Empower employees through financial wellness programs

More and more employers are looking to ensure the retirement readiness and financial wellbeing of their employees, as financial stress has shown to make a significant impact on both the physical well-being of employees and their workplace productivity. 

Financial wellness programs are still in their early years, but a growing number of businesses are offering them as an employee benefit. Currently, roughly 40% of employers say they offer some sort of financial wellness program, according to Alliant Credit Union’s recently released January 2015 online survey of senior HR decision makers in organizations with more than 1,000 employees.

The spectrum of programs, according to Alliant, varies. From the most basic, of simply educating employees on the company’s retirement program, to more robust and comprehensive programs offering a range of tools to help consumers make the right decision; increasingly, companies are appreciating the value of a comprehensive financial wellness program, Alliance says.

Also see: Employee well-being the new benefit mantra

“Financial wellness in the workplace is in its infancy,” says Kathy Hall, Alliant vice president of business development. “Just as health wellness programs have changed dramatically over the past 10 years, financial wellness programs are being redefined.”

As these programs have evolved, Alliant took note of some of the more popular components benefits professionals are including in their more robust programs. They include:

  • 65% retirement planning
  • 52% medical/health care cost planning programs
  • 44% confidential employee self-assessments of their finances
  • 41% tracking tools for goal attainment
  • 38% investment planning programs

With workers reporting financial problems as their chief cause of stress, the need for financial wellness programs is both a physical and fiscal imperative, Alliance notes.
Also see: Financial stress remains, despite improving economy

Each employee who suffers from severe financial stress costs a company between $5,000 and $7,000 a year in lost productivity, according to the study.

“Initial research on financial education in the workplace already suggests that a financially capable workforce is more satisfied, more engaged, and more productive for their employers,” says the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Richard Cordray.

According to CFPB, characteristics of a person confident in their personal wellbeing include:

  • Have control over day-to-day, month-to-month finances.
  • Have the capacity to absorb a financial shock.
  • Are on track to meet his or her financial goals; and
  • Have the financial freedom to make the choices that allow him or her to enjoy life.

Also see: Regular monitoring keeps 401(k) fees in check

Additionally, Alliant says, employers looking to start or expand their financial wellness programs should consider taking the following steps; consult with experts, conduct an online employee financial wellness assessment, analyze the aggregate of employee assessments and develop an action plan.

“By providing employees the time and resources needed to make thoughtful financial decisions, employers can realize a more engaged and productive workforce,” Alliant’s Hall adds.

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