More Companies Eyeing the Financial Side of Wellness


  • As the definition of benefits expands, the demand for financial wellness is growing.
  • PwC reports financial stress rose in 2016, and over half are worried.
  • Fifty-seven percent agree they would stay with an employer who improved benefits.
  • Nearly half fear they will have to dip into retirement savings early.

With financial stress rising, today’s workers are looking more than ever for ways to shore up their money. And increasingly that means looking for greater financial wellness through employer benefits. There’s never been a better time to offer a financial wellness program.

Beyond the 401(k)

A 2015 study by the Unum Group shows nearly four out of five workers consider a company’s benefits package “an important factor” in whether they’ll take a job offer. And three out of five employees told MetLife in 2016 that an improvement in benefits would sway them to stay with their employer. So the right financial wellness program not only strengthens your team, it also helps ensure you’re attracting and retaining the best talent available.

Wellness has long meant health care access and often fitness incentives. But the financial aspects of employee wellness are becoming more prominent in the way companies think about benefits. And financial wellness has come to mean so much more than offering a company retirement plan.

As studies consistently show, financial stress keeps rising among American workers. The 2016 “Employee Financial Wellness Survey” from PricewaterhouseCoopers revealed most respondents are worried about their personal finances. That stress has many looking for guidance on better ways of handling money.

One big factor in the demand for financial wellness stems from the ongoing student debt crisis. The same survey showed nearly four out of five millennials agree student debt is stopping them from progressing on their financial plans for the future.

More broadly, the general financial strain is delaying or sapping the retirement plans of many. Nearly half of workers overall expect to use some of their current retirement plan funds for other needs.

Flexible, Behavior-Based Wellness Programs Are the Best

As we’ve seen, both debt and stress are dominating the lives of many American workers and interfering with their financial plans for the future. But no 401(k) plan in the world, no matter how generous, can relieve these issues. And that’s because the problem is behavioral. A sweeter employer match is powerless to speed up how often or how much employees take advantage of those offers.

What employers are truly looking for is help with the financial basics. Many are doubtful about the possibility of ever paying off their debts. Not only do they lack hope for the future, they often fail to plan for emergencies or even to budget for regular expenses.

As a result, the best financial wellness programs to meet employees where they are should focus on helping them to progress through changing their daily money behaviors, from budgeting to debt elimination and all the way up to investing for retirement. Ideally such a program would include the ability to read or browse material at their own pace and on a variety of devices.

Look for a flexible, self-service format that takes the whole employee into view when considering a financial wellness program. Until employees leave debt behind and learn to budget, they’ll continue to have high stress and make bad investment decisions or totally fail to invest at all.

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