Address Your Financial Stress

Most people have a file or a drawer where you shove snippets of paper that you eventually have to dig out to organize your tax information before the end-of-April deadline. You’re hoping (fingers crossed) for a refund to help with your finances — to pay off debt, put some away toward your retirement savings and possibly add to your total income for the year. And we need money, as evidenced by over half of the Canadian population who are stressed about it.

Unless you’re independently wealthy, finances are worrisome. According to pwc’s 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 54% of employees report they’re stressed about their finances. That’s a startling statistic. Consider just one aspect of financial stress: debt. The 2018 Canadian Payroll Association (CPA) survey indicates 94% of respondents carry debt: mortgages (28%), credit cards (18%), car loans (18%) and lines of credit (20%).

But wait, there’s more — lack of emergency (rainy-day) savings. Roughly 20% of working Canadians say they couldn’t come up with $2,000 within a month for an emergency expense, according to the 2018 CPA survey. This is an even more startling statistic.

“If you’re really financially stressed — whether you’re debt burdened or you’re living paycheque-to-paycheque — that infiltrates your mental well-being, your physical well-being,” says Dilys D’Cruz, vice-president of wealth management with Meridian Credit Union. And stress, like our cellphones, goes with us everywhere — especially to the workplace, much to the detriment of employers.

In fact, almost half (49%) of Canadians spend time at work dealing with their personal finances, according to Aon’s 2016 Financial Mindset Study; even worse, 46% say financial stress affects their workplace performance. For example, a recent U.S. Fidelity Investments survey notes that employees with the highest debt levels have twice the absenteeism of those with the lowest debt levels. That means the high-debt employees miss an extra full week of work.

Presenteeism is also an issue. According to Kim Anto, director, retirement, with Willis Towers Watson, “Employees who have both financial worries and health issues are more likely to work longer, after age 70. But if you think about it, they’ll work because they need to — not because they necessarily can.” While it’s not bad to work when you’re older — people are living longer — employers “want to have somebody who’s engaged and in good shape, and is willing to work.”

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