How employers should reshape total rewards packages
Nearly three-quarters of your employees are worried about money. And we’re not talking about general concerns over big future expenses like retiring or replacing the roof. Three-quarters of employees feel stress every single day as they wait desperately for their next paycheck to arrive before they hit bottom. Just about half of Americans can’t drum up $400 for an emergency expense.
This is a terribly upsetting way to live. Financial stress, like any chronic stress, sucks the joy out of life and leads to all manner of physical maladies, from insomnia and ulcers and headaches to far more serious problems like heart attacks. Not surprisingly, financial stress and its physical manifestations affect productivity: nearly half of people who worry about money have missed work or are less productive at work because of their financial stress.
For benefits managers, this may be hard to swallow. You pay fairly and competitively. You offer a total rewards package that includes all kinds of benefits meant to complement an employee’s paycheck. But as healthcare costs climb, and as retirement increasingly feels like an unattainable goal, you can see how neither total rewards benefits nor modest pay raises will be enough to significantly reduce your employees’ financial stress. However, there’s a solution: Offering benefits that help workers pay off, or save for, important life moments and automating monthly contributions to help them pay for it.
For millions of people, making a few small and simple changes in spending habits can right their financial ship, long-term. Lots of people make bad financial decisions simply because they don’t know how to make good ones. And since your employees spend most of their waking hours at work, benefits managers are in a unique position to provide some crucial financial mentoring. Though many already offer this to an extent — with resources that help employees with financial decisions like choosing a health plan — adding to your catalog a few resources that help employees plan to buy a home, welcome a new child, pay off student loan debt or take care of an elderly parent is most beneficial to employees.
And what if, just as health insurance premiums and retirement contributions come directly out of their paychecks today, employees could choose for portions of their pay to be automatically diverted to emergency savings accounts, or credit card payments, or other financial goals?
The beauty of automating these kinds of contributions, of course, would be that an employee’s financial success doesn’t depend on them making a hundred good financial decisions each week. Like opting-in to a 401(k) or choosing to save $30 a month in an HSA, an employee wouldn’t be expected to make that same good decision every time they get paid. Success depends only on the employee making a one-time decision for those automatic contributions to begin.
This is how we’ll truly help employees regain and maintain their financial health: by providing guidance on the whole spectrum of major and not-so-major financial decisions that stress them out, and finding easier ways for them to direct where their paycheck dollars go. Total rewards can be totally helpful, but the platform must evolve.