The past several years have been an economic rollercoaster — except no one knows where this rollercoaster is headed.
Some say we’re bound for a recession, while others claim we narrowly missed one. Inflation appears to be falling for some items, but everyday expenses such as energy and housing remain high. Unemployment levels are near record lows, yet we keep hearing about mass layoffs in the tech industry.
The only thing that’s certain about the current economy is uncertainty. And uncertainty can be extremely stressful. Over three-quarters of Americans say they’re anxious about their financial situations. Top concerns include:
- Not having enough money to pay the bills
- Maintaining their standard of living
- Paying rent, mortgage, or housing costs
- Not having enough savings to retire
- Not being prepared for serious medical problems
These worries keep your company’s employees up at night and weigh on their thoughts throughout the day, impacting their well-being and work performance. Financially stressed employees are generally less productive, less focused, more prone to burnout and mental health issues, and miss more days than financially secure employees.
Employers can help their employees achieve a stable financial footing and not just by increasing their salaries. As the links between financial worries, mental health, and job performance have become more apparent in recent years, employers have rolled out several innovative financial wellness tools designed to help employees gain a measure of certainty in uncertain times.
What Is Financial Wellness?
The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau says financial wellness is “A highly personal state, not fully described by objective financial measures. Instead, well-being is defined as having financial security and financial freedom of choice, in the present and in the future.”
The CFPB definition breaks financial wellness down into four elements:
- Control over day-to-day and month-to-month finances
- The financial freedom to make choices to enjoy life
- The capacity to absorb a financial shock
- Being on track toward meeting financial goals.
Financial Wellness in the Workplace
Financial security has been a central component of employee benefits packages for decades, mainly in the form of retirement savings accounts and insurance plans. But only recently have employers recognized that they can do more to help their employees manage their finances and save for the future.
Employees agree; according to a recent Bank of America survey, 80% of employees say employers should play a role in supporting their financial wellness.
Employers can support their employees’ financial wellness in several ways, including:
- Contributing to the costs that stress employees the most, such as education, health, and childcare expenses
- Helping employees learn to make the most of their resources by budgeting, investing, saving, and reducing debt
- Providing financial management tools,
Financial Wellness Program Tips for Employers
Here are a few specific strategies for helping your employees improve their financial well-being:
Offer Free One-on-One Financial Counseling or Coaching
Never underestimate the life-changing potential of a good coach.
Financial coaches or counselors help employees of all income levels understand where their money is going, help them adopt goal-oriented spending and saving habits, and keep them on track as they work toward their goals.
As with fitness coaches, you can bring financial counselors onto your worksite to meet with employees or provide access to online or phone coaching services. (Your employee assistance program may offer financial counseling.)
Keep in mind that employees at every stage of life can benefit from one-on-one financial coaching. Most employers offer retirement-focused counseling, but financial coaches can help people overcome other financial challenges, like paying off debt, saving to buy a house, and funding their children’s education.
Integrate Financial Wellness Into Your Wellness Challenges
Individual and group challenges, such as the classic steps challenge, are workplace wellness staples. We know now that wellness is so much more than eating right and exercising. Financial security is an essential wellness component, so why not introduce some challenges that encourage healthy money management?
Financial wellness challenges could include:
- Saving a certain percentage from every paycheck
- Making a monthly budget and sticking to it
- Forgoing unnecessary expenses — such as takeout food or coffee — for a certain period
- Tracking spending for a month
- Committing to a credit card-free lifestyle
For extra motivation, offer employees incentives like t-shirts, gift cards, or days off for completing challenges.
Go Digital (and Mobile) With Your Financial Wellness Program
In the Bank of America survey cited above, 52% of employees said they prefer to use a digital app to manage their finances. Most people these days — especially the members of younger generations — track their spending, open new accounts, and invest digitally.
Since your employees are already living their financial lives online, offering your financial wellness benefits through a digital platform only makes sense.
There are numerous financial wellness platforms and apps, each offering a different mix of functions. Some provide educational resources, while others include tracking and budgeting tools.
Hint: While choosing a financial wellness platform for your employees, remember that mobile accessibility is crucial. Over 43% of American households interact with their money primarily through mobile banking.
Launch an Employee Discount Program
Employee discount programs are perks that let employees access lower prices from top brands. Discount programs can help employees save on everything from gas to groceries to movie tickets — every little bit helps during economic uncertainty.
To start an employee discount program, you can contract with a discount vendor or negotiate with individual merchants, manufacturers, or service providers. Local businesses such as restaurants and gyms may also be willing to consider discount pricing in return for sending employees their way.
Some employers also offer employee purchasing programs, which let employees pay for products or services interest-free through payroll deduction. Employee purchasing programs can help your team members finance big-ticket items like computers or appliances without credit cards or loans.
Supporting Employee Financial Wellness: A Good Idea During Any Economy
The current economic uncertainty may eventually stabilize, but finances will always be a significant source of stress for your company’s employees. By bolstering your financial wellness offerings beyond the typical retirement and insurance plans, you can give your employees the peace of mind that comes with knowing that when the next economic crisis hits, they’ll be ready.