By Margaret N. Wiley, Financial Advisor, AAMS
The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated what has been a growing awareness and openness about mental health in our country.
One way that businesses can have a positive impact on their employees’ emotional wellbeing is to help them achieve greater financial wellness. That means supporting people in saving and investing for retirement and other life milestones, as well as providing them practical financial guidance and education based on specific individual goals and stages of life.
Stress can harm all aspects of job performance, including productivity, focus, attendance, mood and health care needs.
And stress is everywhere: a recent study showed that 57 percent of employees nationwide report being worried about their finances, citing the challenges of long-term saving and investing for the future as top concerns. Sixty-five percent stated they couldn’t cover six months of expenses if they lost their income.
High financial stress can contribute to real physical ailments, including headaches, ulcers and depression. If that anxiety damages overall physical health, the result is often a further increase in financial stress due to added medical expenses – a dangerous cycle that can significantly decrease productivity immediately or over time.
Here are some ideas for employers to guard against that negative loop:
Promote the value of long-term savings and retirement planning. Maintaining physical wellness into old age requires extra attention to long-term finances. Your employees may not be thinking about this fact, but providing them with quality retirement planning options will demonstrate that you are committed to their lives as a whole.
Help employees feel supported. Partnering with individuals to reduce their financial stressors often will build loyalty. Helping younger staff manage or pay off student debt, for example, can play a pivotal role in where they choose to work and how long they stay. Offering retirement planning, financial wellness programs, and support with major decisions such as buying a home or sending a child to college also can carry important long-term benefits.
Get to know your staff. Gather data on employees’ demographics and current financial situations. Consider sending out a short, anonymous survey to inquire about their financial goals, gaps in knowledge, and subject areas where they would most welcome education and/or advice. Alternatively, reach out to employees for one-on-one conversations.
Assemble a financial wellness “toolbox” for staff. Brainstorm ways that your company can boost employees’ financial health, beyond strong retirement plans. A few examples: work with your financial advisor to bring financial wellness workshops to the office or online platforms; develop special relationships with banks for mortgages; offer equity compensation, health savings accounts and/or bonuses; and arrange for employee discounts at local businesses.
The bottom line: Businesses that consider goal-setting, budgeting and other financial basics as key benefits for employees likely are protecting their own long-term health, too.
Margaret Wiley is a financial planner with Freedom Street Partners, a company associated with Raymond James Financial Services. Hampton Roads locations are in Suffolk and Chesapeake, with a satellite office in Gloucester. margaretwiley.com
Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Member FINRA/SIPC. Freedom Street Partners is not a registered broker/dealer and is independent of Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. Investment Advisory services offered through Raymond James Financial Services Advisors, Inc.