Employee financial stress is the quiet crisis affecting all generations in the workplace. Millions of Americans are struggling to make ends meet, and that puts a strain on workforce productivity and the bottom line.


More than one-third of employees say personal finances have been a distraction at work, and 56% more absences are reported by workers dealing with those concerns. To tackle the problem, HUB International advises firms on how to create health, disability and retirement benefits tailored to their employees' needs, supported by customized communication techniques.



From assessment to implementation, here’s a guide to how that approach can boost financial wellness.




In a competitive labor market, employers are actively searching for ways to meet employee demand for better benefits that support both health and wealth. To do so requires a more strategic approach that includes non-traditional benefits, comprehensive employee communications and maximizing existing benefit plans. 

Many workers are often unaware of the full spectrum of benefits their employers offer. That means, even though the company is investing in services that would address workers’ concerns, neither the company nor its employees are realizing the full benefits and potential cost savings.


Before considering new benefits, a company should fully maximize all the resources it currently has. In many cases, current vendors are being underutilized, says Michelle Clark, senior vice president of the health and performance practice at HUB. Simply enhancing communications to help employees understand and fully tap into current benefits is a good place to start. Many 401(k) providers, financial planners or local banks, for instance, offer financial wellness education. And Employee Assistance Programs may assist with medical bill negotiation and stress relief coaching. By promoting these existing programs with employees and even incentivizing them to participate, companies could begin to address financial stress at minimal cost.





Even a wide range of benefits offerings may not align with what employees need. And the more time employees spend distracted from work, the bigger effect it has on the company: The average cost of lost productivity due to financial distractions can add up. The estimated cost for an employer with 10,000 workers, for example, is $3.3 million per year, according to PwC.

To that end, employers should keep an eye out for an increase in prescription and healthcare costs related to depression, anxiety and stress, says Clark. Needs vary by demographic, too. Older workers may have more concerns about retirement savings shortfalls. Nearly half of Baby Boomers, for instance, say they have $100,000 or less saved for retirement, according to a PwC report. Others may be dealing with unmanageable debt or the cost of high-deductible health plans. Employers should watch for increases in people asking for paycheck advances, requesting additional overtime or taking loans from their 401(k). For many Americans, everyday finances are a strain: 36% are unable to pay bills on time, and 43% use credit to make ends meet. That means, in between paychecks, some employees may resort to using high-interest payday lenders or asking for payday advances, adding an administrative burden to payroll departments.


Benefits programs must be tied to the real financial worries of workers and to the firm’s recruitment and retention strategy. When they aren’t, gaps emerge. To stay updated, programs need to be evaluated regularly to confirm they meet company goals as well as employee needs. After evaluating the existing benefits, companies need to identify those gaps. “Just offering health insurance may not be enough to keep your employees out of a crippling cycle of debt,” says Heather Garbers, vice president of voluntary benefits and technology at HUB. 

Tracking trends among employees may show that they would benefit from tools—such as student loan debt repayment, workplace banking or disability benefits—that can help with more immediate financial strain. A company’s solutions also need to address every generation in the workforce. Half of all Baby Boomers, for example, are planning to postpone retirement because of insufficient savings or concerns about healthcare costs. This can create higher salary and healthcare costs for companies. Even among those workers planning to retire within the next five years, only 43% know how much income they will need in retirement. "The good news is there are steps you can take to help employees in various stages of life prepare for retirement," says David Reich. "For employees who are within 10 years of retirement, offer one-on-one counseling with a financial advisor. Activate younger employees by including auto-enrollment and auto-escalation on your current retirement plan." 





To better assist their employees, companies need to understand their financial concerns and behaviors. The effectiveness of the surveys varies based on how the questions are structured—but HUB advisors help firms navigate that hurdle. A well-crafted survey, says Clark, can accomplish two goals: identify what employees want and assess their financial literacy. A company may outright ask employees what they value most, or it can also assess their financial literacy and gauge their understanding of how to manage daily finances. More detailed insight into the workforce allows companies to determine which stress factors they need to prioritize.


