How Can Companies Encourage Financial Wellness to Employees? Experts Weigh In

A mid adult businessman smiles confidently as he talks with a team of associates during a virtual meeting during the COVID-19 pandemic.
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As workplaces across the U.S. continue to bear the brunt of the Great Resignation, with employees leaving in droves thanks to a shifting of priorities amid the ongoing pandemic, businesses are looking at ways to keep and attract talent. Companies are rolling out sought-after benefits such as flexible hours and higher wages, but the pressure is also on them to provide wellness programs. 

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What exactly does a wellness program entail? A discounted gym membership and healthy snacks in the workplace could be part of it, but CEOs might want to also incorporate financial wellness. Research has shown that poor financial management is a major cause of stress and, more obviously, bad financial outcomes. The problem, most of the time, is that Americans simply don’t have the financial literacy tools needed to navigate such inherently complicated terrain.

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Bosses, supervisors and HR managers can absolutely help with getting their employees on the best track, by encouraging financial wellness in concrete ways — including by tapping into their own sense of generosity.   

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Pay Them Fairly

“One of the most effective ways businesses can help their employees get financially fit is to make it a priority to pay them fairly,” said Vicki Salemi, Monster career expert. “Let’s close the wage gap once and for all. By paying people what they’re worth, that sends the message the employer recognizes and values its employees’ talents and abilities.”

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Provide Lunch and Learns About Personal Finance 

“Businesses can help employees by providing access to information,” Salemi said. “For example, they may want to have a lunch and learn series featuring financial advisors’ info sessions such as explaining the funds within their 401k plan. Another lunch and learn can teach about effective budgeting. It can be effective because employees may not have significant amounts of time to make financial fitness a priority in addition to everything else they’re juggling, so by giving them access during the day, it becomes part of the employees’ schedule with access to resources.”

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Ask Employees What They Want 

“Employers may want to send an anonymous survey to its employees to see what type of financial information would be most helpful to support them,” Salemi said. “This is a win-win: It helps employers learn about what’s most important to provide and it shows employees their employer is making an effort to best support their financial wellness.”

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Make Financial Education Programs Mandatory — With a Bonus 

“While many businesses provide financial education programs, they are often ‘check the box’ programs and many employees fail to participate,” said Robert R. Johnson, professor at Heider College of Business, Creighton University  “If businesses want financially savvy employees, they need to incentivize employees to participate. Making participation in such programs mandatory makes such programs feel like punishment; instead, if businesses provided positive incentives, such programs would come to be viewed as a real employee benefit.  Examples of incentives could be cash bonuses or gift cards to local businesses. Additionally, having a series of such programs providing education on a variety of personal financial topics makes such programs more attractive.”

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Offer One-on-One Assistance 

“Another great way to get your employees to practice financial wellness is to offer individual assistance,” said Donna Tang, budgeting expert at CreditDonkey. “By keeping open communication lines with employees through one-on-one assistance meetings, employers can educate their workers on the benefits of such programs and help them become more sound in their spending and lifestyle. Since finances are a sensitive subject for most people, one-on-one meetings help keep privacy and enable effective communication as well.”

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Make Retirement Savings Standard

“We find the most successful companies with the highest number of employees that are on track to retire with a sufficient amount of retirement income are the ones that make retirement savings a standard at their company,” said Clayton Wood, CFP, managing partner of C.B. Wood Financial. “They have a set process of how and when to enroll employees into their retirement savings plan. The process starts with a way of tracking an employee’s waiting period to enroll and contacting the employees the day they’re eligible. When the HR team contacts the employee, they have a high understanding of how the plan works. HR teams don’t need to be an expert about investments, but they need to know what the company matches and how to enroll a new employee, then refer the employee to their plan advisor for investment advice.”

Provide HSA Accounts 

“Consider providing employees with a Health Savings Account (HSA),” said Magdalena G. Johndrow, M.SC., CFS®, CDFA®, financial advisor and partner at Johndrow Wealth Management, LLC. “HSAs are only available for high-deductible health plans, but if your company has that sort of health plan, consider also adding an employer contribution into the HSA. This will encourage employees to save money into their HSA which then allows employees to then pay for their medical expenses with pre-tax dollars, saving them tax money.” 

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Consider Helping Pay Off Your Employee’s Student Debt

“Under the CARES Act, as an employer you can pay up to $5,250 per year towards your employee’s student loans tax-free until December 2025,” Johndrow said. “This means that the employee will not have to pay income tax on this money and the employer receives a payroll tax exclusion. This is a win-win for employee and employer.”

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About the Author

Nicole Spector is a writer, editor, and author based in Los Angeles by way of Brooklyn. Her work has appeared in Vogue, the Atlantic, Vice, and The New Yorker. She's a frequent contributor to NBC News and Publishers Weekly. Her 2013 debut novel, "Fifty Shades of Dorian Gray" received laudatory blurbs from the likes of Fred Armisen and Ken Kalfus, and was published in the US, UK, France, and Russia — though nobody knows whatever happened with the Russian edition! She has an affinity for Twitter.

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