Financial stress is taking its toll on employees, causing them to partake in rather risky money behavior: tapping into their 401(k) or other retirement savings in an attempt to get back on track.

More than half of workers (54%) who identify as being financially stressed say they will likely use their retirement funds for expenses other than retirement, according to PwC’s 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, out this week. That’s compared to 33% of their colleagues who say they’re not stressed about finances. “Our survey indicates that the main reason people invade their retirement plans is due to an unexpected expense, emergency and/or to defray medical expenses,” Kent Allison, a partner and national leader, employee financial education and wellness practice at PwC, tells EBN. “Not having enough set aside for an unexpected expense has been the No. 1 cause of financial stress since we started our survey.”

Overall, PwC found 47% of all workers say they are stressed about finances. Though that’s a slight improvement from previous years (53% said they were stressed in 2017; 52% in 2016), the survey results are still alarming. Allison says smart employers will step in to address their employees’ financial worries.

“Employers can make inroads on both the retirement plan leakage issue and the stress issue with more of a focus on setting aside some funds as an emergency fund, in addition to putting money away for retirement,” Allison says. “This requires not only the communication and education to reinforce the message but the mechanism to do so, such as payroll deductions into a savings account.”

According to the survey results, just 31% of stressed workers say they’d be able to meet basic expenses if they were out of work for an extended amount of time. Employees say they are stressed over uncertainty regarding healthcare. Many are pressed to support both aging parents and adult children.

For the first time, the survey finds that among baby boomers’ reasons for delaying retirement, needing to keep healthcare coverage is a more popular choice than simply not wanting to retire.

Read more at Employee Benefits News