American workers polled by Financial Finesse had improved how they manage financial stress since last year, but even the most secure groups of Americans felt strained about their money and did not have their financial houses in order.

Some 21% reported “high” or “overwhelming” levels of strain in the first quarter of 2011. That was an improvement, compared with the 32% who said their financial stress levels were either high or overwhelming, according to the study released on Monday.

Still, the vast majority of American employees are still under financial strain, even when the study looked at the least vulnerable demographic groups—men, those between ages 55 and 64, and workers who earned between $150,000 and $199,999 a year. According to the study, 83% of men reported having some financial stress; as well as 76% of those in the above age group; and 84% of those earning mid- to high six-figure salaries.

That contrasted drastically with stress levels among the most vulnerable groups. Ninety percent of women reported having financial stress; 89% of those between ages 30 and 44 have financial stress; and 94% of those earning $60,000 to $74,999 said they were worried about their finances.

Poor money management skills are to blame, says the El Segundo, Calif.-based Financial Finesse. It cited a direct correlation to the ways that Americans manage expenses, control their debt, and pay bills on time.

Although some Americans reported being less worried than others, it didn’t necessarily mean their long-term plans were in great shape. Indeed, they were surprisingly lax about priorities such as retirement planning, the report said. Sixty-seven percent of those who report having no financial stress indicate that they are not prepared for retirement. Also, less than half have drafted basic estate-planning documents such as wills and trusts to protect their assets.


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