What are employers doing to boost financial wellness?
Employers are becoming much more proactive in helping their workers achieve financial well-being, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute Issue Brief, 2019 Employer Approaches to Financial Wellbeing Solutions.
While helping workers save for retirement continues to be the most important (40 percent) topic within financial wellness initiatives, additional financial topics are also becoming more popular, EBRI's survey found. The research organization polled employers with 500 or more workers, screened to include respondents who express at least some interest in offering financial wellness initiatives.
Employers are also increasingly helping workers with the basics, not only providing financial education on budgeting and the importance of maintaining an emergency fund, but also offering helplines, coaching, well-being assessments and challenge programs, as well as "financial wellness communities" where workers can share success stories.
Some employers are even more proactive, offering specific solutions such as employer assistance with emergency funds or liquidity needs, according to the survey. More employers are offering payroll advances in 2019 than in 2018 (17 percent and 12 percent, respectively). Those offering emergency funds or employee hardship assistance in 2019 are in line with 2018 at 28 percent.
The most common type of emergency assistance offered is an employee relief or compassion fund (44 percent), followed by part-time donations or leave-sharing (36 percent) and matching contributions to employees' personal accounts (35 percent). Among those that already offer an emergency fund, the average number of such benefits offered was 2.5.
More employers are also helping workers manage student debt, with counseling or education ranked number two in prevalence at 27 percent of those offering. But as with emergency assistance, some are now going beyond information sharing and are offering actual monetary assistance. A quarter (25 percent) are helping workers pay down student loan debt either via matching 401(k) contributions tied to employees' student loan payment, and 15 percent are helping workers by providing loan payment subsidies.
A third (34 percent) of the respondents are either currently offering student loan debt assistance (11 percent) or planning to offer (24 percent) such initiatives. Traditional approaches such as loans offered through the employer-sponsored retirement plan are the most common approach to offering this beneﬁt (39 percent). Among those offering a student loan debt assistance program, the average number of such beneﬁts offered was 2.3.
Other key survey findings include:
- More than half (51 percent) of the respondents currently offer financial wellness initiatives to employees, another 20 percent are actively implementing and 29 percent are interested in implementing such initiatives. In last year's survey, 12 percent of the respondents were actively implementing and 34 percent were interested in implementing such initiatives.
- Just over a third (34 percent) of this year's survey respondents deﬁne ﬁnancial well-being as having access to assistance and resources that enable good ﬁnancial decisions. Slightly less define it as being comfortable or ﬁnancially secure overall, and at 21 percent say it means being equipped to achieve retirement security through planning and saving.
- The top four ﬁnancial well-being initiatives continue to be fairly traditional beneﬁts such as tuition reimbursement (64 percent), ﬁnancial planning education (60 percent), employee assistance programs (55 percent) and basic money management tools (49 percent). Firms offered an average of 4.2 financial wellness beneﬁts.
- Why are employers offering ﬁnancial wellness beneﬁts? Top reasons are overall worker satisfaction, cited by 46 percent of the respondents (vs. 54 percent in 2018); reduced ﬁnancial stress, 42 percent (vs. 48 percent in 2018); improved employee retention, 35 percent (vs. 47 percent in 2018); and improved employee use of existing benefits, 35 percent (vs. 34 percent in 2018).
- Employers are measuring financial well-being success according to data on worker satisfaction, use of retirement beneﬁts and measures of reduced stress. A majority (62 percent) examine existing employee beneﬁt data, 53 percent examine health-related data and 32 percent conduct assessments on workers' ﬁnancial wellness needs.
- Only one in four (23 percent) have created a score or metric. For those that have, 56 percent are more likely to offer a holistic ﬁnancial wellness program, compared to 38 percent of the respondents not planning on creating such a score or metric; 33 percent of the metric-centric respondents are much more likely to have a high level of concern about their employees' ﬁnancial well-being, compared to 15 percent of the non-metric respondents; and 56 percent of the metric-centric respondents are much more likely to have six or more ﬁnancial well-being offerings, compared to 15 percent of non-metric respondents.
- Only 6 percent of the respondents say that ﬁnancial well-being initiatives are entirely paid by the employee. Instead, ﬁnancial well-being initiatives are primarily either fully funded by the employer (46 percent) or a shared cost between employer and employee (48 percent).
This article was written by Katie Kuehner-Hebert from BenefitsPro and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to [email protected]
The goal is a financially fit employee base. The outcome is a more engaged and productive workforce.