Top 10 Reasons Financial Wellness Is Important in the Workplace

By Julia Califano · March 15, 2024 · 8 minute read

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Top 10 Reasons Financial Wellness Is Important in the Workplace

Amidst a backdrop of inflation, rising borrowing costs, and growing debt levels, employee financial wellness has been on the decline in recent years. According to PwC’s 2023 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, a full 60% of full-time employees are stressed about their finances. Indeed, employees are even more concerned about their finances today than during the height of the pandemic.

Given that money worries can take a toll on employee health and well-being, as well as productivity at work, it makes sense that a growing number of employers are enhancing support for financial wellness. Bank of America’s 2023 Workplace Benefits Report found that 97% of employers now feel responsible for employee financial wellness (up from 95% in 2021, and from 41% in 2013).

Regardless of how well-compensated your staff may be, this type of resource can help workers feel more financially confident and prepared for the future. Here’s a look at 10 reasons why adding this benefit is so important.

1. Decreases Distractions and Increases Productivity

According to PwC’s Survey (which included 3,638 full-time employed adults across a variety of industries), financially stressed employees tend to be more distracted and less engaged while at work. The study found that financial stress and money worries had a negative impact on the respondents’ sleep, mental health, self-esteem, physical health, and personal relationships. Nearly one-third of employees surveyed admitted that financial insecurity has negatively impacted their productivity at work.

When employees are able to easily get answers to their financial questions and access on-site support when dealing with money problems, there’s a good chance they’ll be less stressed about their finances and more able to focus on their jobs. That’s a win for both employees and employers.

2. Improves Employee Physical Health

Financial stressors have been found to correlate directly with not only mental health challenges but also with poor physical well-being. As the American Psychological Association points out in their Stress in America 2023 report, stress and anxiety put the body on high alert and ongoing stress can accumulate, causing inflammation, wearing on the immune system, and increasing the risk of a number of different ailments, including digestive issues, heart disease, weight gain, and stroke.

Providing your employees with the support they need now can go a long way toward staving off physical health challenges down the line.

3. Builds Loyalty

By offering financial wellness programs, employers demonstrate a commitment to their employees’ well-being, which can help foster employee loyalty and increase retention rates.

The PwC study found that just 54% of financially stressed employees felt there was a promising future for them at their employer, and they were twice as likely to be looking for a new job than employees who were less stressed about their personal finances. What’s more, 73% of financially stressed employees said they would be attracted to another employer that cares more about their financial well-being compared to just 54% of non-financially stressed employees.

Recommended: 3 Ways to Support Your Employees During Times of Uncertainty

4. Can Help Reduce the Burden of Student Debt

Employees struggling to pay down student debt often have difficulty contributing to 401(k) plans and achieving other financial goals, such as buying a house or car. By offering student loan repayment benefits and education, employers can reduce this burden and help employees plan for the future.

The good news is that these programs recently became more affordable. Under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, employers can now provide $5,250 tax-exempt annually for an employee’s student loan repayment through 2025. That means employees won’t pay income tax on contributions made by their employers toward educational assistance programs, yet the employer also gets a payroll tax exclusion on these funds.

A growing number of employers are offering some form of loan repayment support. In 2021, only 17% of companies offered any of these benefits. In October 2023, 34% of employers offered student loan benefits.

Recommended: How Student Loan Benefits Can Help Retain Employees

5. Employees Want It

According to the PwC study, the vast majority of employees want help with their finances. Not only that, the stigma around getting help with finances appears to be lifting. In 2023, employees overall were less likely to be embarrassed to ask for guidance or advice about their finances than they’ve been in the past: Just 33% said they find it embarrassing, compared to 42% in PwC’s 2019 survey.

In Bank of America’s Workplace Benefits Report (which surveyed more than 1,300 employees and nearly 800 employers), 76% of employees said they felt that employers are responsible for their financial wellness.

6. Can Help Parents Save for Future College Expenses

In a June 2023 survey of 1,000 parents of teenagers by Discover Student Loans, 70% of subjects said they were worried about financing their kids’ college expenses. In addition, 68% of parents were concerned about the amount of debt their kids will be saddled with even after the parents offer up their own financial assistance.

Providing employees with much-needed information about 529 college savings plans and giving them a convenient way to contribute directly from their pay, can go a long way in helping to relieve the stress associated with one of their top financial concerns.

While in the past, the options for using unspent 529 funds were limited (and often meant facing tax and penalty consequences), the SECURE 2.0 Act allows savers to roll unused 529 funds — to a lifetime limit of $35,000 — into the beneficiary’s Roth IRA, without incurring the usual 10% penalty for nonqualified withdrawals or generating any taxable income. The new rule went into effect January 1, 2024 and might come as a relief to any employees who worry about having excess funds stuck in a 529 should their child end up not needing the money.

Recommended: The Importance of Offering 529 Plan Contributions in an Employee Benefits Package

7. Helps to Clarify Confusing Financial Topics

Many young professionals want to buy their first home, but they don’t know how to save for a down payment or secure a mortgage. New to the workforce, they also struggle to understand financial topics they weren’t taught in school, such as income tax deductions (especially as they get married and have children), the necessity of life insurance, and wealth management and investing.

At the same time, older employees might feel overwhelmed by the financial options available to them. With educational resources and access to experts through a financial wellness program, employees can find the information they need from vetted and trusted sources. In PwC’s survey, 68% of employees said they use their employer’s financial wellness services such as coaching, workshops or online tools.

8. Protects Employees

Sometimes healthcare benefits just aren’t enough. In the event of a health emergency, employees need to be prepared for insurance deductibles and other unexpected costs. Solid financial preparations can prevent them from dipping into savings or making hardship withdrawals from 401(k) plans. Those withdrawals can not only damage their prospects for long-term financial stability, but also create administrative headaches for HR.

Providing an automated emergency savings program is fast becoming a way for employers to help provide a foundation for financial well-being for workers. These plans allow employees to make paycheck contributions to a dedicated account (possibly with a company match), and can help make your workforce more financially resilient in the face of life’s “What Ifs.”

Recommended: How Much Should Your Employees Have in Emergency Savings?

9. Enhances Your Organization’s DEI Efforts

These days, many employers of all sizes have a diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) strategy or program in place to increase inclusion in the workplace. Offering financial wellness benefits to employees is yet another way to foster a more equitable company culture.

The reason is that financial wellness benefits can help level the playing field by helping to empower minorities and underrepresented groups, who may have more financial stress and encounter more barriers to economic opportunities. Giving all employee populations access to programs that can help them buy their first homes, pay down student debt, save for emergencies, and invest for the future allows them to build wealth for generations to come.

Recommended: How to Support Your Low-Wage Workforce

10. Helps Employees Plan for Retirement

Employer-sponsored retirement plans can help to ease the financial stress that stems from retirement planning. In addition to offering a retirement plan, you might also provide education programs on planning for retirement, understanding different types of accounts available, and best places to get started based on age and goals.

In addition, you might consider instituting a 401(k) match for their student loan payments. Thanks to a provision in Secure Act 2.0 (that went into effect at the start of 2024), companies can match employees’ qualified student loan payments with contributions to their retirement accounts, including 401(k)s, 403(b)s, SIMPLE IRAs, and government 457(b) plans. With this benefit, employees won’t need to make the decision regarding whether to contribute to their 401(k)s or make student loan payments.

Recommended: How Does an HR Team Implement a Student Loan Matching or Direct Repayment Benefit?

The Takeaway

Financial stress is a major concern for today’s employees, and something a growing number of workers want their employers to help with. Providing support for financial wellness can help boost employee engagement and retention, stave off mental and physical health concerns, help your company recruit top talent, and even lead to a more inclusive and equitable workplace.

SoFi at Work can help. We provide the benefit platforms and education resources that can enhance financial wellness throughout your workforce.


Photo credit: iStock/Inside Creative House

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