Universal Want

These days, while we do not openly discuss our finances around the water cooler, the concept of financial wellness has taken root. A survey commissioned by Hartford Funds, found that 86% of employees between the ages of 18-34 say they are likely to utilize financial wellness resources from their employers which was mirrored in a smaller majority of 66% both in the 35-49 age group and over the age of 50. These numbers clearly demonstrate most employees crave financial guidance and 53% of those employees feel their employers should be the one to help them.

Interconnected Finances

It goes without saying that the web of money at play in society is vast, complex and interconnected; and it all starts at the finish line: retirement. Hartford Funds’ survey revealed 52% of employees have not calculated the money they’ll need to retire comfortably; some state they’ll retire later than planned and a sobering 21% said they are simply not planning to retire. Additionally, 43% say it’s likely they’ll need to use money from retirement accounts to pay for non-retirement expenses, adding to their already precarious situation. As the older generation, over 50, faces the stomach-churning reality of a questionable retirement, the trickle-down effects reach into the younger generations.

An aging and unrelenting workforce means fewer opportunities for positions or advancement, and a freeze on pay in response to higher salaries for tenured employees, leaving the millennials and gen-x workers scrambling to make up the difference. While older colleagues contend with the future, their younger counterparts are likely weighed down by the past in the form of bloated student loan and credit card debt. Hartford Funds eloquently stated “...real wages have been stagnant or declining for decades, while the certainty of a secure retirement fades into the distance.”

Less available money creates a demand for comprehensive financial education allowing workers of any age to learn how to better leverage their assets. At the office, in lieu of unaffordable raises, the benefit of learning how to stretch a dollar, budget, save and invest has risen in its place.

The Disconnect

Despite the call for financial wellness services, only 17% of surveyed advisors say they have clients employing such a program, however, most advisors anticipate that number to swell to 51% in the next five years. Regardless of this fact, however, almost half of those advisors do not mention financial wellness to their clients despite a vast majority claiming they believe it is, simply, the right thing to do. SImilarly, 100% of plan sponsors, according to Hartford Funds, have an interest in financial wellness but a less-than-impressive 21% have actually asked about them.

With a rising demand even the advisors admit will become more
prevalent why aren’t more advisors mentioning this to their clients?

 

One reason for the lopsided supply and demand in financial wellness likely has to do with the marketplace. As demonstrated in Hartford Fund’s comparison of several different platforms, including Enrich, the array of services, delivery and recordkeeping vary wildly. Some programs aim to tackle the more basic issues such as budgeting and savings while other programs reach into the complexities of legacy planning, investments and taxes. Some programs offer in-depth metrics to administrators and others do not. Some products allow for customization, branding and integration while others require accessing a third party website.

Also, simply instituting a financial wellness program is often proven not to be enough. One researched advisor is quoted as saying “to gain the most benefit, programs need to connect with participants on a personal and emotional level.” Just having the program isn’t quite enough; introducing the program, engaging the employees and maintaining interest is a vital part of the equation. Sadly, 63% of employees with access to a program wish they knew more about it!

However, to further complicate matters, despite the overwhelming demand and need for this type of education, and despite employees wanting to know more about the programs if they are offered, the majority of surveyed employees state they don’t want their coworkers to know they participate in financial wellness; in fact, only 30% claimed to be comfortable with targeted messages about financial issues.

Start The Conversation

It’s a tricky needle to thread: wading into the sea of financial wellness providers, either through the vendors themselves or through an advisor (even though many won’t bring it up), and then instituting the program in a way that respects your employees privacy while still managing to engage them so they get the help they say they need.

Next Steps

  • Decide what is most important to you and your employees in terms of financial wellness and choose among the vendors that offer those options.

    • Alternatively, be pro-active and bring up financial wellness to your advisor or plan sponsor who might have some hesitation to broach the subject on their own.

  • Develop a roll out and engagement plan; several vendors offer these services.

  • Develop a method for measuring effectiveness. These questions might help:

    • Have you seen an increase in the workplace culture?

    • Are employees more engaged? Happier?

    • Are people taking less time off?

    • Has productivity increased?

Regardless of the many intricate and individual levels personal finance and financial wellness touches upon, the unavoidable reality is that this education is not only desired but needed. Whether your employees respond or not, someone needs to start the conversation to start down the road towards financial wellness.