4 Ways HR Pros Can Better Support Financial Wellness
Here’s something you may not have heard before: Employees are in such need of financial guidance right now that they are willing to give up other benefits, or pay out of pocket, for the support and knowledge you can provide.
In a recent SoFi at Work survey, 68% of workers said they would sacrifice other key benefits (including healthcare, flexible/remote work options, and even paid time off) to keep their financial benefits. What’s more, 72% said they would foot the bill for financial education, resources, and planning tools (for millennials, it was a surprising 87%).
Rising prices, crushing credit card and student loan debt, and inadequate emergency and retirement savings are just some of the concerns fueling this desire for more and better financial advice.
Many HR leaders have already sensed the growing need for financial coaching in these and other areas. According to the SoFi at Work survey (which included 1,600 employees and HR leaders), access to a financial planner/advisor, financial education/seminars, and budget planning tools were among the top five benefits employers said they offer.
But, questions remain. Are these financial coaching benefits as good as they need to be? Are they accessible to all employees and targeted to the specific needs of different demographic groups?
Now is a good time for HR leaders committed to providing financial wellness to their workforce to try to answer those questions. To help, let’s take a closer look at four ways benefits managers can help provide the financial education resources their employees crave.
1. Understand Generational Differences
At many companies, workers are staying on the job well into their sixties and even seventies. That means that, for the first time in history, benefits managers are looking at a workforce that includes as many as five generations. The result? You need benefits packages that cater to a vast array of life stages and financial needs.
Student loan repayment benefits and student debt counseling, for example, can be a lifeline to younger workers who are struggling to juggle loan payments with long-term financial goals. Millennial and Gen Z workers trying to break into the tight real estate market, on the other hand, might benefit more from home-buying assistance. However, neither of those benefits may be relevant to fifty-plus workers. These employees may be more interested in pre-retirement financial counseling and health-care savings strategies.
Understanding generational and life-stage differences can help HR leaders create financial well-being benefits that better meet the needs of their workforce.
2. Pinpoint Your Employees’ Top Concerns
Financial stress was a thing well before the pandemic hit. But half of the employee respondents in SoFi’s survey said the pandemic had worsened their financial situation. Even more concerning: A full 75 percent of workers (across incomes and industries) cited at least one source of financial stress, including retirement savings (40%), credit card debt (33%), and not having enough money to cover food, rent, mortgage, and other basics (29%).
The best way to find out what financial counseling and other benefits your employees need is to take steps to measure the financial well-being of your workforce. One way to do this is to design an online financial wellness assessment survey and encourage all employees to participate. Just taking the survey can benefit your workforce. By incorporating an interactive tool that gives immediate feedback, employees can better understand their financial status as they emerge from the pandemic and start clarifying their short- and long-term goals.
3. Reassess Your Current Benefits and Education Resources
It may be time to do an inventory of the current benefits you offer and the vendors you work with. This process can help in two ways.
First, you’ll determine if your offerings meet all of your workers’ needs and align with their financial wellness priorities. For instance, is your financial counseling focused only on retirement planning, meaning budgeting advice is missing? You may discover places where you need to improve or expand your benefit offerings, especially in the area of financial education.
Second, you may find financial counseling resources that you have not been utilizing for your employees. Your vendors may offer a wide range of educational resources, modeling tools, or financial coaching that can help employees learn to better manage their budgets, savings, and debt. Do the real estate professionals and mortgage lenders you work with for employee relocation offer classes for first-time homebuyers? Does your student loan refinance vendor also have education programs on government-sponsored repayment alternatives that employees should be aware of? Making the most of your vendors’ financial counseling services can be a cost-effective way to improve and enhance your education efforts.
4. Boost Communication and Availability
Once you initiate and unearth financial education resources, you’ll need to make sure that the employees who need them know they are available, as well as how to access them. More than a third of workers SoFi surveyed said they aren’t using their employers’ financial benefits. Reasons cited included poor quality benefits (23%), employees aren’t sure how to get started (21%), and employees weren’t aware of the benefits(19%).
Employers can solve some of this disconnect with better, more targeted communication to employees about the financial education resources available to them. If employees are fully aware of all their financial wellness benefits — and those benefits speak to their biggest financial concerns — you will likely see an uptick in utilization and, ultimately, a healthier and happier workforce.
The pandemic has shed a strong light on just how hungry employees are for high-quality and well-targeted financial guidance and how much they want to overcome their challenges and achieve their goals.
SoFi at Work can help. We offer a vast array of research, financial tools, benefits platforms, and education resources to help you build the most effective and targeted benefits package for all of your employees, regardless of their age or income level.
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