Despite some encouraging signs that infections are leveling off, the coronavirus remains a top concern for most Americans. For example, 57 percent of U.S. adults in a new Gallup poll said that they are worried about getting COVID-19, and nearly half (48 percent) fear a severe financial hardship befalling them either directly or indirectly due to the pandemic. Moreover, only 49 percent rate their current finances positively, down from 56 percent last year, and a record 50 percent believe their financial situation is getting worse.
More alarming is that even before the outbreak, many Americans were already regularly dealing with financial stress. An earlier MetLife survey, for instance, found that when asked to list their biggest sources of financial stress, top responses from U.S. workers included being able to afford the cost of healthcare in retirement, outliving their savings, and having to rely primarily on Social Security and Medicare in old age. A 52 percent majority of respondents also said they expect to postpone retirement due to their financial situation, a marked increase from 37 percent in 2015 when this survey series was started.
Although it is encouraging to see people recognize both the importance and challenge of ensuring old-age financial security, near-term money problems have long been another obstacle in the way of preparing retirement. Indeed, two-thirds of respondents in the pre-virus survey already said that being able to cover their monthly bills in the event of a sudden job loss is a major financial concern for them, and the same proportion said that they regularly worry about affording out-of-pocket medical expenses. A separate MetLife survey similarly found that half of employee respondents admitted to being “concerned, anxious, or fearful” about their current financial well-being, and only 38 percent could say they feel in control of their finances.
Thirty percent even reported that they lay awake at night worrying about money, and 23 percent said that they are less productive at work because of their financial concerns. Two-thirds of surveyed employers agreed that their employees are less productive when money problems are brought into the workplace, and 47 percent said that they believe they have some responsibility for the financial well-being of their employees. Forty-two percent of worker respondents shared that belief, and more than half said that the benefits offered by their employer can help them gain peace of mind, relieve financial anxiety, improve productivity, and increase their ability to focus at work.
In fact, 72 percent of surveyed employees described a 401(k) or other retirement plan as a “must-have” benefit. Employers should also take note that 53 percent of worker respondents stated that they would be more loyal to their current employer if financial planning programs were offered as an additional benefit, and 51 percent of surveyed workers similarly expressed that they would be more likely to accept a job with a new employer that did provide access to financial planning programs.
Sources: Gallup, MetLife