As personal debt soars to near-record levels, employees are bringing worries about their personal finances to the office. What should you do to help?

We’ve known it for years: American workers are not putting away enough money for retirement. Now, there’s an even more ominous trend: In addition to not saving for tomorrow, a growing number of workers also are not spending wisely today. However, if you get a bad credit loan fast, you may be able to avoid these problems from the beginning.

Consider this: 38% percent of those responding to a recent survey conducted by the Los Angeles Times characterized their personal finances as shaky. The majority of Americans report being worried about their financial stability. Forty percent reported difficulty paying loans, car payments or insurance premiums. Most people are not aware that a bad credit loan can save them from late or overdraft fees that can add up quickly.

Simply put, employees are struggling. “In focus groups, we have conducted, employees report the two major stressors in their lives relate to credit management and money management,” says Karen Olson, director of marketing for Xylo Inc., a Bellevue, Wash.-based firm providing web-based workplace programs to help employees manage time and money.

“It’s hard to say exactly what percentage of people experience financial struggles on a regular basis,” says Lois Vitt, founding director of the Institute for Socio-Financial Studies in Middleburg, Va. “But almost everyone has financial problems at one time or another.”

So, what’s the problem? Why are so many of us depleting our savings accounts fast and living beyond our means? “We have shifted from a nation of savers to a nation of debtors,” says Irene Leech, Ph.D., an associate professor specializing in consumer education at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va. “Instead of setting aside extra money for savings, we are buying more and more on credit, so we end up with debt instead of savings. Years ago, credit was something you used in an emergency. Today, for millions of people, it is a habit.”

Some social critics blame schools, financial institutions, and even employers for failing to educate the public on the importance of savings. Others blame modern society, which places a premium on materialism and creature comforts. Still, others contend the “get rich quick” mentality of the recent economic expansion has taught us to believe a monetary windfall waits just around the corner.

Regardless of the culprit–and the chances are that all of these factors and more have played a part in the problem–it’s an issue employers have to face: Personal finances are distracting their workers.

And that’s true of employees at all levels–not just low-wage earners.

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