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Salary Finance Study Finds More Than 40 percent of American Workers Are Feeling Significant Financial Stress Despite Low Unemployment And High Job Growth
[February 12, 2020]

Salary Finance Study Finds More Than 40 percent of American Workers Are Feeling Significant Financial Stress Despite Low Unemployment And High Job Growth

Even as job growth soars and unemployment shrinks, US workers are drowning in financial stress, according to "Inside The Wallets of Working Americans," the second annual report by Salary Finance, the leading global provider of financial education and salary-linked savings and loans for employees. Financial stress is the number one form of stress for working Americans: more than 40 percent are dealing with it, topping work, health, and relationship stress.

The survey of nearly 3,000 US employees found that the impact of financial stress on American workers is enormous. Employees who are financially stressed are 10 times more likely than those who aren't to struggle to finish daily tasks. Employees' financial issues also affect their mental health. They are six times more likely to experience anxiety and panic attacks, and seven times more likely to be depressed than those without financial stress.

Many Americans are living paycheck to paycheck and relying on high-interest credit or payday loans to make it through pay periods. Thirty percent of Americans regularly run out of money before payday. Interestingly, being financially strapped at payday has very little to do with income: 31 percent of people who make more than $100,000 a year run out of money before payday. Because of that, a growing amount of Americans are turning to high-cost sources of credit like high-interest credit cards, payday loans, and overdraft fees to get by each month. More than 40 percent of working Americans who use credit cards carry more than $3,000 on their balances month to month. Younger generations are struggling more: 30 percent have paid over $100 in overdraft fees in the last year and 15 percent have taken out a high-interest payday loan.

"There's a false narrative in the United States that is worrisome. Economists expect the gross domestic profit (GDP) to increase by one to three percent in 2020, unemployment is 3.5 percent, and 145,000 jobs were added in December," said Dan Macklin, CEO, US, Salary Finance. "While on the surface it looks like smooth sailing for US workers, what's getting overlooked is that the modest increase in wages is not enough to cover rising costs of housing, higher education, and healthcare. Regardless of income, age, or educational background, one thing is clear from our most recent study: Americans are struggling to make ends meet."

Individuals with financial struggles are less productive at work and more likely to seek another job, costing US employers 13 to 18 percent of annual salary cost. Put another way: US employers are paying for a five-day work week but only getting a little more than four days of production from employees.

Most Americans are struggling to save. The majority of Americans save less than $200 a month and more than 10 percent of employed Americans have no savings at all. But businesses can help get their employees on the right track to savings: more than 60 percent of employees responded that having the ability to save through payroll deductions would be of value.

"Businesses have a tremendous opportunity to help employees with their financial wellness," Macklin said. "In spite of the struggles many Americans face, those with financial stress prioritize getting out of debt above everything else and are motivated to save money in the future. Employers can return dignity back to their employees by demonstrating empathy, acknowledging the financial stress their employees are under, and establishing new financial wellness programs that provide their employees with ways of getting out of debt and a better means to deal with those unexpected events that life throws at all of us."

These results are based on a survey of 2,729 Americans currently employed at companies with over 500 employees, conducted by Kantar Financial Services. The respondents are distributed across the US geographically as well as proportionally across 26 industry sectors based on their relative size. The survey ran from November 12, 2019 to December 19, 2019.

To learn more about the report, visit the Salary Finance blog. To download a free copy of the report, please visit

About Salary Finance

Founded in 2015, Salary Finance is an award-winning organization that partners with employers to offer financial wellness solutions that help employees improve their lives by improving their finances. A company underpinned by a social purpose, we're driven by an ambitious mission in the US: to help 10 million Americans out of debt and into savings. Salary Finance is a United Way Worldwide corporate partner and works with over 150 of the world's leading employers. To learn more, please visit

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