Executive Makes Predictions for Workplace Financial Wellness Benefits

Purchasing Power's Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Halkos predicts more employers will offer financial wellness benefits and that the programs will be more holistic, among other things.

Although the stock market continues to rise and the U.S. economy is healthy, most employees who are stressed about personal finances report that their stress levels have increased over the past year, according to Purchasing Power.

The firm suggests financial wellness benefits in the workplace should take more priority and become more comprehensive in 2018.

Purchasing Power’s Chief Operating Officer Elizabeth Halkos offers predictions for workplace financial benefits in 2018.

Employees overwhelmingly say they will participate in financial education programs, but many employers haven’t jumped on the bandwagon. According to Halkos, that will change in 2018, as further research in the past year confirms the impact employee financial stress has on a company’s bottom line, including lower productivity, higher absenteeism and more health care claims. “Employers are realizing it is to everyone’s benefit to provide some type of financial wellness offerings,” Halkos says.

Financial wellness benefits should be more than planning for retirement and having access to supplemental medical benefits, Halkos adds. She predicts that in 2018, employers will take a more holistic approach to providing a financial wellness program. That includes not only financial education tools and resources but voluntary benefits that are designed to address both physical and emotional struggles while working to help employees with short-term financial needs.

She also predicts more employers will adopt student loan repayment benefits, including programs in which employers are making contributions to loan balances or providing methods for employees to refinance their debt.

Halkos notes that statistics show the alarming number of employees that continue to live paycheck-to-paycheck—or with even less—and not having even $1,000 in savings for emergency needs. While financial education benefits can help employees with budgeting and debt reduction needs, she believes employers will adopt additional voluntary benefits that provide employees some financial assistance in the short-term. These may include employee purchase programs and low interest installment loans and credit that helps employees avoid payday loans and cash advances from credit cards when they have emergency needs, such as a broken refrigerator, or unexpected out-of-pocket medical expenses.

Employers will begin to look for ways to provide financial education to future generations, Halkos predicts. “Helping today’s employees overcome their financial challenges is only a part of the solution. Employers should look for ways to provide an element of family-focused financial education—either directly with their employees or in their communities. Employees need to be raising financially responsible children and grandchildren. Incorporating a few age-appropriate financial education lessons into financial education resources and opportunities can start to pave the way for future generations,” she says.

“Employers are realizing the important role that financial wellness plays in an employee’s overall wellbeing,” Halkos concludes. “In 2018 we will see companies increase their financial wellness benefits on several levels.”