Financial Well-Being: Coming to a Workplace Near You
Education and Careers When it comes to the well-being of employees, there are various aspects to consider. Top of mind for employers these days is financial wellness, which is rapidly gaining popularity.
Financial wellness is hitting the workplace, in a big way.
According to an AON Hewitt survey, 93 percent of employers will likely create or broaden their focus on the financial wellness of employees in 2015. That’s a jump from 76 percent the prior year, making financial wellness one of the fastest growing benefits today.
This trend holds tremendous promise for both organizations and their employees and may play an instrumental role in preparing future generations to successfully overcome significant economic and financial burdens—from longer life spans to expected increases in taxes and inflation and expected changes to Social Security.
Today’s world requires not just financial literacy, but a real mind shift among employees to take control of their financial health, the same way that they are encouraged and incentivized to take care of their physical health. Physical wellness programs are becoming more holistic, adding more around the relationship between money and stress and what this means to employees’ overall health, as well as what it means for an employer’s bottom-line costs.
"Employees are now required to manage both their money and their careers in a much more proactive way, lest they find themselves left behind financially and professionally."
At the same time, employers are realizing that they have an obligation to help employees transition in a changing benefits landscape. The vast majority of employees do not have a traditional pension plan at work, nor do they have fully funded health care, retiree medical insurance, or even the implicit promise of long-term employment. Employees are now required to manage both their money and their careers in a much more proactive way, lest they find themselves left behind financially and professionally.
Without question, the only way to provide financial wellness is through unbiased financial education, free of any conflicts of interest, with absolutely no sale of financial products or services or management of assets. A company must think of financial wellness programs as an employee benefit and communicate the value of offering this benefit to employees.
This becomes extraordinarily important as an employer reinforces or strengthens their position in a respective industry as an “employer of choice.”
A well-executed financial wellness program focused on unbiased financial education and guidance can defy conventional wisdom about the effectiveness of education in the workplace. Successful financial wellness programs focus on both education and behavioral changes for employees. In my experience, the most common changes are among the hardest to make: reducing expenses, paying down debt, and saving more for retirement. Financial wellness programs need to be specifically designed to help employees develop better habits.
To realize the benefits of a stand-out financial wellness program, it is imperative that you find a partner who understands the needs of your company, can help you assess the best type of program for your employees, and deliver not just the education and guidance, but has a proven track record with behavioral change. They develop programs that inspire people to take action, making financial wellness a core benefit that is usually offered through a variety of channels, such as workshops and webcasts, a financial helpline, and an online platform that employees can access at their convenience.
The most successful programs are centered on helping employees recognize the small changes they can make to improve a certain area of their finances and are provided on an ongoing basis so that employees can continue on their positive trajectory—once their highest areas of vulnerability are dealt with, they can move on to the next and so on.
Behavioral change research finds that 89 percent of employees take at least one step to improve their finances within 30 days of participating in their financial wellness programs. On average, employees make three changes, with the most common being reducing credit card debt, reviewing their current asset allocation within their 401k plan and running calculators to determine where they stand in achieving certain financial goals.
With results like these, the financial wellness industry is only expected to grow. Employers’ are in a unique position--with their ability to reach so many people with affordable, unbiased education and guidance--that one day, all employees may have access to this critical benefit.