How brokers can introduce a strategic approach to financial wellbeing

The new buzz phrase of the day is “financial wellness.” Add that to the existing buzz words and phrases, “millennials,” “student loan debt” and “ROI.” It becomes clear that benefit advisers have an opportunity to provide a strategic approach for financial wellness to enable employers to offer a well-rounded benefit package that is relevant to the needs of attracting and retaining employees.

Creating a financial wellness plan starts with understanding the company philosophy. Advisers can help employers understand the correlation between employee financial concerns and the holistic effect they have on both the employee and the employer.

financial wellness chart = xerox

Today’s financial wellness concerns
The 2016 Employee Financial Wellness Survey conducted by PwC shows 40% of all employees surveyed find it difficult to meet their monthly household expenses. The top financial concerns were:

(1) not having enough emergency savings;

(2) not being able to retire;

(3) not meeting monthly expenses;

(4) being laid off; and

(5) increased debt.

Even knowing these financial concerns, though, employers do not always know how to alleviate the personal impact they may have on an employee’s life. These financial concerns are brought into the workplace, causing general distractions and stress to increased blood pressure and depression. In turn, these conditions can cause absenteeism, wage garnishments, disability/workers compensation claims, or substance abuse and even theft. This can impact the business’ profitability, decrease employee productivity, and increase health insurance rates, overtime, and employee turnover.

While American businesses have become better able to increase productivity and improve margins, statistics show a decrease in employee engagement and rising unhappiness. In an effort to better understand how to build the right kind of office culture, where employees are happy, healthy and productive, Chris Reimer, communications strategist and author of Happywork, shares eight ways organizations create horrible office cultures.
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Helping the employer move toward a corporate philosophy focused on its employee’s wellbeing, the benefit adviser can then begin to establish the framework for the structure of a financial wellness plan to meet that philosophy.

Recognizing that not one plan is not fit for all
Benefit advisers can also help their employers think strategically and not only about the employee’s top concerns, as noted above. Ask questions such as, “Is the company paying competitively?” Or, “Is the company in a growth or down-sizing mode?” Also, the workforce make-up will help establish criteria within the plan, i.e. knowing that white-collar workers traditionally have more student loans and that they are more likely to not invest in retirement until debts are paid off and that blue-collar workers are prone to forgo 401(k) investments entirely.

Create measurable outcomes
Another piece of the puzzle is to know both the employer and employee objectives. For the employer these are ROI-geared and would include reduced health care costs, turnover, and absenteeism. These are hard dollar costs that can be measured. Outcomes the employees would derive could be reduced credit card debt and healthcare costs, and increased savings, and retirement funds. Coordinate these outcomes into deliverables through 401(k), health care plans, and leave policies including disability and workers compensation programs.

Maintaining a financial wellness program
Educating and motivating employees on a consistent basis is another piece of the puzzle. What tools and resources do your current vendors bring to the table? Do your vendors offer on-line training, apps to track spending, or rewards for achievements? Maximize vendor services for best results.

What will the rollout of your plan look like? Many programs die out quickly because the rollout was a corporate meeting with no follow-through. Buy-in and promotion of the plan needs to be at all levels within the company to ensure sustainability.

Educate employers to use the financial wellness program as part of their employee communication toolkit. It takes time and consistency to build up a habit of use. Engagement needs to come from all levels of the company and it is important to use many forms of communication.

Most importantly, help create perpetuation of the financial wellness plan. Trusted advisers can help with establishing analytics to monitor company and employee progress. The objectives are all measureable. Advisers will be in a position to help employers tweak programs where needed and establish a rewards system when milestones are reached.

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