Financial wellness has become a hot topic. Why now? “Plan sponsors are looking at some dynamics going on with their work force, and one is the impact from financial stress on employees,” DeCamillo says. “So we have been working with sponsors to help their employees on issues such as debt management. The reality is that if you cannot pay your bills today, you cannot save for tomorrow.”
Employers that are thinking about starting a financial-wellness program should remember a couple of keys to effectiveness. “The first element is that the program’s specifics will depend on the demographics and needs of that employer’s work force,” Borland says. Older employees at a manufacturing company may struggle with how to translate their accumulated account balance into a monthly “paycheck” once they retire, while Millennials at a tech company may feel weighted down by their heavy student debt. “The first step should always be a study of actual participant behavior, and inputs from participants on what information they need,” she says. “The wellness program could be off the shelf, but it does need to be chosen based on an understanding of your work force.”
Financially stressed employees need a road map to start getting on track with their financial health, such as suggestions about what percentage of their income to allocate to different expense categories in a monthly budget, Thompson says.
“Give people tips and rules of thumb,” she says.
A wellness program can help employees gain momentum by recommending first steps to give them quick wins, such as paying off their lowest-balance credit card, DeCamillo suggests. “That will help them realize that financial wellness is within their reach,” she says.