With American Independence Day approaching (no offense England, we still love you), we decided to turn our thoughts to Americans and their freedoms, specifically, money freedoms. Unfortunately, too many Americans do not feel free at all when it comes to their finances. In fact, one recent study showed that 44% of American workers worry about money every – single – day. That’s no way to live in the “Home of the Brave,” is it? Employers and membership groups are taking note of the deep impact to productivity and profitability, and offering access to financial wellness tools and coaching in increasing numbers.
When we started askFinancial Wellness in 1989 (way back then we were Associated Financial Services), there was no such phrase as “Financial Wellness”. In fact, very few employers or membership groups even considered offering a financial counseling benefit. Fast forward almost 30 years. It’s clearly documented now that money stress is not only the most common kind of stress, but also responsible for many physical and psychological conditions including high blood pressure, depression, anxiety, obesity, insomnia, and everything that stems from those diagnoses. Often, health concerns trigger financial stress, which triggers further health concerns – it’s really a vicious cycle!
So what are employers and membership groups such as unions and fraternal organizations doing to help combat this very real drain on their businesses? Sponsoring access to quality, unbiased and focused financial education.
Many groups are engaging Financial Wellness benefits providers to provide on-demand financial education and coaching services to their members and employees. Very often there are solutions to financial situations that those suffering are simply not aware of. Having a professional perspective that combines experience and compassion, is enough to relieve the short term stress and begin a plan of recovery from whatever financial situation is causing the stress. By offering a suite of services such as online access, resource guides, educational webinars and videos along with live guidance from certified/accredited financial counselors, you are likely to see a reduction in financial stress in your organization and an increase in engagement and productivity.
What types of financial concerns do Financial Wellness benefit providers address? Briefly, just about anything one can imagine. Budgeting, debt, saving, planning for future needs such as retirement or college, and strategizing financially for life situation changes such as birth, death, divorce, disability or unemployment.
The biggest misstep we see sponsors of financial wellness benefits making with their Financial Wellness offering include failing to engage a provider who is unbiased. Think about it – if you offered mortgages and were counseling someone with their finances, wouldn’t it make sense to offer refinancing as a solution to the problem? The same is true with legal groups, bankruptcy attorneys, even investment advisors. The old saying, “If all you have is hammer, everything problem you see looks like a nail” rings true. Ask your financial wellness benefits provider how they are compensated, what “other” businesses they own and how their counselors are incentivized. You may be surprised!
With some involvement and focus on building financial literacy and wellness within your organization, you’ll be impressed with how much financial independence your members and employees can attain.