Benefits of Financial Wellness Still Largely Misunderstood

While interest surrounding financial wellness programs appears to be growing in the workplace, there continues to be a lack of understanding about the value they deliver to both employers and employees, according to a recent report.

In “Assessing the Merits and Challenges of Financial Wellness” (free registration required), Strategic Benefit Services finds that only slightly more than half of survey respondents said they were familiar with financial wellness topics. The firm surveyed employers in February 2018 to help provide clarity on whether financial wellness programs are a beneficial addition to the traditional employee benefits package. Respondents were comprised mostly of HR professionals (53%), followed by finance executives (35%) and benefits or plan administrators (12%).

Nearly 60% of respondents said their organization offers a financial wellness program or plans to in 2018 or beyond, while the remainder said their organization does not have such a program in place, nor do they plan to offer one.

When asked why they don’t offer a financial wellness program, half of those survey respondents admitted that they didn’t really think about it. And nearly as many indicated that they needed more resources to execute a program or needed to focus on other organization priorities — at 22% each. Other responses included a belief that there is no perceived financial benefit to the organization and a desire not to get involved in an employee’s personal life — at nearly 17% each.

It’s worth noting, however, that nearly 60% of respondents who do not have a financial wellness program believe their employees would be receptive to such a program.

The study also found, however, that there’s evidence of program satisfaction. More than 77% of organizations offering such a program have decided to continue it, while only a handful of respondents said they decided to discontinue their program, mostly because it required significant organization resources.

The report suggests that the consequences of financial wellness can affect employers and employees alike. When assessing the adverse impact of personal financial concerns on employee behavior in their organization, several impressions emerged, the report notes. Respondents believed that nearly half (46%) of their workforce was stressed and 4 out of 10 (41%) thought they were distracted. In addition, respondents believe that 24% of their employees’ physical health is affected by personal financial concerns and 22% of employees took time off from work to address these personal issues.

In addition to a lack of understanding, the report explains that two other key themes emerged from the research:

  • Financial wellness programs may not be the right fit for some organizations. “There may be a moral imperative that drives commitment for some, while others require a business imperative to justify the investment,” the report states. “Regardless of the rationale, a logical starting point would be for an organization to survey its employees and assess the need.”
  • There’s no easy way to calculate a return on investment from financial wellness programs. According to the findings, survey respondents were “clearly struggling” to measure program value, which the author notes is especially challenging, since measurement of value is imperative for initiatives that require employer investment.

“As employers learn more about financial wellness, some will deem these programs a good fit for their organizations, while others will not see the need to establish one or consider it a top priority,” the report notes. “For those who see value in financial wellness programs, some may be drawn to them as a moral imperative, while others believe they’re a worthy business investment.”

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