7 principles to help clients promote financial wellness
Employees are dealing with financial strain -- and they may want some help from their employer to address it.
The results of a recent survey on employer wellness programs from software company Welltok, reveals two important takeaways:
· More than 60% of survey participants are seeking support from their employer for all aspects of health with financial health as their first priority.
· If employers offered more personalized programming, 80% of respondents say they would would more actively participate in their wellness offerings.
These finding attest to what we already know. First, there is no physical wellness without mental and emotional wellbeing and there is no mental and emotional wellbeing without financial wellness. Second, engagement demands personal relevance.
Today, Americans carry $2 trillion in consumer debt, student loan debt has overtaken credit card debt and 50% of consumers live paycheck-to-paycheck. Nearly half of Americans do not have $400 to cover an emergency. Over the past decade, consumers continually report that financial stress is the greatest challenge to their health and wellness.
Struggling with finances is a deeply stressful situation for employees, families, employers and communities nationwide. To date, programs to help employees address their financial concerns have been built on the assumption that if we just teach our employees financial literacy, their financial situations will improve. This ignores the fact that money is deeply emotional—a fact that any effort to change how we deal with our money must address.
When it comes to complex, emotionally-driven issues such as money, there is often a disconnect between knowing what to do, understanding how to do it and actually doing it. In this sense, financial wellness is similar to physical wellness. I may know I need to lose 20 lbs., I may even understand, in theory, how to lose weight. But I still have trouble acting on what I know.
With this in mind, there are seven core principles critical to helping employees make a real difference in their finances and their lives.
1. Education alone is not enough. Education and financial literacy alone simply do not inspire or empower behavioral change.
2. Personalization is key. People will engage with a solution when it feels like it’s about them and their particular situation. Support resources need to bring general financial principles home by addressing employees’ individual circumstances.
3. Privacy matters. Money is a sensitive and emotional subject that is difficult to discuss — especially in a group setting. Support resources need to respect the need for privacy and empower participants to explore financial questions without fear of judgment.
4. Take a comprehensive approach. Support resources must include participants’ full financial picture to ensure that each individual’s most important issues are identified and addressed.
5. Behavior change is essential. Established principles of behavior change science work just as well for changing financial habits and decision making. Reinforcing social interaction, peer support, positive attitudes and outlooks, providing small steps and supporting regular accountability are key.
6. Technology lowers barriers to action and change. Mobile access is key for reaching individuals, meeting them where they are and offering them self-paced, actionable advice in the moment they need it. Learning to deal with money can — and should — be gamified. It takes considerable effort to present complex financial principles in fun, friendly, accessible scenarios or modules that are easy for employees to digest. But the result is worth it: Finances are transformed from difficult and stressful to easy and even fun. Employees develop a sense of competence; their finances become something they feel confident about and want to tackle.
7. Remember the human connection. Technology transforms the financial services landscape by expanding our ability to provide meaningful personalized advice, consistently and according to best practices. Still, nothing changes the importance of a human adviser who can create a relationship, connection, and the trust to empower behavioral change.
The time has come to give everyone the financial advice and tools they deserve, and that will engage and empower them to improve their situation. Fortunately, much of the necessary technology already exists — and it’s improving daily. At this point, then, it’s key to get these solutions into employees’ hands so they can start their journey.
Change won’t happen overnight, although the smallest insights — setting up your first budget, getting answers from a financial coach — can do wonders to relieve financial stressors. Step by step, change is possible, confidence grows and wellbeing improves.