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What's eating at workers' financial satisfaction

  • Barely one-third of U.S. workers are satisfied with their financial situation, according to a report from Willis Towers Watson.
  • Dissatisfaction is up because savings rates have declined and debt is growing faster than wages, says Vincent Antonelli, a senior consultant at the company.
  • It's up to employers to help these frustrated workers, Antonelli said.

Americans aren't happy — and their bank accounts reveal why.

Just a little more than a third of U.S. workers (35 percent) are satisfied with their financial situation, according to a new report from Willis Towers Watson, a global advisory firm. That's down from 48 percent who expressed satisfaction in 2015 — and a reversal of a steady climb in satisfaction rates since 2009.

The company polled 4,983 U.S. workers in July and August as part of a larger survey of 30,000 private-sector employees in 22 countries.

One-third of workers also said their current financial concerns are negatively affecting their lives.

"Some of it has to do with what employees are dealing with," said Vincent Antonelli, a senior consultant at Willis Towers Watson.

Half of respondents said they had experienced a major, negative financial event in the past two years — such as going through an expensive divorce, borrowing money from friends or family, or incurring a significant medical expense. Coupled with declining savings rates and debt that is growing faster than wages, it's no wonder employees are unhappy, said Antonelli.

Almost a quarter of Americans have no emergency savings at all, according to a Bankrate report. And when it comes to debt and loans, they're in an even worse state.

A recent report by personal finance site WalletHub found that the average household credit card debt was $7,996 during the second quarter of 2017, up 5 percent from a year earlier.

Employers should help frustrated workers by establishing programs and financial counseling tools to help them make good financial decisions, Antonelli said.

"We see that there's this issue, but we're hopeful and optimistic around employers being able to play a role and address this," he said.

But Harvey Bezozi, a certified public accountant and founder of YourFinancialWizard.com, says it's still on the worker to take the lead in managing his or her own finances.

"We need to learn on our own," he said.

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Bezozi's favorite technique to control finances? Budgeting.

Budgets are "sort of like a financial game to be used as a road map to stay on course so you do achieve that financial satisfaction," he said. "[This game] makes managing your finances more enjoyable and less stressful."

Employees should also set and strive to achieve financial goals, Bezozi said, "whether it's earning a certain amount within a certain amount of time or asking for a raise or meeting an expense budget."

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