69%) who were given the most access to several tools and resources (four or more) said their finances are heading in the right direction versus just 51% who had no access to tools. Similarly, two-thirds (66%) of workers with the most access to financial management resources said these resources met their needs, compared to 39% with less access to resources. Nearly as many (64%) respondents with the most access said the resources encouraged them to improve their financial situation versus 40% with just some access to tools or resources.

“We believe, with the right actions and insights, employers can help lower the financial risks that workers face. Access to the appropriate benefits and decision tools is a great start. These employer resources should include supportive social connections, such as coworkers and family, all of which can help employees keep and enjoy more of their money and, ultimately, improve wellbeing,” concluded Shane Bartling, senior director, Retirement, Willis Towers Watson.

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 companies in 27 countries. A total of 8,000 U.S. 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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