Work and Money and Stress

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a new report entitled Financial wellness at work. The purpose of the report is to highlight the value of employers implementing financial wellness programs in their workplace. As noted in the report:

The American Psychological Association has been conducting its “Stress in America” survey since 2007. A 2014 online poll of 1,950 adults conducted by Harris Interactive found money is the top source of stress for the nation, cited by 71% of respondents. That is closely followed by work (69%) and the economy (59%). Another way to look at these results is that the top stress factors all converge in the workplace.

That makes a lot of sense. Money is stressful because a lot – if not all – of our basic human needs are tied in one way or another to money. We need money to eat. We need money to feel safe. A lot of us (rightly or wrongly) tend to tie money to our feelings of belonging and self-esteem.

So money, and the ability to generate and access money, really impacts us on an instinctive level. If we don’t have money, how will we manage? How will we live?

That fear creates a domino effect. If money worries you, then of course the economy would worry you; of course work would be stressful. Work is where the money comes from. A bad economy puts your job at risk, which puts your money at risk.

That fear and stress is understandable and common, but unfortunately, it’s also destructive.

First and foremost, persistent stress is terrible for your health. Per doctors at the Mayo Clinic, long-term activation of the body’s stress-response system puts you at increased risk of:

  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • Digestive problems
  • Heart disease
  • Sleep problems
  • Weight gain
  • Memory and concentration impairment

Financial stress is also incredibly distracting. According to the CFPB’s report, over 60% of human resources professionals admit that financial stress has a negative impact on the work performance of their employees.

Financial wellness in the workplace

Money isn’t stressful simply because it’s important. Money is stressful because it’s important and we aren’t completely sure how to protect it. Or, more accurately, we can imagine a nearly infinite number of risks associated with money, but we aren’t sure what to do if those risks come to bear. What steps do we take? Where do we turn?

We’re aware of the potential problems, but not of the solutions. So we worry and that worrying hurts our health, our personal relationships, and our ability to effectively do our jobs.

The idea behind employer-sponsored financial wellness programs is that they provide answers to those What do I do if…? questions. By providing employees with the knowledge and tools necessary to handle their finances effectively – in good times and bad – employers help reduce the amount of stress and anxiety in the workplace. And that’s good for both employees and their employers.

According to the CFPB’s report, at least 57 percent of employers surveyed believe that financial education has a direct, positive impact on employee productivity. Additionally, in 2012, one out of every five employees admitted to skipping work at least once due to financial problems. Logically, financial education would help reduce that number significantly.

It’s almost impossible to properly quantify the potential dollar value of a financial wellness program, but in considering the impact of comprehensive health wellness programs, which many employers currently offer, experts pin the return on investment for employers to be between $1 to $3 or more per dollar invested. Which means, for every dollar a company invests in promoting the health of its employees it receives at least $1 dollar back in increased productivity. So, in a worst case scenario, these health-centered wellness program pay for themselves, and in a best case scenario, they pay significant dividends.

Health wellness and financial wellness are not the same thing, obviously, but it’s hard to look at the success of these healthcare programs and not see the clear potential return on investment that financial wellness programs offer.

Push for progress

If you’re an employee at a company without a financial wellness program, push to add financial wellness to your current list of benefits. And if you’re an employer, consider the potential return on investment of a company-wide financial wellness program.

When everyone understands how to confidently manage their money we all benefit.

Jesse Campbell is the Content Manager at MMI, focused on creating and delivering valuable educational materials that help families through everyday and extraordinary financial challenges.

  • The Consumer Federation of America (CFA) is an association of nonprofit consumer organizations that was established in 1968 to advance the consumer interest through research, advocacy, and education. Today, nearly 300 of these groups participate in the federation and govern it through their representatives on the organization's Board of Directors.

  • Since 2007, the Homeownership Preservation Foundation (HPF) has served as a trusted, neutral source of information for more than eight million homeowners. They are partnered with, and endorsed by, numerous major government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of the Treasury.

  • The mission of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is to create strong, sustainable, inclusive communities and quality affordable homes for all. HUD works to strengthen the housing market in order to bolster the economy and protect consumers; meet the need for quality affordable rental homes; utilize housing as a platform for improving quality of life; and build inclusive and sustainable communities free from discrimination.

  • The Council on Accreditation (COA) is an international, independent, nonprofit, human service accrediting organization. Their mission is to partner with human service organizations worldwide to improve service delivery outcomes by developing, applying, and promoting accreditation standards.

  • The National Foundation for Credit Counseling® (NFCC®), founded in 1951, is the nation’s largest and longest-serving nonprofit financial counseling organization. The NFCC’s mission is to promote the national agenda for financially responsible behavior, and build capacity for its members to deliver the highest-quality financial education and counseling services.