What is financial wellness? Should it be part of your benefits program? If you offer it, how do you make sure it will work?
Simply put, financial wellness is getting clear on how you want your financial life to be, then making and executing plans for bringing your desires to life. It’s an ongoing process with no end point.
Because it’s a process, a successful financial wellness program must be more than offering financial products to employees. Yes, a 401(k) will be a part of your program, but not the program.
As to whether or not your company should have a program, surveys suggest employees are looking for it, so the answer is probably “yes.”
Have you ever led a horse to water? You know the rest. Unfortunately, there’s no way to force your employees to participate and benefit from the benefits you offer. Being intentional and working to integrate a financial wellness program into your existing culture and offerings is the first step to success.
With this post, it’s my desire help you decide which financial concepts to focus on. The reality is, there are a seemingly limitless number of topics.
Briefly, I’ve been focused on workplace financial planning (401(k) and financial wellness) for over 20 years. I’ve been named to Investopedia’s list of the Top 100 Financial Advisors several years running. Everything I think and talk about is the product of my experiences. I know how challenging it is to offer great programs, build culture, and get engagement. That you’re reading this tells me you’re committed to helping your people get where they want to go, and I commend you for that.
Here’s what we’ll cover:
- What you want
- What your employees want
- What you offer
- How you do it
- Key ideas to focus on
Let’s get started.
What you want
You want happy, healthy, fully engaged and productive employees. You want your people to succeed, and through that, your business will succeed. A financial wellness program to get you closer to that desired result.
What your employees want
Your people want to feel like they’re doing meaningful work. They want to have a great career where they feel they’re having an impact. They want fair compensation and great benefits. They’re looking for financial wellness resources.
What you offer
In service of attracting and retaining the best people, you offer benefits and programs. You work hard to foster a great culture and work environment. You read blog posts and try to find actionable information to apply in your company.
How you do it
You offer health insurance and other voluntary benefits. 401(k)s, HSAs, FSAs and other accounts are set up. You set up ping pong tables and try to make your workplace attractive and inviting. You explore and evaluate financial wellness solutions.
Key ideas to focus on
Should you focus on budgeting and cash flow? Debt management and elimination? Saving and investing? What are the most important ideas to reinforce and focus on?
I like to think about it like this; if I could instill three financial ideas in my kids, what would I want them to be? With that in mind, let’s make sure your employees understand those ideas as well.
The world of personal finance is immense, and there’s no shortage of important topics to focus on. I’m an advocate for keeping it simple, and that’s been a winning strategy. These days, we’re all experiencing overwhelm, and trying to do too much from a financial wellness strategy can simply add to it.
Here are the three ideas I encourage you to start with:
Pay yourself first
This is the golden rule, or gold medal of personal finance. One of the harshest realities right now, is the vast majority of Americans are living paycheck-to-paycheck. That means they’re broke, and not saving any money. They’re in the habit of paying everyone else first, then waiting till the end of the month to pay themselves.
If you’ve ever been in that position (I know I have been), you know you almost always have more month than you have money. Developing the habit of paying yourself first helps you break out of that cycle. Your company’s 401(k) helps your people to accomplish this. Their contribution goes into the plan before it hits their checking account, automatically paying themselves first.
This helps your people get on the path to financial success, and it creates a healthier retirement plan.
Stay out of debt
Credit card is crushing many Americans (I was stuck in credit card debt for much of my 20s, so I know how easy it is to get trapped). The average debt is over $6,000.
Making resources available for helping your employees get out of debt, then stay out of debt, is one of the greatest things you can do for them. You (and them) can access our Get Out of Debt course at no cost.
With the proliferation and adoption of stock trading apps like Robinhood, more and more people are becoming interested in investing. While it’s great that people are becoming interested in it, the results have been negative for the majority of people.
We have a difficult time assessing investing risk, and an even harder time picking suitable investments. When we put our investing dollars in concentrated investments like individual stocks, we run the risk of losing money.
Taking a diversified approach to investing is a winning strategy for long-term investing. We accomplish this by utilizing investments like the mutual funds inside your 401(k). There’s a time and a place more concentrated investments, but for most of your employees, a diversified approach is prudent.
Think about it; if you’d learned and put those three ideas into practice when you were 22 years old, would you be in a better place today? I bet you would; I know I would be. Focus and reinforce those three ideas. Everyone will be better because of it.
A financial wellness program is a win-win. You want happy, successful and engaged and employees, and they want that for themselves.
Finally, keep it simple. Mastering the fundamentals is what we need. You’re in a position to make that happen.
If you’re ready to take control of your financial life, check out our DIY Financial Plan course.
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