More employers today are understanding the impact of financial wellness on their employees. Financial stress makes workers less engaged and productive and can lead to more missed work. As such, more are adding financial wellness tools to their benefit portfolio.
Young adults in particular struggle with their finances and worry about making ends meet and paying off their debt. This group more than most stands to benefit from the resources their employers are offering, but often it’s the same insecurities and anxieties that contribute to their financial situation that make it hard to understand and utilize those tools.
At the recent SHRM 2018 Conference in Chicago, a panel of HR professionals and financial wellness aficionados shared several examples of successful financial programs implemented by employers and the effect each had on employees. The takeaway? Stop calling it “finance.” “If you say, ‘Come talk to us about your finances,’ that’s overwhelming for folks,” says Amanda Carney, co-founder of Working Credit NFP, a non-profit financial program that focuses on helping individuals understand and take control of their credit score.
Working Credit is an example of how employers are tackling financial wellness in small, manageable segments that don’t overwhelm and alienate workers. “We realized credit is foundational and monumental to financial health,” Carney explains. “Good credit opens doors–43 percent of landlords check credit. It also allows you to qualify for lower rates on car loan and credit cards.”
Her company works with employers to educate employees on the impact of credit scores on areas such as car loans, mortgages and rentals and encourages them to establish and build a good credit score. It’s a great place to start, says Carney, in part because it’s not based on income (and in fact often has the most impact for low-income workers) or ability to save, and the results are almost immediate. Also sharing a success story was Katherine Brune, senior vice president of employee well-being for SunTrust Bank. Ironically, a survey of SunTrust employees’ well-being revealed that they were lagging in the financial aspect.
One of the first focuses of SunTrust’s financial program is creating an emergency fund. “It’s hard to talk about retirement when you’re worried about paying your rent,” Brune says.So, they start with savings, but not in terms of X weeks or months of expenses. “It has to be the first 100, then thousand,” she says. “It has to be incremental education so that it feels like it’s not ‘finance.’”
The program also addresses creating budgets, actively reviewing expenses such as car insurance, changing life events–breaking down the components of “finance” into much less intimidating activities. And once employees are comfortable with the fundamentals such as “credit,” “budget” and “savings,” they can move on to words like “investment” and “retirement account.” “It’s not just the event,” says Brune, referring to the components of the wellness program, “The education, empowerment and confidence last for years to come.”