Surveying employees is crucial to understanding their needs for any company seeking to fill the gaps in its programs. Surveys should be kept anonymous—as employees may not feel comfortable admitting their financial struggles to their employer—and some employers may offer incentives to ensure a high participation rate. The results provide a valuable look at workers' overall financial well-being including current stress factors.

One HUB client, for example, discovered that employees were paying medical expenses using early withdrawals from their retirement savings. That led the client to reconsider its current healthcare benefits. Meanwhile, many employees may need help managing their student loans, as 7 in 10 recent graduates have more than $37,000 in debt.




Once a company is armed with the survey results, it can use those insights to craft a wellness plan that is tailored to its employees. But there are important considerations to executing that plan. A successful financial wellness initiative, according to Clark, requires integration with a multiyear benefits strategy, supported by best-fit vendors and well-planned communications initiatives. Employees may not know or understand the new slate of benefits they’re offered. And it’s only through utilization of the new programs that employers can reap cost savings—through measurable improvements in productivity and lower healthcare claims.


As companies seek to improve their benefits offerings, it’s important to work with a consultant who understands the full scope of employee needs and can source the best solutions to address them. If workers are struggling paycheck-to-paycheck, consider workplace banking services to help them set up an emergency savings account, and in critical situations, provide access to low-interest loans and payday advances for a nominal fee.  

To aid with saving for retirement, firms can offer features such as auto-enrollment and auto-increases for contributions to 401(k) plans. Employers can provide long-term retirement planning for younger workers while coaching older generations on income planning and how to jump-start their savings. And, if a company wants to attract more Millennials, it may be worth evaluating whether to add a student loan repayment program.


Many financial wellness programs never make it past the pilot phase, says Lori Lucas, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. To make a strong business case for a program, aim to use objective metrics and create control groups so results can be tied directly to the programs. A few key ways to measure success are: turnover and retention, absenteeism, benefits and claims, and participation in retirement plans.

Financially confident employees are more stable employees—because financial wellness affects workplace culture, morale and productivity. Employers are uniquely positioned to help their employees gain that confidence. “An employer is a trusted advisor,” says HUB’s Garbers. “When an employer provides advice or assistance, employees tend to pay attention, and hopefully they’ll take advantage of it.”

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More than one-third of employees say personal finances have been a distraction at work, and 56% more absences are reported by workers dealing with those concerns. To tackle the problem, HUB International advises firms on how to create health, disability and retirement benefits tailored to their employees' needs, supported by customized communication techniques.



From assessment to implementation, here’s a guide to how that approach can boost financial wellness.




In a competitive labor market, employers are actively searching for ways to meet employee demand for better benefits that support both health and wealth. To do so requires a more strategic approach that includes non-traditional benefits, comprehensive employee communications and maximizing existing benefit plans. 

Many workers are often unaware of the full spectrum of benefits their employers offer. That means, even though the company is investing in services that would address workers’ concerns, neither the company nor its employees are realizing the full benefits and potential cost savings.


Before considering new benefits, a company should fully maximize all the resources it currently has. In many cases, current vendors are being underutilized, says Michelle Clark, senior vice president of the health and performance practice at HUB. Simply enhancing communications to help employees understand and fully tap into current benefits is a good place to start. Many 401(k) providers, financial planners or local banks, for instance, offer financial wellness education. And Employee Assistance Programs may assist with medical bill negotiation and stress relief coaching. By promoting these existing programs with employees and even incentivizing them to participate, companies could begin to address financial stress at minimal cost.





Even a wide range of benefits offerings may not align with what employees need. And the more time employees spend distracted from work, the bigger effect it has on the company: The average cost of lost productivity due to financial distractions can add up. The estimated cost for an employer with 10,000 workers, for example, is $3.3 million per year, according to PwC.

To that end, employers should keep an eye out for an increase in prescription and healthcare costs related to depression, anxiety and stress, says Clark. Needs vary by demographic, too. Older workers may have more concerns about retirement savings shortfalls. Nearly half of Baby Boomers, for instance, say they have $100,000 or less saved for retirement, according to a PwC report. Others may be dealing with unmanageable debt or the cost of high-deductible health plans. Employers should watch for increases in people asking for paycheck advances, requesting additional overtime or taking loans from their 401(k). For many Americans, everyday finances are a strain: 36% are unable to pay bills on time, and 43% use credit to make ends meet. That means, in between paychecks, some employees may resort to using high-interest payday lenders or asking for payday advances, adding an administrative burden to payroll departments.


