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The high cost of worrying about money

A new survey reveals that a lot of workers spend a good portion of their day too worried about finances to be productive.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 21, 2013 4:27PM

This post comes from Kimberly Palmer at partner site U.S. News & World Report.

MSN Money partnerIf money worries are getting you down, you might want to figure out how to release some of that tension. A new survey suggests that financial worries eat up a substantial portion of one’s day -- and that, in turn, can be a costly distraction from work.

Image: Woman with computer (© Jose Luis Pelaez/Getty Images/Getty Images)In a survey of more than 1,000 people, the McGraw Hill Federal Credit Union found that 36% of respondents said they spend at least two hours a day either worrying about their finances or handling them. (The survey took place in the spring just before taxes were due, which might account for such a large portion of the day spent on money matters.)

That’s a lot of time to spend worrying while at work. And it comes on the heels of another study, “Stressed at Work,” from Bensinger, DuPont & Associates, an employee-assistance program provider, that suggests almost half of workers are so stressed out that it interferes with their ability to get their jobs done. About 44% of male respondents and 49% of female respondents said they had “difficulty concentrating” as a result of “personal problems and stress.” Meanwhile, Gallup’s 2013 State of the American Workplace report finds that seven in 10 workers are not engaged with their work.

Employers might want to take note: According to “Stressed at Work,” stress costs American businesses around $300 billion every year, with about half of American workers saying they are less productive as a result of stress. Bensinger, DuPont & Associates urges employers to consider offering their employees wellness programs to help them manage stress.

The Gallup report comes to a similar conclusion: Companies that boost workers’ well-being see higher productivity levels as well as lower medical costs. Helpful benefits include health-related ones, such as access to healthy snacks and exercise equipment, as well as financial ones, such as 401k's.

Shawn Gilfedder, the president and chief executive of the McGraw-Hill Federal Credit Union, says helping people get on top of their finances can go a long way toward relieving some of that daily pressure they feel, which in turn lets them focus during the workday.

“So many people go about their lives living paycheck to paycheck, and they don’t have a plan in place. They don’t have a simple budget,” Gilfedder says. The problem is compounded by the fact that consumers easily spend money they don’t even have. “When I grew up, you dove into dad’s wallet, and that was the entertainment budget. In today’s electronic world, (money) is intangible,” he says. That makes it harder for families to plan out their spending and stay within limits.

Employers, he says, can help lower the stress levels of their employees by helping educate them about finances. Even simple steps, such as helping them organize or pay off debt, avoid credit card fees or get all of their financial accounts organized, can go a long way, he says.

Gilfedder says employers should think of financial wellness just as they do physical fitness. “If (employers) give you $40 a month and you go to the gym, you’re a lower health risk for their plans. Why not do the same thing on the financial side?” he asks. People with personal trainers are more likely to show up at the gym, he adds, just as people with financial planners can be more motivated to stick to their financial goals.

For stressed-out employees, Gilfedder has some words of wisdom, too: “The first thing you have to do is not panic,” he says. The best approach varies by person. Shortly after he met his wife, for example, she showed him a block of ice in the freezer that held her credit cards. She called it her “debt management system.”

“Not everyone will do that, and that’s why it’s important to have resources in place to help you live a healthy financial life,” Gilfedder says. Those resources can include an online management system such as, which members of his credit union have access to through their accounts. The aggregation tool lets them put all of their financial information in one place, he says. Certified financial planners and counselors can also help.

While getting on top of finances helps relieve daily stress, the bigger payoff comes when something unexpected -- a car accident, health scare or other negative event -- threatens to throw everything off course. “Without a plan, when life happens, it becomes that much more insurmountable,” Gilfedder says. “It pays dividends when things are going well, and it really pays dividends when things are not going well.”

More from U.S. News & World Report:

Jun 24, 2013 1:32PM

I know many of our money worries would be solved if the breadwinner's salary were commiserate to the breadwinner's Master Mechanic status. But, why would a multinational billion dollar company want to pay its Master Mechanics enough to support even a small family with an affordable at the time it was purchased mortgages?


Why indeed allow the person working to keep the big trucks safe on the road, the one person who when he signs the VCR the driver KNOWS the truck is fixed...why pay that person enough to not have to worry about the house going into foreclosure...which it is...


But, it is the worker's fault isn't it...not the company that hires them and them pays them half-wages because it is assumed the family will not bother with a stay at home parent and have both parents working for is all the worker's fault.

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