Financial Wellness Is Workplace Benefit for All

by Rob Schwister

As more and more business owners offer retirement and healthcare benefits for their employees, the question is: What else can I do? This isn’t purely altruistic; while employers do want to help employees live well, benefits are also critical to a company’s success.

Eighty-five percent of Americans are nervous about their financial lives, and 65 percent lose sleep over money. This spills into the workplace, where people spend an average of three work hours per week on personal financial matters. Financial insecurity can disrupt the natural balance found in vibrant workplaces, and money worries can lead to stress, absenteeism and lowered productivity.

The next generation of benefits packages address overall “financial wellness,” which teaches employees to manage debt, save for emergencies and prepare for the future. Initiating a financial wellness program can be beneficial to not only a business’s employees, but also its bottom line.

Attract, Engage and Retain Employees with Enhanced Benefits
In a competitive employment marketplace, financial wellness stands out. A complete wellness program goes beyond traditional benefits. Personalized, live advice from a trained advisor is a valued benefit that can make a job offer stand out. With financial wellness served by their employer, employees are also more likely to remain loyal, reducing turnover. Smart programs also keep employees engaged and incentivized to keep improving their financial wellness, helping them retire comfortably and on-time — which is good for both employee and employer.

Relieve Near-Term Financial Stress to Improve the Bottom Line
More than 50 percent of Americans can’t come up with $500 in an emergency, and 40 percent have credit card debt they can’t pay off. That’s stressful. Financial wellness programs teach people to set goals and make a habit of building emergency savings and managing debt. Starting automatic transfers and repayment plans relieves stress and makes things better step by step. Insurance also relieves the stress of recovery if something does go wrong. Relieving stress can improve employee health and reduce employer healthcare costs. It can also improve productivity, with less time lost and employees who are more focused on work.

Simplify Everyone’s Life with Easy-to-Use Online Tools
Education, support and online tools let employees take more control. Believe it or not, the one benefit employees probably want most is education. A financial wellness program serves it in a way they can understand. Even better, they can use online tools to improve their wellness without a lot of employer interaction. Employees learn from and engage with financial experts instead of using their employer as an intermediary, adding a sense of confidentiality and saving employers’ time. They get a personalized assessment and help in the areas where they need it most, whether that’s retirement, debt management or credit help.

Keep Employees on Top of Financial Wellness with Regular Check-Ups
Financial wellness is not set-it-and-forget-it. Needs change over time. At one point, employees may need coaching on how to best use their benefits; at another point, they may need financial consulting on personal debt and savings, all with live support from real advisors. Changes can be employee-initiated when they need them, or many employers proactively offer regular one-on-one checkups or group seminars hosted by the financial wellness provider. This ensures all the benefits of financial wellness aren’t lost over time.

Comprehensive financial wellness can’t be achieved overnight, and, like physical fitness, it isn’t always easy. But with a financial wellness program, employers can help fill the gap many American workers experience, and reap the benefits of a less stressed, more secure workforce.

Rob Schwister is president of Phoenix Metro Market with Alerus Financial, which offers business and consumer banking products and services, residential mortgage financing, employer-sponsored retirement plan and benefit administration, and wealth management that includes trust, brokerage, insurance and asset management.

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