If there’s one thing that most employees will have in common, it’s the experience of worrying about money. Even those whose current situation is comfortable will almost certainly have been through periods of poor financial wellbeing in the past or may do so in future. Because financial wellbeing isn’t just about how much money you have. It’s also about how secure, confident and empowered you feel financially.
That’s partly because financial decisions almost always have an emotional aspect, says Harriet Shepherd, Workplace Financial Wellbeing Manager at St. James’s Place Wealth Management. “Everything that might be a money worry is linked to something else in your personal life. For example, wanting to buy a house might be linked to a personal relationship or to a desire to feel secure, so it’s a financial decision that isn’t just about finances.”
Incomes and life events
The pandemic has invariably had a big impact on financial wellbeing. Those in the highest income brackets were more likely than people on lower incomes to report that the pandemic was negatively impacting their working life and their working relationships, according to recent findings by the Office for National Statistics (ONS)1.
However, those in the lowest income bracket were more likely to report negative impacts to personal wellbeing. A separate ONS study found that 35% of UK adults who reported being unable to afford an unexpected expense of £850 experienced depressive symptoms in early 2021, compared with 13% of adults who were able to afford this expense2.
“Those people are the most financially vulnerable, and it’s hard to get out of,” says Shepherd. “Trying to navigate the financial implications of a decrease in household income, perhaps due to redundancy, illness, bereavement or injury, especially if you don’t have protection, is very difficult.”
Curveballs and complexities
Financial wellbeing can also be undermined by family circumstances, such as where others are dependent on you. For those in the so-called ‘sandwich generation’, this can mean having to support elderly parents as well as their own children. “That can be a huge cause of stress, especially when it comes to matters such as care for elderly parents. There’s a big emotional aspect that you’re having to deal with.” says Shepherd. “These circumstances are often so massive that you’ll only go through them once or twice, so it’s not like you will have learned how to deal with it before.”
That extends to the decisions made in relation to retirement, given the challenge of having to make pension savings last for as long as you need them to. “The first worry is trying to define what you need, and the second is working out how and if you’re going to achieve it,” says Shepherd. “That’s a big concern for a lot of people, as well as the worry that you might run out.”
Someone to turn to
When you add potential financial challenges relating to debt, unstable incomes, housing costs and unexpected bills to the impact of events such as redundancy, bereavement and global pandemics, it’s no wonder that financial wellbeing is such a universal concern.
It’s also in the interest of employers to help their employees with those challenges. Of the 94% of employees who admit they worry about money, more than three quarters say those concerns affect them at work, with inevitable implications for their performance and productivity3.
“With all of these financial challenges, it’s important to realise that someone is there to provide support,” says Shepherd. “We help our clients navigate their finances through the different life events and circumstances, with a view to ensuring they are in the best position they can be.”
For those dealing with debts, there’s also a range of free support available from the likes of the Money Advice Service and the StepChange Debt Charity. “The sooner you consider any of these possible financial situations, the easier it will be to deal with it,” Shepherd concludes.
1 Office for National Statistics, Personal and economic well-being in Great Britain: May 2021 (Opinions and Lifestyle Survey – sample size: 4,000 to 4,500 individuals per week achieved)
2 Office for National Statistics, Coronavirus and depression in adults, Great Britain: January to March 2021 (Opinions and Lifestyle Survey – sample size: 4,000 to 4,500 individuals per week achieved)
3 Close Brothers, Financial Wellbeing Index, 2019 (Reproduced with permission from Close Brothers (based on surveys conducted among 1,003 employers with 200 or more employees, and 5,003 employees from companies with 200 or more employees)