Photographer: Scott Eells/Bloomberg

More Americans Are Worried About Their Finances

Despite record market highs, low wage increases and rising debt have U.S. workers on edge, a new survey finds.

Many more U.S. workers now report being dissatisfied with their financial situation than they did just two years ago, according to a new survey by global advisory firm Willis Towers Watson. Only 35 percent of employees said they were satisfied with their finances in 2017, a significant slide from the 48 percent who said the same in the 2015 version of the biennial survey.

Against a backdrop of stock market gains, low unemployment, and generally high consumer confidence, the big drop came as a surprise, said Willis Towers Watson senior economist Steve Nyce. After digging deeper into the survey of  5,000 workers at large employers, Nyce concluded that a long trend of low wage increases and rising consumer debt, paired with lackluster savings, has workers feeling “more out on the edge than they did in 2015.”

Source: Willis Towers Watson

Among those making more than $100,000, 13 percent said they are struggling financially, compared with 41 percent for those making less than $50,000. Fears of losing health-care coverage may come into play today, Nyce said, but the larger issue he sees is the frustration of middle-class Americans about their inability to get ahead financially.

Other notable results from the survey: 

  • Fifty-one percent of employees reported suffering a "significant financial event" in the past two years. Thirty percent of those who experienced such a financial shock said they had a significant medical expense.
  • In 2017, 34 percent of workers said their current financial worries negatively affects their lives, compared with just 21 percent in 2015.
  • Ten percent of workers in the latest survey reported having taken a loan from their 401(k), and 6 percent have made a permanent hardship withdrawal. 

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