Stress is likely the largest contributor of health issues and loss of productivity at the workplace in America—and an estimated 84% of stress is derived from financial problems. That equates to huge financial ramifications for businesses of all sizes. A recently conducted Salary Finance survey found that American businesses are losing as much as 500-billion-dollars a year due to personal employee financial stress. That isn’t just alarming, it’s a national crisis that requires bold, proactive change to address it. Luckily, some of the tools to shift how our employees confront and work through personal financial stress already exist—all that’s missing is the focus and directive to know how to use them.
The concept of Financial Wellness is rightly gaining organizational attention in the wake of these findings, and many employees, particularly in some of the younger, less established generational demographics, are hungry to more proactively address the topic. Historically, many financial wellness options that are offered at businesses are opt-in, reactive, and self-service oriented programs that lack educational support or structured engagement. On average, employee end-user utilization of such programs is only between 1-2%. We have to do better.
As the Director of Retirement Outcomes, working with our corporate clients and their workforce of employees, I’m a Behavioral Finance mentor as much as I’m an educator. By approaching financial wellness from a holistic and humanistic vantage, I’m able to work directly with employees and HR professionals to better understand the foundation of their financial decisions and how they best interact with financial learning. It’s hard for employees to talk about tomorrow’s retirement planning if ‘today’s planning’ isn’t going well, so looking at the whole picture is required. Are employees more emotional or analytical in how they approach financial choices? Are they more ‘life goals’ or ‘returns’ focused when they interact with their planning?
Only by understanding the motivations and preferred engagement approach of end-users can an advisor successfully interact with them in a way that delivers content to meaningfully change behavior. Technology tools are driving much of the necessary change in this field, making it an exciting time to be engaged in financial wellness. But technology tools alone are not enough as the paltry engagement rate of many programs highlights—behavioral change needs commitment and accountability to hold end-user attention. Today, more than ever, individual bandwidth is limited, and the time spent on any topic needs to be directed and proactively useful to capture attention.
In my experience, a successful financial wellness program needs certain elements:
- It needs to be technology driven
- It needs to gamify the learning process
- It needs to be flexible enough to be focused or group oriented as needed
- It needs a structured platform of guidance and incentivization
- Must be bigger, more holistic in scope than just retirement planning and it must include every aspect of a person’s financial life
Luckily, there are already a number of good existing programs that offer these parameters. At Sapers & Wallack, we’ve partnered with WellCents to deliver all of this and more to our financial wellness clients. I’ve found this program, which includes financial wellness assessments, group workshops, one-on-one meetings, customized action plans and employer reporting systems, to offer the easily maneuverable and scalable outreach options to enact genuine engagement. Along with proactive guidance, this program has already been shown to yield a 35-75% utilization by end-users for the clients we work with. This is already a game changer, and we’re just getting started.
As a bit of a data geek, I am always looking for quantitative trends and ways to measure success. The engagement numbers and reported benefits to productivity, employee happiness and retention, and even overall health from our WellCents program involvement are very encouraging, but there is still a long way to go. With the growing numbers of receptive Millennial and Gen-Z employees in the workforce, adoption of more progressive, hands-on initiatives, like WellCents, can begin to foster and support financial wellness before stress consumes a company culture.
It feels like we’re in the midst of a paradigm shift in how we view and interact with our personal finances, with massive economic and health ramifications in the balance. It’s an exciting time to be involved in the current evolution of financial wellness in corporate America, and I’m encouraged by the tools we have to work with and early results of what we can deliver using them.
To read more about WellCents, visit: www.mywellcents.com
And to reach out with your thoughts or needs for financial wellness planning, send me an email at: firstname.lastname@example.org