Major stock market indices are near record highs, household balance sheets continue to improve, and there are even signs that wage growth may start to accelerate. However, such positives are perhaps only going noticed by economists because many Americans continue to worry about both their near- and long-term financial well-being. For example, roughly one in three U.S. adults surveyed this month by the National Endowment for Financial Education said that they rate the current quality of their financial life as worse than they expect it to be.
Similarly, 79 percent of U.S. workers recently surveyed by Guardian Life said that they have “serious stress-based concerns” about their lives, with personal finances cited as the main source of their stress. That is a problem because research has shown that people who suffer from chronic stress, regardless of its source, have higher rates of sleep deprivation1, overeating2, substance abuse3, accidents4,5,6, smoking7, health problems8, anxiety/depression9, and relationship troubles10. Further, the American Psychological Association (APA) estimated that stress in the workplace costs U.S. businesses $300 billion annually in the forms of avoidable turnover, reduced worker productivity, and higher medical expenses.
With such statistics it should not be too surprising that more and more businesses are pursuing financial wellness initiatives that strive to educate workers and change their financial habits for the better. For instance, 76 percent of employers surveyed last year by Fidelity Investments and the National Business Group on Health said that they have a financial wellness program in place, and a fifth intended to implement one in 2017. Nearly three-quarters (73 percent) of respondents reported that they offer on-site financial seminars, and 59 percent said that they even make a financial coach available to workers.
Financial wellness initiatives have high success rates, according to a Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) poll. Specifically, 72 percent of HR professionals who indicated that their organization provides some form of financial education to the staff reported that the efforts have been “somewhat or very effective” in improving employees’ financial well-being. Businesses are also investing in broader wellness programs that focus on health and stress management. In fact, a recent report from Transamerica found that 28 percent of surveyed employers said that they have implemented a general wellness program for their employees within the past 12 months, a steady increase from earlier surveys.
Roughly four in five employer respondents said that their wellness program has had a positive effect on workers’ overall health and productivity, and 70 percent reported that their firm’s healthcare costs have declined. However, there also appears to be a lack of awareness about available financial wellness offerings because more than half of employers said that they provide wellness programs to their staff but only 36 percent of the surveyed workers at these firms reported that they believe they work for a company that offers a wellness program. That is yet another example of the importance of benefits communication in an increasingly competitive labor market.
Sources: NEFE, Guardian Life, EBN, Fidelity Investments, NBGH, SHRM, TCHSPost author: Charles Couch