For years wellness programs focused solely on improving workers’ health, but more and more businesses are now expanding the scope of these initiatives to also include financial well-being. For example, a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch study found that 53 percent of employers currently offer a financial wellness program, up from just 24 percent in 2015. Similarly, a new EBRI analysis found that 51 percent of surveyed employers already offer a financial wellness program, a fifth are in the process of implementing one, and 29 percent are at least interested in doing so.
Initiatives commonly utilized by employer respondents include employee assistance programs (EAPs), financial planning education, and basic money management tools. Tuition reimbursement appears to be a growing offering as well, likely a response to younger workers’ greater reliance on student loans and increased labor force share. When asked about the positive spillovers expected to result from implementing a financial wellness program, surveyed employers’ top responses were boosting worker satisfaction, reducing financial stress, improving talent retention, and increasing the use of existing workplace benefits.
As for the key issue facing employees that financial wellness initiatives are intended to help address, “preparing for retirement” was by far the most common response. This is not too surprising since an earlier EBRI report suggests employees’ general uncertainty about their old-age financial preparedness can be a big contributor to anxiety in the workplace. Specifically, 55 percent of surveyed employees who said that they are not confident about living comfortably in retirement reported worrying about their finances while at work, compared to just 7 percent among employees optimistic about retirement.
Roughly three in four worker respondents also said that they believe participating in a financial wellness program would be “very or somewhat helpful,” particularly in the areas of calculating how much to save for a secure retirement, establishing an old-age budget, and planning for potential healthcare expenses in retirement. Moreover, many employees expressed a general belief that any type of wellness program would likely increase their productivity in the workplace, but responses suggest that the biggest boost should come from initiatives focused on retirement planning.
Sources: BofAML, Employee Benefit Research Institute