Benefits programs must be tied to the real financial worries of workers and to the firm’s recruitment and retention strategy. When they aren’t, gaps emerge. To stay updated, programs need to be evaluated regularly to confirm they meet company goals as well as employee needs. After evaluating the existing benefits, companies need to identify those gaps. “Just offering health insurance may not be enough to keep your employees out of a crippling cycle of debt,” says Heather Garbers, vice president of voluntary benefits and technology at HUB. 

Tracking trends among employees may show that they would benefit from tools—such as student loan debt repayment, workplace banking or disability benefits—that can help with more immediate financial strain. A company’s solutions also need to address every generation in the workforce. Half of all Baby Boomers, for example, are planning to postpone retirement because of insufficient savings or concerns about healthcare costs. This can create higher salary and healthcare costs for companies. Even among those workers planning to retire within the next five years, only 43% know how much income they will need in retirement. "The good news is there are steps you can take to help employees in various stages of life prepare for retirement," says David Reich. "For employees who are within 10 years of retirement, offer one-on-one counseling with a financial advisor. Activate younger employees by including auto-enrollment and auto-escalation on your current retirement plan." 





To better assist their employees, companies need to understand their financial concerns and behaviors. The effectiveness of the surveys varies based on how the questions are structured—but HUB advisors help firms navigate that hurdle. A well-crafted survey, says Clark, can accomplish two goals: identify what employees want and assess their financial literacy. A company may outright ask employees what they value most, or it can also assess their financial literacy and gauge their understanding of how to manage daily finances. More detailed insight into the workforce allows companies to determine which stress factors they need to prioritize.


Surveying employees is crucial to understanding their needs for any company seeking to fill the gaps in its programs. Surveys should be kept anonymous—as employees may not feel comfortable admitting their financial struggles to their employer—and some employers may offer incentives to ensure a high participation rate. The results provide a valuable look at workers' overall financial well-being including current stress factors.

One HUB client, for example, discovered that employees were paying medical expenses using early withdrawals from their retirement savings. That led the client to reconsider its current healthcare benefits. Meanwhile, many employees may need help managing their student loans, as 7 in 10 recent graduates have more than $37,000 in debt.




Once a company is armed with the survey results, it can use those insights to craft a wellness plan that is tailored to its employees. But there are important considerations to executing that plan. A successful financial wellness initiative, according to Clark, requires integration with a multiyear benefits strategy, supported by best-fit vendors and well-planned communications initiatives. Employees may not know or understand the new slate of benefits they’re offered. And it’s only through utilization of the new programs that employers can reap cost savings—through measurable improvements in productivity and lower healthcare claims.


As companies seek to improve their benefits offerings, it’s important to work with a consultant who understands the full scope of employee needs and can source the best solutions to address them. If workers are struggling paycheck-to-paycheck, consider workplace banking services to help them set up an emergency savings account, and in critical situations, provide access to low-interest loans and payday advances for a nominal fee.  

To aid with saving for retirement, firms can offer features such as auto-enrollment and auto-increases for contributions to 401(k) plans. Employers can provide long-term retirement planning for younger workers while coaching older generations on income planning and how to jump-start their savings. And, if a company wants to attract more Millennials, it may be worth evaluating whether to add a student loan repayment program.


Many financial wellness programs never make it past the pilot phase, says Lori Lucas, president and CEO of the Employee Benefit Research Institute. To make a strong business case for a program, aim to use objective metrics and create control groups so results can be tied directly to the programs. A few key ways to measure success are: turnover and retention, absenteeism, benefits and claims, and participation in retirement plans.

Financially confident employees are more stable employees—because financial wellness affects workplace culture, morale and productivity. Employers are uniquely positioned to help their employees gain that confidence. “An employer is a trusted advisor,” says HUB’s Garbers. “When an employer provides advice or assistance, employees tend to pay attention, and hopefully they’ll take advantage of it.”

HUB International is a leading full-service global insurance broker providing property and casualty, life and health, employee benefits, investment and risk management p...