For several years now, I’ve been campaigning to bring the tools for financial wellness (personal finance training and counseling) into the workplace, but it is only a few of the more progressive employers that are actually adopting these programs for their employees. This fact was cited in the MetLife 10th Annual Study of Employee Benefit Trends (released Spring, 2012). The lack of personal finance support is an employer omission MetLife has been pointing out for the past few years.

The objective of a such a program is to reduce employee financial stress; a condition that is almost universally recognized and is considered to be detrimental to employee and employer alike.

In a recent poll of corporate health and wellness personnel, the question was asked: “Do you believe that a Financial Wellness program (addressing employee financial stress) should be a part of a corporate wellness program? Of those health and wellness personnel that responded, 91% answered ‘yes’, with less than 5% saying ‘no’ and the others saying they hadn’t considered the question before.

From MetLife’s recent studies on workplace financial wellness…

“The recession’s impact on personal financial security has led nearly two out of three Americans to feel that their ability to achieve the American dream is no longer within their control. Nearly two-thirds of employees report experiencing financial and/or job related stress – and these concerns translate into greater distractions at work.”

“Employers are aware that a distracted, stressed workforce – one that is preoccupied by money worries – is less likely to perform at desired levels. Progressive employers appear to be more aware than others of the effects this has on company productivity and health costs.”

“Financial Education programs have the potential to lower financial stress, reduce absenteeism, increase productivity and lead to a more loyal workforce”.

The fact is that financial support programs have the potential to improve employee performance in all of the following areas, with significant residual benefits being experienced by the employer:

  • lower healthcare cost for employee and employer
  • higher productivity; leading to increased profit
  • lower absenteeism
  • better presenteeism
  • lower turnover
  • fewer disability claims
  • improved recruitment, retention, and increased employee loyalty

According to a recent survey by Aviva USA, two out of three men report feeling stressed, and their financial situation is the primary contributing factor. The survey also showed two out three American women are uncomfortable with their financial situation. Just one in three respondents feels they are, or will be, prepared for retirement. Only about one in five of those surveyed works with a financial services professional; those who do are 130 percent more likely to feel comfortable with their financial situation than those who do not.

Bottom line, it appears that most employers and wellness professionals understand the negatives associated with employee financial stress and have a general appreciation for the benefits that come with a financially healthy workforce, but few have invested the resources (time, people and money) to put such a program in place. Unlike health wellness, financial wellness does not get its due and, unfortunately, employees and their employers will be worse off for it until the employer gets involved and introduces financial wellness support programs in the workplace.

The groundswell of support for financial wellness programs seems to be growing little by little, but it’s clear that employers, with few exceptions, have been unwilling to enter the world of financial wellness in force to this point. Let’s hope for the benefit of all that the pace quickens to make quality financial wellness programs available for all.