This article was published on February 26, 2018 on Employee Benefit News, written by Phil Waldeck.
We are often asked by the employers we work with, “How can we help our employees boost their financial health?” America Saves Week — an event running Feb. 26-March 3 which encourages organizations and employees to promote good savings behavior — is a great time to make answering this question a priority.
Four in five employers (82%) believe their company will benefit from a financially secure workforce, according to Prudential research, yet only 20% of employers offer a financial well-being program.
Knowing where to start is sometimes the biggest hurdle. Below are three questions employers should consider, which can help empower employees to secure their financial futures.
How do I know if I am offering the right benefits package for my employees?
Benefits should drive the right employee behaviors, which can lead to a more engaged and secure workforce. Data analysis can help an employer better understand their current workforce in terms of demographics, geography, training and skill levels, as well as the financial risks their workforce faces. Matching up characteristics of the current workforce with talent requirements for the future can help to pinpoint plan design opportunities to maximize the investment employers are making in benefits programs.
Surveys and assessments that measure the financial well-being of individual workers, as well as their opinions and utilization of available benefits, are also critical. For example, according to employee self-assessments administered by Prudential, the top three sources of financial stress are saving for the future (67%), paying monthly bills (57%) and credit card debt (42%). Armed with this information, employers can address the gaps in their benefits packages.
How can I design a financial education program that addresses my employees’ needs?
Benefits providers who are experienced in retirement, financial planning and insurance plan design are uniquely positioned to help employers integrate financial education tools and solutions with traditional benefits in a comprehensive package. The program should be customized based on employees’ unique needs — not a one-size-fits-all approach.
For example, if a company offers a 50% match to employees who contribute 6% to their 401(k) plan, yet only 75% of employees are enrolled, the employer likely faces two problems: Many of their people are not saving at all, and those who do save might save up to but not beyond 6%, which may not be enough. Traditional responses to improve participation and savings rates could include increasing the match or adding auto-enrollment and auto-escalation.
Both strategies will help drive the desired employee behavior, but a broader look at financial well-being also is appropriate. If analysis shows that the 25% of employees not participating also struggle with student loan debt, the problem may not be a lack of desire, but rather a perceived lack of ability to save. In this case, a student debt relief or debt management benefit, paired with the changes above, may be a more attractive proposition. It helps the employee resolve financial concerns, encourages long-term savings for retirement and increases appreciation for the employer-provided benefit. Implementation of any changes can be timed to coincide with a pay increase and as a result any “sticker shock” related to the change is minimized.
Other solutions are available to help with day-to-day budgeting or building up emergency savings, which have the added benefit of discouraging workers from tapping into their retirement accounts to cover short-term needs. This broader approach to financial health can help employers truly maximize the effect of their benefit package on workforce management activities, allowing them to better recruit talent and retain talent and position their employees to be able to retire when desired. A broader approach to employee financial health provides better outcomes for employees while delivering significant and a quantifiable impact to an employer’s bottom line.
How can I inspire my employees to take action in their finances?
“I’ll do it later,” “It won’t happen to me,” and “I want it now” are powerful forces that derail financial health. It takes more than a few emails during the open enrollment period to battle these ingrained behaviors.
Well-designed financial education programs run throughout the year and utilize multiple communication channels, from one-on-one sessions and group seminars to targeted educational campaigns that speak to a company’s culture and address employee challenges at different life stages.
Millennials might be motivated by saving for that first home, while baby boomers may seek ways to maximize retirement income as they approach retirement. Online tools, mobile apps, videos, interactive experiences and games can be designed to help employees better visualize their goals.
Fortunately, a growing number of organizations recognize that benefits packages need to include financial wellness solutions — our study found that 50% of employers plan to or would like to offer these programs in the future. There is proof that it is a model for success, one that benefits everyone.