Human Capital & Careers

72% of C-Suite Leaders Are Stressed About Personal Finances

Despite being among the top earners at their companies, leaders, too, are worried about their personal finances.
Adam ZakiMay 17, 2023
72% of C-Suite Leaders Are Stressed About Personal Finances
Photo: Getty Images

Trading time for work experience has been a part of skills development since the earliest stages of commerce. Leaders who give up time with their families and friends have done so because of the rewards it brings: equity in the company, high salaries, leadership positions. The compensation for a C-suite leader may make the timely demands of the job worth it for some.

However, new data from BrightPlan’s 2023 wellness barometer survey of 1,400 U.S.-based professionals at companies with 1,000 or more employees finds that nearly three-quarters (72%) of C-suite leaders reported being stressed over their personal finances. The sentiment isn’t as high as that of lower-level employees, but the combined stress being felt by managers and their employees may make managing workflows and talent extremely difficult. 

Impact on Employees and Productivity 

Productivity, a factor hard to measure in modern work environments, is impacted by employees’ financial confidence. According to data, respondents lose an average of one productive workday per week because of financial stress. 

Seventy-two percent of those surveyed said they have given up time with families and friends not because they couldn’t fit it into their work schedules or work/life balance, but because they couldn’t afford to. This appears to be a morale killer for employees. Sixty-four percent of respondents said their stress around money has impacted their relationships with their families. 

According to data, respondents are losing an average of one productive workday per week because of their financial stress. 

This inability of an employee to enjoy their personal lives makes trends like flexible work environments and employee autonomy useless. If employees struggle to make ends meet in a flexible work environment, they may pick up a second job, further taking away from time with their family. That can also set some employees on a fast track toward serious burnout. 

With salary transparency laws in effect in many places around the U.S., candidates will have a better idea of the compensation structure earlier in the application process, which may help them avoid taking a job that offers an underwhelming salary. However, in geographies where compensation transparency is not required, employees and job candidates must be clear on why they need the salary figure they have in their heads and must be ready to negotiate

Stress Drivers

The overall economic turmoil makes predicting personal finances and constructing life plans extremely difficult. Regardless of salary, age, life positioning, and location, employees looking to grow personally and professionally simultaneously may have difficulty doing so.

While climbing the corporate ladder or gathering work experience, younger employees in general have much less buying power due to inflation. Some entry and mid-level jobs once provided salaries that would allow people to buy their first home or a new car; now, few do.

This inability of employees to take the next steps in their lives is causing stress. Ninety-six percent of those surveyed cited inflation as a stress driver, followed by a potential recession (93%), and rising interest rates (90%). These triggers have resulted in many employees changing their personal and professional habits, doing whatever they can to strut their stuff to decision-makers who will control not only their ability to earn more money but their ability to maintain their position. 

Nearly four in five (79%) surveyed said they made at least one adjustment to their personal and professional habits to remedy their stress. A third (33%) said they were going above and beyond to avoid getting laid off, another third said they were working extra hours to boost their savings, and 31% have turned to upskilling. Generationally, millennials are making the most changes (85%), followed by Gen Z (80%) and Gen X (77%). 

Declining Trust in Executives

Employees wary of potential layoffs or their own financial situations are beginning to trust top-tier leadership less. Only 63% of employees in the BrightPlan survey said they trust their human resources leaders and upper management, down 20% from last year. A similar number (64%) of employees say they know their employers are putting the emphasis on profits and the bottom line over the well-being of workers. 

Aware of declining trust, executives are ready to take tool-providing initiatives. Nearly all (95%) leaders believe their companies should provide guidance and investment tools to help employees build wealth. And 93% believe the company must help employees learn about financial responsibility, too, a topic also making its way into the curriculum of public schools

Amidst these efforts, leadership should be aware of what employees desire in these benefit offerings. Complications or difficulties around accessing or using the benefits is just as important as the content of the benefit themselves. While mental health benefits have largely gone unused for the same reasons, simplification and ease of accessibility should be paramount for those looking to provide this learning opportunity for their employees. 

Nearly three-quarters (74%) of employees told surveyors they are not satisfied with their company’s financial benefits. According to data, one in four weren’t aware if their employer offered financial benefits above stock options and retirement matching.

When asked, employees said the most desired financial benefits were emergency savings funds (36%), debt management services (26%), and home ownership assistance (25%).