It’s hard to see our own blind spots, and easy to be overconfident about our financial stability. But when it comes to your employees, a lack of personal financial resilience can have ramifications in the workplace when reality sets in.
For example, consultancy firm Gallup’s “State of the Global Workplace 2021 Report” found that 56% of US employees reported themselves as thriving. Yet a 2020 report from the Federal Reserve Board found that 25% of adults have no retirement savings whatsoever—and, in 2019, three in 10 didn’t have enough saved to cover three months of expenses.
These numbers don’t quite add up, and stories like these can be found across your workforce. Morgan Stanley at Work has found that employees with low financial resilience tend to be more distracted at work—and less productive, affecting your bottom line. How can companies break through the disconnect and help people understand where they truly are financially and what steps they can take toward a stronger future?
Many of us tend to assume we are financially stable if we can pay monthly bills, but true financial wellness also means having an emergency fund, managing debt, saving for retirement, paying for education, covering estate planning, and more.
That’s where providing financial planning support at work can help your employees assess their true needs, identify goals, and organize actions that make sense for them to move toward greater financial strength. Many of your employees may view financial planning as something that only works for the wealthy, but anyone who uses money can benefit from having a plan in place. It’s important to get the message out there that financial planning is for everyone—and workplace benefits can help them get started.
Why at work?
Many employees are looking for help with essential financial tasks. In fact, according to a Financial Health Network survey conducted on behalf of Morgan Stanley, 71% of employees are open to receiving personal finance support at work, nearly 75% believe it’s important for employers to offer financial wellness benefits, and 60% would be more likely to stay with employers that do.
To meet this need, start with individualized data that bridges the gap between what your programs offer and where your employees are in their lives. Financial wellness programs can meet a lot of needs, but employees need to be able to connect the dots. A personalized assessment is a critical first step to let them know what they’re doing right and where they can improve.
Just as businesses conduct market research before launching new products, it’s important to do the same when designing your financial wellness programs. Survey your employees, hold focus groups, work with employee resource groups—that is a priceless opportunity to hear what’s top of mind for constituencies within your organization in a live environment. We often find that when employers do so, they discover that they have programs that are out of date with the current needs of their population, or there is an awareness gap between what is offered and employees’ understanding of what they have access to with their company.
Typically, one such gap is financial planning. Providing financial planning services through workplace benefits can make a tremendous difference. Here’s how we sometimes explain it:
- Building a personalized roadmap. Working with a coach can help employees build a budget and create a plan to build up savings. It could also mean helping employees plan for their children’s education or work through specialized topics such as establishing special needs trusts. Input from a professional can make the process less overwhelming and more productive.
- Increase workplace benefits utilization. Frank conversations with a neutral third party can help employees and their families make strategic financial decisions and take advantage of workplace benefits programs—for example, how to stretch a budget with the help of discount programs or transit benefits.
- Supporting financially responsible self-care. Working with a financial coach or advisor through work can help employees approach money decisions more mindfully, reducing financial stress and helping them feel more supported—contributing to a more positive workplace culture.
Empowering your people
Of course, employees will also need to do some of the work of financial wellness on their own, but they will appreciate education and support from you along the way. Employers can add value by not only offering financial planning or coaching as part of a benefits package, but by helping employees understand how to think through and pursue their financial goals in tangible ways.
Helping your employees understand the value of a financial plan—and focus on strategies that can help them accumulate wealth—can go a long way toward building greater stability and success in their personal finances. And that can directly translate into a happier, healthier, and more productive workplace.
Krystal Barker Buissereth, CFA, is Managing Director, Head of Financial Wellness at Morgan Stanley at Work.