A recent survey reports that those feeling insecure financially are increasing, and that women feel more vulnerable than men. In Unum’s fifth annual poll of working Americans, released this month, more than 40% plan on postponing their retirement and half report lacking confidence in their savings to cover lost income if they suffer a serious injury or illness.

More than a third of respondents (36%) say they don’t feel financially secure, and the 16% who feels “not at all secure” is up from the previous year. Men (33%) feel less insecure than women (40%).

The shaky economy has led workers to prioritize employee benefits more than ever; 75% of those who rate their benefits package as very good or excellent say they are financially secure.

“Anxiety over finances increased in 2012, indicating that the modest improvements to our economy are not yet being felt by working Americans,” says Barbara Nash, vice president of research for Unum.

Asked what their current target retirement age is, survey participants responded with 67.1, an increase of 2.6 year over what they said five years ago. Those aged 55 and above expect to retire after their 70th birthday; those 34 and younger still set 65 as the expected date. Employees cite their personal finances (57%) as the main reason for postponing.

A different survey conducted by Bank of America Merrill Lynch, meanwhile, reveals nearly three out of five retirees said they retired earlier than expected, mainly because of health care issues.

Only a third of workers in the Unum survey said they could rely on employer-sponsored disability benefits should they suffer a work-halting illness or injury. Personal savings (56%) and assistance from family members (52%) were the most-cited ways of managing financially following a disability.

“This research underscores a disconnect between financial expectations and realities,” Nash says. “Research indicates that a very large percentage of Americans are living paycheck to paycheck. Yet our findings show that employees still believe they can rely on savings and each other if an illness or injury occurs.”

Unum says employers should play a leading role in helping wage earners feel – and be – more secure by offering benefits like disability insurance and financial education, and by making sure the value of these benefits is well-communicated. And benefits education can be its own reward: 81% of those surveyed who rated their benefits education highly also called their employer an excellent or very good place to work.

“Providing employees with disability insurance – which replaces an average of 60% of income if an employee is unable to work because of illness or injury – goes a long way in settling financial anxieties of employees,” Nash says.

Conducted online in December, Unum’s survey was run by Harris Interactive. It polled 1,890 working adults aged 18 and older.

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