Building a Financial Literacy Program for Employees

Workplace wellness programs are a popular benefit, and for good reason — they’re an effective, engaging way to teach employees how to live healthier lives. But teaching employees how to improve their finances can be just as beneficial for their health, not to mention their pocketbooks. Here’s what your company has to gain from adding a financial education program to its offerings.

Financial Literacy and Health

Financial literacy entails having the knowledge and confidence to handle money issues like managing debt, saving for retirement and setting a budget — things people need to deal with every day. Despite how important these topics are, according to Fortune, nearly two-thirds of Americans could not pass a quiz covering basic financial literacy concepts.

Almost no one can say they’ve never worried about the bills, but serious financial stress can lead to health problems including depression, anxiety, trouble sleeping, high blood pressure and diabetes. Even worse, a low bank account balance might convince a sick employee that seeing their doctor or getting other important medical care isn’t worth the expense, even if they really need it.

Financial stress also follows employees into work. When your employees are having trouble making ends meet, it’s nearly impossible for them to fully concentrate at work. The Society for Human Resource Management found that an employee’s personal financial issues can lead to an inability to focus at work and higher absenteeism.

4 Ways to Improve Employee Financial Knowledge

If you’re interested in improving your employees’ financial skills, here are a few tried-and-true strategies to have in your back pocket.

  1. Give employees a financial self-assessment. One reason people have trouble planning their finances is because they just don’t spend much time thinking about it. They aren’t aware of what they do well and which areas could use some improvement. With a financial self-assessment, employees can start getting answers and building their financial confidence. Rutgers University has several free quizzes you can give employees.
  2. Offer classes, websites and other training materials. There’s no shortage of high-quality financial planning classes on websites like Udemy and YouTube, along with countless articles, podcasts and programs online where employees can learn about their finances. If your employees want some direction, ask them where they struggle and spend some time tracking down material they might find interesting. Of course, providing the material won’t help if your employees never look at it. Consider giving them time during the week to learn or offering an incentive to employees who finish courses.
  3. Provide budgeting tools. Keep your eye out for financial planning tools that could help your staff. Make sure employees are aware of basics like creating a household budget. From there, offer to connect them with free tools for retirement planning and investing so that they can predict their Social Security payment, measure whether they’re putting enough aside for retirement and calculate how much their savings will grow over time.
  4. Hire a financial counselor. While the ideas above are a great start, they aren’t a true replacement for the help of professional. Look at whether it might be worth it to hire a financial coach or counselor to come in and give classes or meet individually with employees. If there’s an especially large amount of interest, you could also offer a few hours of financial planning each year as a workplace benefit.

Maximizing Health Insurance Benefits

Covering your health insurance plan as part of your financial literacy training will help employees get the most out of one of the key benefits included in their package. At a minimum, you should remind everyone about how they can reduce their health care costs by looking for in-network providers, following up with preventive treatment and using generic prescriptions when possible.

As you discuss budgeting, show examples of how much different trips to the doctor or hospital could cost employees under your plan’s current structure for deductibles and copays. Then, discuss strategies for how employees can save part of their income to prepare for these costs.

If your health offerings include extra features like a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA), your financial literacy program might benefit from a workshop or seminar explaining how these more complicated programs work. For example, make sure employees know that the money in an FSA follows a “use it or lose it” policy and might be lost at the end of the year.

Promoting financial wellness is a small investment on your end, but it can greatly improve the finances, health and productivity of your employees, so don’t overlook this workplace benefit in your office. When your employees are financially well, they’ll pour less of their energy into stressing over bills and more of it into making your business successful.

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