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Financial Wellness at Work

22nd June 2021

As we’ve explored a number of topics connected to wellness, here’s another.  Financial wellness for employees.  This months guest blogger is Brad Woods, a Certified Health Insurance Specialist here in Nanaimo.  He is also a Chartered Life Underwriter and has shared some thoughts in relation to financial planning, employers, and employees.

We don’t all have healthy lives, and healthy families.  No matter how hard we work, we have distractions that impact our wellbeing, and in the workplace, they can impact our effectiveness.

When employees aren’t focused it can lead to errors, absenteeism, presenteeism, and turnover.  Brad has penned a blogpost addressing some solutions employers can consider in the form of workplace benefits, that can enhance employee wellness.  Particularly the challenge of financial planning.  Here’s Brads insights.

The Benefit of Benefits

I am a benefits and financial planning specialist.  I work with businesses and families daily.

I know that there are challenges in the workplace, for employers and employees that benefits can help address. Here is a quick list of a few solutions employers can consider:

  • Provide health and Dental Benefits
  • Increase the employees wage
  • Take steps to improve the financial well being of your employees
    • Group RRSP’s/Pensions/Stock Options
    • Lunch and Learns about financial topics
    • In House Financial Planning

How Can they Help?

The first is obvious, this will relieve some of the financial Burden. If you are not offering health and Dental coverage, Why not? Any size business can get group benefits, and it’s the easiest, cheapest retention and attraction tool for employees. Cheaper than a wage increase? Yes

The second option is great, but as we all know our expenses grow as our salary grows without proper planning it does not create any benefit.

So while it’s often a go-to for employers to maintain worker satisfaction, it’s not always the best solution, particularly for new, or growing companies where budgets are tight.

The third is what I would like to talk about, how can we support employee interests from a financial perspective, and reduce stress, concern, and worry?  How can we provide support for our workers financial wellness in our workplaces?

Managing Financial Wellbeing

There are many aspects that make up our wellbeing, how we eat, how we sleep, how we exercise all impact our physical, and mental wellbeing.  An underlying aspect of this is our financial wellbeing.  Being financially comfortable allows us to have a more balanced lifestyle, and reduces anxiety and stress.

Saving Money

I am continually surprised at how many people do not save any money at all. There are people I meet that haven’t saved money for short, medium or long term needs.

It is critical to make sure you save funds for when you need them, it will save you time, frustration, and problems if you have a little nest egg to lean on when times get difficult.  The smaller your budget the less you need to save, and vice versa, but saving is essential.

Think Longterm

If an employer can create a shared retirement mechanism such as a Group RRSP, pension or offer stock options these are great ways not only to retain employees but also free them from the burden of always thinking about the fact they have nothing saved for retirement.  It’s a start.

I talk to some really stressed out folks in their 50’s and 60’s who have less than $10,000 in savings for all of their needs. With a forced savings plan it will be seen as a great benefit in the future and allow families to focus on what is causing them the highest stress, short and medium savings needs.

Think Less Longterm

Short and Medium term needs are just as, if not more important, such as emergency funds for vehicle breakdowns, home repairs , vacations ( it is important for your employees to recharge their batteries from a wellness perspective, and not having time or money to do so creates the opposite effect and drains our batteries), or saving for a down payment on their house.

Without those funds emergencies and vacations are being funded on credit cards, or at worst a payday loan, or other sources of short term, unsustainable solutions.  Not ideal from a financial wellness perspective.

Employee Wellness and Retention

This is why maintaining employee wellness is so critical.  The financial wellness of your employees is just one part of overall wellness in the workplace.  It’s not employers roles to be psychologists, or financial advisors, but providing support in these areas goes a long way.

When an employee is in trouble financially, they will have to look elsewhere for employment to seek either higher wages to help pay the debt or health benefits to reduce costs.

That is why its your problem whether you wish it to be or not. Not only have you suffered from their presenteeism over the last few weeks, months or years and cost you in productivity, but now you will have to replace and retrain.

So how can you fix the financial problems of your employees? You can’t necessarily. But you can provide the tools for them to become comfortable, and improve their financial wellness in your workplace.

I use the term comfortable on purpose, so many in my industry want to tell you how rich they can make you if only you invested with them or followed their program. They might be able to provide a great service but they will not make you rich and nor should we as an industry be telling people that. True wealth involves a balance of taking care of all of your needs. Physical, spiritual, relationships, financial, purpose and more.

Providing Support

Financial wellness can be as simple as filling up your gas tank without having to worry if there is enough money in the account, worrying about credit card payments, or knowing you have protections in place whether its short term savings or insurance to cover emergencies, or having enough money to send your kid to college if they choose to do so.

Some out of the box solutions you can use as an employer:

Offer Education sessions

I guarantee you there is no shortage of Advisors who will come in to your work to do a presentation on a financial topic for free. Buy some food for the staff and have a lunch and learn in the break room, invite their spouses to join if they can.

Hire a financial Advisor

Contract an advisor to offer advice, budget planning and coaching to your employees. Im sure you could get this for no cost , but this way it would be free of Bias as the hired advisor would not complete the business themselves. Tell employees it is part of their total compensation.

Website Resources

Create a section on your intranet or employee accessed website with useful information and tools.  Add links to videos, budgeting tools and contacts for more information.

Time for Advice

Offer your staff time once a year during the day (Especially if your business is open 9-5) to meet with your contracted advisor or one of their own.  Maybe just an hour or two or even a half day.

Financial Wellness Bulletin Board

Add information on financial products, contacts, budgeting work sheets.

Talk about Financial Wellness

We have 5 minute meetings about safety, mental health, why not financial? (November is financial literacy month).  Get your team lead to cover some best practice once in a while.

In Short

What do all of these have in common? Just like talking about mental health normalizes the conversation, so would financial literacy. The things we focus on get incrementally better.  Take time to talk money.  Provide support, and engage your employees in conversations around financial wellness.

Don’t be afraid to spend money on your employees, it is a good investment.

Brad Woods, CHS CLU

Brad is a Living benefits specialist and advanced business planning Advisor with experience as a people manger for a large corporation.  He is a Certified Health Insurance Specialist and Chartered Life Underwriter (Advanced Estate and Business Planning) and owns and manages Woods Lifetime Financial and Woods Lifetime Benefits.

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