Financially Fit

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Money makes the world go round, but how many of us really know how to harness its potential? Let’s face it: many otherwise savvy Americans are woefully underinformed about financial issues. In many cases, this leads to stress—stress that doesn’t stay at home, but comes to work with your employees and impacts their performance.

People under extreme financial stress are more than four times as likely to suffer from fatigue, headaches, depression, and other ailments, according to a recent report by the retirement services division of Lockton, a global insurance broker—all of which can affect employee productivity and job satisfaction.

It just makes sense to invest in improving your employees’ financial wellness. Here are four great ways to get started:

  1. Combat financial illiteracy with targeted trainings. Popular topics for trainings include budgeting, saving, investing, and planning for retirement. You can develop these in-house or use other resources. Your benefits broker may be able to steer you toward reputable financial literacy trainers. Education can be delivered in many ways, from on-site lunch-and-learns to one-on-one consultations with financial advisors to online resources such as retirement calculators.
  2. Utilize an Employee Assistance Program (EAP). EAPs can recommend resources for employees undergoing financial stress. Since an employer isn’t directly involved—EAPs, such as debt management services and credit counseling, are confidential—employees may be more likely to take advantage of these services. Credit counseling can help individuals reduce their monthly debt, create a budget, and improve their ability to save. In some cases, credit counselors work with credit card companies and other loan holders to create reasonable payment plans for people in debt.
  3. Provide a retirement savings account. Supplying a structure for employees to save for retirement can be a powerful tool for employee life satisfaction. By providing a plan such as a 401K, you allow employees to get a jump-start on retirement savings and reduce their taxable income. If your employees are like many others in the U.S., they may have little or no retirement savings at all. This causes anxiety for employees as they near retirement age. Bear in mind that for best results, it’s important to pair your 401K plan with employee education about how to get the most out of it.
  4. Include financial topics within your comprehensive wellness program. Employees are more likely to experience lasting reductions in their levels of financial stress when financial well-being is linked to incentives and other benefit programs you already provide.

Just like any goal associated with behavioral change , such as getting more exercise or eating a healthier diet, financial wellness must ultimately become a part of your workforce culture for it to succeed. Employees must have clear instructions and confidential services to turn to when dealing with major life events that cause financial stress. Whether it’s a parent taking on the financial responsibility of a new child, an anxious middle-aged worker who hasn’t put aside money for retirement, or a recent college grad with overwhelming student loans, access to financial resources is crucial for a happy and healthy workforce.

Dana Lester has a bachelor’s degree in nutrition and dietetics. During her time at Oregon State University, she worked on creating the Green Office Certification Program, which helps campus offices assess themselves for environmental sustainability. She is passionate about holistic wellness, eating fruit, and writing.

 

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