Should Employers Provide Financial Education for Employees?

Student Overwhelmed Asking For Help

 

Financial stress is an issue that touches all age groups and income levels.  Student loan debt, retirement, health care, credit cards, and mortgages are all common concerns for American workers.  A recent survey conducted by State Street Global Advisors found:

  • 60% of respondents said they are stressed and distracted by their financial situations.
  • Half live paycheck-to-paycheck.
  • Almost one-in-four say their productivity has suffered because of financial issues.
  • One quarter said they have missed work because of money-related stressors.

These results don’t seem particularly remarkable.  I mean, we all have issues, right?  Some would say that the employee needs to put all that aside while at work and keep productivity high no matter what.  But let’s face it, this problem isn’t going to fix itself.  The need for financial education is at an all-time high as financial literacy is low among Americans.

So who should provide this education?  More experts are recommending that employers provide financial instruction for their employees.  Why?  Because the benefits are great not only for the workers, but for the employers as well.

Think about it, employers are losing thousands of dollars each year due to low productivity. Some of these losses are due to the financial stress of their workers.   Missed working days, limited focus, and employees retiring on the job are all issues that can cost employers money.     So it now becomes much more than an individual problem, it is an organizational problem.  This is prompting more employers to consider financial wellness education for their employees.

Employers have provided employee benefits education since the first American pension plan was established by American Express Railroad in 1875.  This normally consists of describing the enrollment process, options, and required forms.  However, many think it is time for a more complete approach that includes basic money management skills, budgeting, and investment advice for employees at all stages of their careers.  In an article by Jill Cornfield featured on PLANSPONSOR.com, Fredrik Axsater, of State Street, said “A more holistic approach is needed, providing tools and opportunities for employees to reduce stress and improve their financial well-being.”  Employers are taking notice.   In fact, the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) reports that 57% of organizations are now making financial education available for their workers.

The University of Minnesota advocates “Workplace Comprehensive Financial Education” and says that the benefits to employers for offering financial education include:

  • Improved productivity – Enables employees to focus on their jobs rather than financial issues
  • Reduced employee stress – Leads to healthier, happier employees
  • Improved workforce planning – When employees can retire when they are supposed to, employers can better plan for future workforce movement.
  • Attract quality workers and then keep them – Employees generally view their employers as trustworthy sources of information. Providing these services for employees can be a very attractive benefit.

So what do you think?  Does an employer have any responsibility whatsoever to ensure its employees are fiscally fit?  Or is this the responsibility of the individual?

 

Jeff Kempker, RPA, CRC

Jeff Kempker
Manager of Member Services

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