How Can Financial Wellness Benefits Support Employees in an Economic Downturn?
Regardless of where you sit, we can probably all agree on three things:
- Most of our lives have changed drastically in the last three years.
- So has our economy.
- We can’t tell the future — but the only constant in life is change.
And trust us, we’re all feeling that change. Families across the nation have seen the current economic downturn hit home. Meanwhile, employers across industries are tightening their budgets to stay afloat in stormy waters.
There’s no telling what we can expect for our economy over the coming months (or years) — but forecasts aren’t looking very optimistic. According to the International Monetary Fund, “The worst is yet to come, and for many people 2023 will feel like a recession.”
Employers can play a big role in helping their employees become more financially resilient by offering financial wellness benefits.
We recently caught up with David Blaylock, Head of Financial Planning and Advice at the financial wellness benefits vendor Origin, to uncover why these benefits are especially impactful in times like these.
“The possibility of slower economic growth on the horizon is really taking center stage right now,” David emphasized. “There’s a renewed focus on financial matters that are really important to employees at this present time.”
Watch the full conversation here, and read on for key takeaways.
First, a refresher on financial wellness benefits.
Financial wellness benefits meet employees where they are to help them achieve their financial goals, whatever they may be. As David explained, “Anything that touches a dollar sign, we want work on it. Whether that's something as simple as budgeting or an emergency savings fund, to more complicated topics like employer equity or compensation packages.”
How do these benefits work?
Financial wellness benefits can offer a range of support and resources to meet the user’s needs or get them on track toward their goals — from education, to personalized coaching, to budgeting tools, to long- or short-term financial planning.
Who are these benefits for?
In short, anybody and everybody who brings home a paycheck. (And that includes folks with lower incomes, who have historically been overlooked in conversations on personal finance.)
“Those demographics are traditionally left behind or underserved by the traditional financial planning industry for the last 30 years,” David explained. “I get excited most about working with an hourly compensated employee, because I feel like that's where the most impact can really be made. The earlier I catch someone in their career, the more time that I have to really develop those fundamental money habits.”
The pandemic upended the state of personal finance — and a majority of employers are responding with benefits.
When we were in the belly of the Covid beast, fielding every curveball from lockdowns to layoffs, most employers understandably turned their focus to mental and physical health. But now, as we begin to see the long-term economic repercussions of the pandemic, employers are signaling a renewed focus on financial wellness.
This year’s SHRM Employee Benefits Survey illustrates how employers’ priorities have changed over the last three years, with financial planning coming out on top. The number of employers who ranked financial planning benefits as a high priority increased from 55% to 82% from 2021 to 2022, the largest increase of any benefit. The only other benefit that ranked higher was healthcare.
Better planning = a stronger safety net
We’ll be honest — saving money is kind of like eating your vegetables. It’s not exactly our idea of fun. But it’s essential to long-term financial wellness.
Still, 47% of employees couldn’t handle an unexpected $500 expense without worries. And 37% aren’t currently saving for retirement.
We won’t pretend like a lack of savings is a conscious choice for many. Sometimes even the most thoughtful budget can only get you so far (especially as the rising cost of essentials, like food and housing, eat away at disposable income — thanks, inflation). It’s gotten to the point that saving can be difficult even for high earners; 36% of employees making six figures live paycheck to paycheck.
But when budgeting starts to feel like doing calculus without a calculator, it can be helpful to turn to the experts for support. These vendors are trained to find creative solutions to budget concerns, make dollars stretch farther, and squirrel away the remaining dollars for a rainy day.
Why is this important to employers? Well, those rainy days often come without warning. And something tells us there may be some rain in the forecast. Making sure your employees have a stable footing puts them in a better position to weather the storm.
These benefits impact more than employees’ pockets — they also help support mental health.
Most of us can empathize — not having a strong financial foundation is anxiety-provoking to say the least. Add a looming recession to the mix, and even the strongest among us may start losing sleep.
34% of employees say that financial stress has a major impact on their mental health. And those financial worries make employees 6x more likely to have reduced productivity at work. But when their finances are stable, 93% of employees feel more confident and calm.
And the potential business impacts are hard to ignore.
We’d be remiss not to mention the clear business case for financial wellness too: These benefits carry a huge ROI for talent retention as well as overall benefits utilization.
When it comes to staying competitive in this talent market, this benefits packs a punch: 93% of employees want financial guidance benefits, but only 28% of companies offer it. You can do the math here — that’s a whole lot of folks not getting the benefits they want from their current employer.
And when these benefits are offered, employees use them. For instance, David shared that Origin averages a 30-40% engagement rate with their clients’ employees. This means that they’ve created an account, accessed their tech-driven platform, and then met with a certified financial planner. That means nearly half of your employees could have the tools to build financial resilience for the future — and save your company money in the meantime.
Watch the full webinar to learn more about financial wellness benefits.
Origin’s David Blaylock shares his roadmap for tackling the economic impact of your benefits strategy and how that translates into financial wellness for your employees: