It’s a feel-good. It’s the rage. It’s a movement, and for good reason—it’s desperately needed. But what are the best ways to measure financial wellness success? Advisors are touting the benefits of financial wellness initiatives to their clients and for the most part, companies are falling in line.
According to a 2017 health and well-being study from Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health (NBGH), 84 percent of companies now have financial security programs, an increase from 76 percent the prior year. However, there are still obstacles, such as how to show if your program is a success—plus quantifying the benefits of financial wellness and correlating it to a bottom line impact to please the profit and loss mindset of corporate CFOs.
Experts like Liz Davidson, CEO of Financial Finesse, are striving to make the ROI concern a non-issue. Davidson says that financial wellness can’t connect the dots on quantifying ROI as directly as some CFOs would like. “CFOs that look at financial wellness through a narrow lens struggle with the fact that there is no line item on the income statement that shows increased revenue or reduced costs as a result of a financially healthy workforce. Financial wellness has a financial impact but can be hard to measure,” she says. So Davidson and her team set out to do just that, research—and measure—the impact of financial wellness. She was surprised by what they found.
They conducted a case study of a Fortune 100 company’s comprehensive workplace financial wellness program from 2009 to 2014. Specifically, they zeroed in on a few tangible and trackable elements (garnishments, flex spending/health savings accounts and absenteeism) and then measured the change in employee financial wellness scores that were on a specialized 0 to 10 scale. As the median employee financial health scores rose, the costs to the company diminished, resulting in a measurable bottom-line impact. “The correlation was so strong,” says Davidson. “For every point increase on the employee wellness scale, there was a direct financial “The correlation was so strong,” says Davidson. “For every point increase on the employee wellness scale, there was a direct financial savings per employee for the company.”
Davidson adds that the trackable elements only represented five to 10 percent of what a financial wellness program involves. She and her team are working to add elements to their ROI model, including measuring the costs of reducing healthcare costs, delayed retirements and employee turnover. Translation: companies could benefit even more financially when the overall program is taken into consideration. When it comes to financial wellness, company leaders have moved well past the “check the box” perspective says Pearce Weaver, a senior vice president in Fidelity Investment’s Benefits Consulting Group. “Employers have done a good job in the last five to 10 years. Financial wellness used to be embedded in employee assistance programs but they have broadened the initiatives considerably,” he says. However, some companies still are trying to establish a trackable bottom-line outcome for financial wellness programs.