Survey Says: Leaner Waistlines, Lighter Wallet

A record number will save or invest their tax refund this year

April 22, 2014 DES MOINES, Iowa–(BUSINESS WIRE)–American workers view themselves as more physically fit (57 percent) than financially fit (28 percent), according to new research from the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM: American Workers. While employees report lagging financial health, the vast majority (84 percent) recognize maintaining physical health is an investment in their financial future.

Nearly half of workers (46 percent) feel stressed about their current financial situation, although stress seems to diminish with age and among those seeking help. Only a third (35 percent) of baby boomers report they feel stressed about finances compared to half of Gen Y workers (51 percent). Those working with a financial professional were much less likely to feel stressed about their finances (33 percent compared to 51 percent).

“American workers recognize the long-term financial benefits of staying healthy, but financial stress is often a constant pressure that can have a significant impact on their physical health,” said Luke Vandermillen, vice president at the Principal Financial Group®. “With spring in full swing, now is a good time for Americans to apply their good fitness habits to their financial lives as well. Mark some time on the calendar for financial spring cleaning; meet with a financial advisor, set goals and take action.”

The Principal Financial Well-Being Index: American Workers surveys American employees at small and mid-sized businesses with 10 to 1,000 employees, and is part of a series on the financial well-being of Americans released quarterly by The Principal®. The survey is conducted online by Harris Poll®.

Financial Checkup

As a way to give themselves a financial checkup, more than half of employees (52 percent) say they have monitored their spending levels in the past year. Nearly two in five (39 percent) created a budget to keep finances in check, up significantly from 28 percent two years ago.

In order to help maintain their financial health in the event of a job losas or other unexpected event, nearly three-in-five (57 percent) have an emergency fund in place. Those who work with a financial professional are 1.5 times more likely to have a fund in place. Nearly one-in-five admit they have recently dipped into their emergency fund to cover monthly expenses.

“It’s encouraging to see American workers planning for unforeseen hurdles by giving themselves a financial checkup and setting aside money in an emergency fund. Despite a few missteps, like using the fund on monthly bills, these positive behaviors show individuals are making strides and taking personal responsibility to improve their short and long-term financial well-being,” added Vandermillen.

Banking on a Tax Refund

American workers recognize the long-term financial benefits of staying healthy, but financial stress is often a constant pressure that can have a significant impact on their physical health

More American workers will use tax refunds to beef up their nest eggs with half of workers planning to save or reinvest their refunds, up five percentage points from last year. More than a third (38 percent) plan to pay down or pay off short-term debt and a quarter (24 percent) plan to pay down or pay off longer-term debt with their refund. The majority of American workers (68 percent) expect a tax refund this year.

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This Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM: American Workers was conducted online within the United States by The Harris Poll on behalf of the Principal Financial Group between February 4 and February 12, 2014 among 1,123 employees. This is one in a series of quarterly studies to identify and track changes in the workplace of small and mid-sized (growing) businesses. The first Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM survey was conducted in the United States in 2000.

About Nielsen and The Harris Poll
On February 3, 2014, Nielsen acquired Harris Interactive and The Harris Poll. Nielsen Holdings N.V. (NYSE: NLSN) is a global information and measurement company with leading market positions in marketing and consumer information, television and other media measurement, online intelligence and mobile measurement. Nielsen has a presence in approximately 100 countries, with headquarters in New York, USA and Diemen, the Netherlands. For more information, visit

About the Principal Financial Group
The Principal Financial Group® (The Principal®)1 is a global investment management leader offering retirement services, insurance solutions and asset management. The Principal offers businesses, individuals and institutional clients a wide range of financial products and services, including retirement, asset management and insurance through its diverse family of financial services companies. Founded in 1879 and a member of the FORTUNE 500®, the Principal Financial Group has $483.2 billion in assets under management2 and serves some 19.4 million customers worldwide from offices in Asia, Australia, Europe, Latin America and the United States. Principal Financial Group, Inc. is traded on the New York Stock Exchange under the ticker symbol PFG. For more information, visit