Financial wellness as a voluntary benefit is increasingly popular, and for good reason. More than 90 percent of large employers are starting or expanding their financial wellness programs, wrote Scott Spann for Forbes, citing research from Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “Workplace financial education programs have a high return on investment for corporations implementing these programs, with some estimates indicating up to a 3 to 1 return on investment,” he wrote.

 

But employers need to be aware that not all wellness programs will benefit employees equally, and therefore, don’t provide the same value, he wrote. To get the most bang for their buck, employers should choose financial wellness programs that:

 

Cover the Right Topics

It’s crucial that financial wellness programs provide help in the right areas, Satter wrote, citing a white paper from Alliant Credit Union. Topics can and should include:

 

  • Retirement planning
  • Medical/health care cost planning programs
  • Confidential employee self-assessments of their finances
  • Tracking tools for goal attainment
  • Investment planning programs
  • Targeted/customized financial education
  • Incentives/rewards for participation
  • Privacy/security/fraud protection advice
  • Saving for college programs
  • Managing debt programs
  • Day-to-day financial guidance and budgeting

 

Put Employees’ Interests First

It’s easy for employers to use “vendors [that] are simply jumping in to offer different educational workshops or seminars without any follow-up or direction on what the next steps should be,” wrote Paula Aven Gladych for Employee Benefit Adviser. If employers allow profit-seeking companies to disguise their marketing as a wellness program, no one wins, she wrote.

 

“Financial wellness providers must act in the best interest of employees by following an established set of standards,” she wrote. “We run the risk of this movement becoming a euphemism for … payday lenders, high-interest rate purchasing programs, and others who want to rebrand themselves to gain back trust they have lost.”

 

Focus on Changing Behavior

Programs should allow long-term guidance in order to allow employees to change their habits and financial situations, Gladych wrote. “Financial wellness is a behavioral issue more than anything,” she wrote. “It is hard to change behavior for the better with a one-time financial education session.”

 

Technology-based counseling or coaching can maximize the efficiency and benefit of financial wellness programs, Spann wrote, because such flexibility allows employees to participate for longer. Improved analytics can measure success, as well. “Financial wellness programs need to go beyond where traditional financial education and literacy programs stop and focus on actual results and behavioral change,” he wrote.