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Money Management for Everybody
Richard King

Financial wellness is an important aspect of the overall wellbeing of any individual. Although it tends to be something we consider impolite to bring up, it is becoming increasingly important that we find healthy and open ways to discuss personal finances. When a person does not have a stable financial situation or is constantly worried about divvying up the contents of their next paycheck, the stress inevitably takes a toll on all facets of their life.

Unfortunately, a lack of secure finances can be a source of tremendous shame for many individuals, and they’re therefore willing to go to great lengths to hide this perceived shortcoming. Of course, this only adds to the anxiety and ultimately ends up making a bad situation even worse. As an employer or HR professional, it is critical to find ways to overcome these barriers and promote financial wellness among your workforce. Important for both the individual and the organization employing them because when financial health is established, everyone benefits.

Although the hard part can often be simply getting people to open up, here are some ways you can broach the subject, and start taking steps towards promoting financial wellness for your employees today.

Employee financial stress is costing your organization money

You may not have considered it from this perspective before, but employees under high levels of stress could actually be costing you upwards of 40% more than the average worker. Financial worry is among one of the most consuming forms of stress and can contribute to more sick days, lower productivity, and general under-performance. Not to mention, it has been shown that stress may also contribute to increased instances of unethical behavior, such as lying to customers or taking shortcuts on work tasks.

Remember that individual’s financial state has a direct impact on their mental state and when left to accumulate, it will inevitably impact work performance. As a manager, it is also your job to build a strong and reliable team of dedicated professionals. Financial wellness is extremely important for employee retention, as the likelihood of keeping employees with the company increases when employers take an active interest in the staff’s financial wellness.

Finances are largely private matters

Aside from understanding why financial stress is bad for you as an employer, in addition to your employee’s wellbeing, it is necessary to appreciate that people are likely to be shy opening up about their finances. We’re conditioned from an early age to avoid discussions around money and certainly never to pry into someone’s personal financial situation. In fact, many people go to great lengths to conceal the reality of their situation. They will even go into debt in order to purchase new clothes or accessories in order to make it appear that everything is fine. Be patient and highly considerate when raising the topic with someone who works under you.

Financial wellness is different for each individual

The fact of the matter is, even if you know exactly how much money a person is taking home each month from their paycheck, you don’t have a full picture of their financial situation. Someone making over $200,000 a year might be struggling due to demanding financial commitments or simply bad spending habits. Meanwhile, someone making $50,000 could have a established a solid financial safety net because they manage their finances well and maintain a lifestyle that corresponds to their current situation. Remember that assumptions can be harmful. Don’t take anything for granted and understand that both high and low earners may require guidance and assistance.

Financial wellness is multifaceted

Furthermore, it is important to understand everyone’s financial landscape, working life, economic life, personal life, contains many moving parts. Although the workplace is undoubtedly a major part of any individual’s financial wellness ecosystem, there are always other aspects and variables to consider. As an employer, it is important to understand your employees’ financial stressors and priorities, both at work and at home, when developing your strategy.

You have an obligation as an employer or manager

Broaching a personal and sensitive topic can be unnerving for both parties. But as an employer, you’re in a unique position to advise those within your organization. Most people are eager and grateful to get financial advice from their superiors and will likely take what you say to heart. Thanks to fact that you’re a trusted source of financial information, in addition to the enhanced access afforded by your position, employers have a distinct opportunity to provide education, interventions, tools and programs to improve individuals’ financial literacy and well-being. That being said, it is not an easy task and in order to succeed with financial wellness programs, employers must begin with a clear strategy that is aligned with business objectives and results.

Focus groups can help you learn quickly

When developing a financial wellness program that will best serve the interests of the people working for you, focus groups can be an invaluable resource. By creating an environment in which people are free to speak openly and honestly about their needs, you’ll likely be able to collect a lot of valuable information in a short period of time. Well executed focus groups are a great way to understand the unique needs of your organization while showing that you care about the needs of the individual.

Utilize best practices and make a plan

As you work towards building your financial wellness program, take lessons from behavioral finance and retirement plan design to give your financial wellness efforts a boost. Remember that any sustainable financial benefit program will consist of a variety of content that is tailored to address different kinds of situations. For this reason, it a good idea to include a mix of “high-touch” and “low-touch” programs that offer direct, immediate resources as well as support for achieving longer-term goals. Instantaneous offerings include things such as wage advances, small-dollar installment loans and incentivized savings goals. These components tend to be more affordable overall and are generally much easier to implement. On the other hand, “high-touch” programs should aim for a broader, educational approach that will result in more permanent solutions. Programs on this end of the spectrum include things like financial coaching and credit counseling. They do offer higher potential for lasting financial behavior change, but they do tend to be more expensive and successful implementation requires more direct involvement with employees.

Educate to succeed

Once you have a strategy in place, it is critical that people know what kind of benefits they have at their disposal in order to make the most of your financial wellness program. For this reason, an increasing number of employers are introducing on-site financial education seminars and going above and beyond to provide their employees with the tools necessary to achieve financial freedom and health. Driven by the belief that it takes more than a raise to truly improve a person’s financial outlook, the benefit of this extra effort will be seen in motivated workforce that is eager to help the business move forward.

Monitor your progress

Last but not least, it is a good idea to track your progress throughout the entirety of the project. The time and resources spent on analysis will help you make your program more effective and will end up saving you money. You should be looking for outcomes including decreased absenteeism, increased productivity and increased usage of the retirement plan and other financial programs.

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