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The New Trend in Workplace Wellness? Helping Employees Get Financially Fit

Photo: Courtesy of Sharon McCutcheon

Wellness. The term is usually associated with physical or mental well-being. But, what if poor financial health is impacting your actual health or your job?

Financial stress — from debt, saving for retirement, children’s education expenses, basic living expenses or medical expenses — is keeping employees up at night. And these concerns are translating into lowered productivity and decreased performance in the workplace.

How to help

Employers have noticed this trend and are looking at ways to improve their employees’ financial health and well-being. According to one survey, only about 11 percent of employees were described as very financially savvy. To address this issue, employers are stepping up to offer a variety of tools and benefits to help ensure a sound financial future for their employees. These include offering retirement security and financial literacy education, automatic enrollment into employer-sponsored retirement plans and employer-provided matches, debt counseling and Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) to assist in troubling times.

Additionally, employers are looking more holistically at what financial wellness really means and how they can be helpful. Seventy-seven percent of employers planned to offer at least one form of financial support last year. This support took many shapes, with employers thinking outside the box to provide unique benefits such as student loan repayment, college tuition assistance and employer match for 529 college savings plans.

The benfit of helping

These benefits not only help to attract and retain highly skilled workers, but they also help with the retention of existing employees by alleviating some of the financial strain and anxiety that workers face. To get financially fit, employees need to be aware of and take advantage of these tools. That means setting a financial wellness plan, which might include creating a spending diet, focusing on paying down debt, increasing retirement savings contributions or meeting with a financial planner who can assess their needs and help to create a sustainable, achievable plan.

The path to financial wellness starts with a single step in the right direction. More and more, that first step is taken with the help of an employer.

Kathleen Coulombe, Senior Advisor in Government Affairs, Society for Human Resource Management, [email protected]

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