Help Your Employees Get Financially Fit

A financial wellness program can help unlock your employees’ full potential by giving them the tools to improve their financial health. Here’s how to make it work.

Now that wellness benefits are widely accepted as a core offering among employers, there’s a new benefit on the rise: financial fitness. More and more organizations are educating their employees on financial well-being. And chances are your employees need it: Even before the pandemic, many Americans struggled with saving and managing their money.

“Most people have no personal financial acumen. It’s just not something we’re taught at an early age,” says Shelly Horwitz, managing director at Pensionmark Financial Group. “If something bad happens—enter COVID—you’re in a financial crisis really quick.”

Your employees are probably stressed about their finances and looking for help. According to a report from Morgan Stanley [PDF], 78 percent of employees with high financial stress say it distracts them at work, and 74 percent say it’s important for an employer to offer financial wellness benefits.

“Stressed employees are going to take time away from you. It’s just like if they’re not healthy, they’re going to have more sick days,” Horwitz says. “Health and financial wellness actually go hand in hand.”

Done right, these programs are effective. In a MassMutual study, 78 percent of employers determined their financial wellness programs to be extremely or very successful, based on employee feedback, participation in programs, employee metrics, and retention. When you improve retention, you also improve organizational stability and continuity, which will make your association more appealing to potential members.

Here’s what to keep in mind when developing your own program.

Program Options

One way to put together your financial wellness program is to outsource your operations. Associations can partner with financial wellness vendors such as Financial Finesse or LearnLux to create customized programs with lessons, financial coaching, digital tools, and metrics to track engagement. You can go beyond training and offer benefits that directly help employees manage their money. For example, the insurance company Unum lets its employees turn unused PTO into payments against student debt.

For associations with limited resources, these options might be too pricey. If that’s the case, Horwitz suggests offering a more informal program where you curate free resources for employees. Some companies, including Horwitz’s, offer free libraries of content that organizations can point their employees to as a way to provide free training.

For another way to keep costs down, the Financial Services Roundtable and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommend leveraging your existing benefits resources to help create a financial wellness program, reaching out to your organization’s 401(k) plan administrator, life insurance provider, and banking partner.

Three Key Elements

No matter how your offering is implemented, Horwitz points out three key elements of a successful financial wellness program.

It should be educational. This is step one, where you deliver information on financial wellness. This could take many forms, such as webinars, guides, classes, articles, or workshops.

It should be actionable. After each educational experience, there should be a call to action for employees to continue their training and apply their knowledge. It might be a link to a worksheet, a video with more information, a savings calculator, or a landing page where users can set up one-on-ones with financial coaches.

It should be applicable. Consider what is relevant to your employees, and make sure your program covers all the bases. For a better idea of what topics to address, you can survey employees to gauge their financial literacy and what subjects are most important to them.

“You have to make it right for the right audience,” Horwitz says.

What to Cover

Horwitz says her most in-demand topics right now are managing student loan and credit card debt. Other subjects to consider include:

  • 401(k) contributions
  • planning for retirement
  • planning for healthcare costs
  • estate planning
  • saving for education
  • emergency savings
  • investing

Covering these topics will ensure that your program helps employees in many stages of life.

(malerapaso/iStock/Getty Images Plus)

Michael Hickey

By Michael Hickey

Michael Hickey is a contributor to Associations Now. MORE

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