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American workers struggling to make ends meet

Three-quarters of Americans (75 percent) are living paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet, according to a survey from CareerBuilder, a global leader in human capital solutions. Thirty-eight percent of employees say they sometimes live paycheck to paycheck, 15 percent say they usually do, and 23 percent say they always do. While making ends meet is a struggle for many post-recession, those with minimum wage jobs continue to be hit the hardest. Of workers who currently have a minimum wage job or have held one in the past, 66 percent say they can’t make ends meet and 50 percent say they have to work more than one job to make it work.

More than 3,200 full-time workers and more than 2,100 full-time hiring and human resource managers in the private sector across industries participated in the nationwide survey, conducted online by Harris Poll on behalf of CareerBuilder.

It’s not only minimum wage workers who are struggling, however. Nineteen percent of workers at all salary levels were not able to make ends meet every month during the past year, and while the likelihood of living paycheck to paycheck naturally decreases for workers with higher salaries, it’s affecting all salary ranges. Nine percent of workers making $100,000 or more say they usually or always live paycheck to paycheck. Twenty-three percent of workers making $50,000-$99,999 and 51 percent of those making less than $50,000 say they usually or always live paycheck to paycheck to make ends meet.

Further, 68 percent of all workers say they’re in debt, and while 46 percent say it’s manageable, it should be noted that 16 percent of all workers have reduced their 401(k) contributions and/or personal savings in the last year, more than a third (36 percent) do not participate in a 401(k) plan, IRA or comparable retirement plan, and 25 percent have not set aside any savings each month in the last year.

While the majority of employees (66 percent) say they feel more fiscally responsible since the recession, many still feel defeated. Of employees in debt, the majority (55 percent) feel they will always be in debt and cite these debts:

  • Credit card: 64 percent
  • Auto loan: 47 percent
  • Mortgage: 45 percent
  • Student loan: 31 percent
  • Loans from friends or family: 10 percent
  • Tax debt: 8 percent
  • Other: 14 percent

Employer solutions

CareerBuilder finds that an overwhelming majority of employers, 95 percent, believes the federal minimum wage should be raised. Employers disagree on what constitutes a fair minimum wage, but 67 percent of employers indicate that, at a minimum, workers should earn $10 or more per hour.

Nevertheless, among employers hiring minimum wage workers this year, almost half (48 percent) say they’re going to pay less than $10 per hour.

Meanwhile, the CareerBuilder survey shows that workers require financial solutions.

And wages are only part of the problem. Debt is clearly a factor—and it’s an ongoing source of employee stress. Employee assistance programs (EAPs) that include debt counseling are often helpful, as are seminars focused on savings, investing, and debt reduction. Financial services professionals frequently offer such seminars at no charge.

Although your practice may not have the resources to lessen the financial burdens staff carry, it should recognize the issue and do what it can to provide support.

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