Press Release

Canadian employees’ financial well-being falters, Willis Towers Watson survey finds

Biennial survey reveals increase in employees who say financial problems are negatively impacting their lives

November 29, 2017
| Canada

TORONTO, ON, November 29, 2017 — The financial well-being of Canadian employees reversed direction this year according to a new survey by Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ:WLTW), a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company. The biennial survey also revealed a large increase in the number of employees who say their financial woes are negatively affecting their lives and who are worried about their future financial situation.

The 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey found that less than half of Canadian workers (44%) were satisfied with their financial situation this year, a decline from 55% just two years ago. The survey also found that almost a third of Canadian workers (30%) now believe their current financial concerns are negatively affecting their lives, compared with just 18% two years ago. Additionally, a majority of employees (53%) are worried about their future financial state. Two years ago, just under a half (46%) were worried about their future finances.

“The ongoing financial worries that stress many employees are taking a toll,” said Ofelia Isabel, Canadian DC Business Co-Leader at Willis Towers Watson. “We know from our research that 2 out of every 5 Canadian workers (44%) have experienced a major financial event in the past two years, such as divorce, or a significant medical expense; or have had to borrow money from a friend or family member or use a payday loan. These factors, combined with growing debt and low wage growth, are leading to heightened worker angst.”

The worsening financial well-being is also having a negative effect on employees’ performance. The research shows that financial worries affect employee’s productivity, engagement and health, with the struggling, identified in the research as those worried about their short- and long-term finances, performing the worst in these areas. Almost a quarter (23%) of the Canadian employees surveyed identified themselves as struggling.

Among these struggling employees, 43% said money concerns were keeping them from doing their best at work. Higher levels of absenteeism were found among struggling employees. Additionally, seven in 10 (72%) of struggling employees reported high or above average stress levels while 33% described their health as poor. Only 29% of these employees were fully engaged at work compared with 42% of employees without any worries who were fully engaged. There is a clear connection to good health. Employees without money worries reported better physical condition, with only 14% saying they were in poor health and 36% reporting above average or high stress levels.

“Employers understand that financial worries, which are linked to stress, can have a negative impact on their employees’ personal and work lives. And there is an array of service providers and technology solutions available for employers to offer to employees on personal financial issues. The research provides powerful clues as to why many of these approaches are under-utilized and how we can do better,” said Wendy Poirier, Canadian Health and Group Benefits Growth Leader at Willis Towers Watson.

In fact, about half of employees (48%) would like their employers to offer tools that provide suggestions on how they can improve their financial situation. However, in a note of caution, 57% say it’s not the role of an employer to send personalized messages to employees who are facing important financial decisions.

“While employees are eager for their employers to provide support and technology, they are wary of personalized outreach. The take-away for employers is that they need to gauge the extent to which they have permission to take a more active role in employees’ personal financial well-being. Workers are saying there is a distinct line between personalized tools where the interaction is controlled by the employee, and personalized messages that can seem intrusive,” said Poirier.

Among other findings from the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey:

  • Just over half (52%) of Canadian workers are confident they’ll have enough financial resources to live comfortably 25 years into retirement. 62% are confident they’ll have enough resources 15 years in retirement. Both figures are down from 2015.
  • Only 28% of employees do budgeting on a regular basis. Providing tools that could be valuable for the 72% who don’t budget should be a key objective.
  • Two in five respondents (40%) report that they are living paycheck to paycheck. This figure rises to 78% for struggling employees.
  • Half (52%) of struggling workers over age 50 don’t expect to be able to retire before reaching their 70s, compared to 14% for employees without money worries.

About the Global Benefits Attitudes Survey

The Willis Towers Watson 2017 Global Benefits Attitudes Survey measured attitudes of over 31,000 employees from medium and large private-sector companies in 22 countries. A total of 1,349 Canadian workers participated in the survey, which was conducted in July and August 2017.

About Willis Towers Watson

Willis Towers Watson (NASDAQ: WLTW) is a leading global advisory, broking and solutions company that helps clients around the world turn risk into a path for growth. With roots dating to 1828, Willis Towers Watson has more than 40,000 employees serving more than 140 countries. We design and deliver solutions that manage risk, optimize benefits, cultivate talent, and expand the power of capital to protect and strengthen institutions and individuals. Our unique perspective allows us to see the critical intersections between talent, assets and ideas — the dynamic formula that drives business performance. Together, we unlock potential. Learn more at willistowerswatson.com.