Steps you can take to encourage financial wellness for employees

Posted January 10, 2017

By Kyra Kudick, associate editor, J. J. Keller & Associates

February 27 marks the start of America Saves Week, an annual national campaign to raise awareness and encourage individuals to increase their savings. It is an excellent time for employers, and their Human Resources professionals, to consider what they are doing to help ease the financial stress of workers.

Money and the economy have been leading sources of personal stress for American workers for years, but according to a May 2015 survey conducted by Public Policy Polling on behalf of Workplace Options, that personal stress is creeping ever more earnestly into the professional workplace.

Nearly 6 in 10 (59 percent) workers surveyed admitted that they regularly deal with personal financial matters during the workday, and 36 percent reported missing at least a partial day of work because of a personal financial situation — or the stress that accompanies it.

The majority of respondents (86 percent) reported some level of stress or anxiety as a result of personal financial matters, with 48 percent saying they suffered from moderate or significant money-related stress.

This trend in financial stress is not only resulting in lower employee productivity and engagement, but it is also contributing to higher employer health care costs, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which released a report in 2014 with similar findings.

As a result, a growing number of employers are responding by adding a financial component to their wellness programs.

Program ideas

Most often, financial wellness initiatives include instruction for employees on topics such as budgeting, debt reduction, credit score management, and financial goal setting.

If you are considering such a program, here are a few things to keep in mind:

Make it proactive. If financial wellness training is a regular offering, it may help remove the stigma or embarrassment that is often associated with crisis-oriented programs. One option is to introduce programs at onboarding when employees are already thinking about making financial decisions such as participating in retirement savings plans.

Tie topics to life events. While general education on debt and using credit wisely is likely to be beneficial to all employees, more specific topics such as student loan debt or underwater mortgages might also be appropriate.

According to the CFPB, employers that provide programs to meet employee needs in a trusting, nonjudgmental manner report increased employee engagement, fewer days lost to absenteeism, and lower administrative costs associated with 401(k) loans and wage garnishments.

Offer private options. A classroom setting may not be the most appropriate place for employees to address their financial concerns. Consider offering one-on-one counseling or coaching sessions through a confidential third party. Most companies provide such services through an employee assistance program (EAP).

Share free information. Even if you can’t offer a comprehensive financial wellness program, you can share free resources with your employees. For example, the Employee Benefits Security Administration (EBSA) website has a resource page for workers and their families that discusses topics like retirement planning and health benefits.

Some of the retirement planning guides provide worksheets to help individuals and families prepare a budget (www.dol.gov/agencies/ebsa/workers-and-families).

About the author:

Kyra Kudick

Kyra Kudick is an associate editor at J. J. Keller & Associates, Inc., a nationally recognized compliance resource company that offers products and services to address the range of responsibilities held by human resources and corporate professionals. Kudick specializes in employment law/HR issues such as employee relations, hiring and recruiting, and training and development. She is the author of J. J. Keller’s Employee Relations Essentials manual and SUPER adVISOR newsletter. For more information, visit www.jjkeller.com/hr.