Financial Wellness Programs Offer Many Benefits to Employers

Employees of all income levels face distracting financial stress, survey finds.

Companies stand to benefit in numerous ways by offering a financial wellness program, according to a new study released by Morgan Stanley and conducted by the Financial Health Network. Financial wellness programs reduce employee stress, improve retention and engagement and help a company stand out in the marketplace.

A survey of 1,000 full-time employees at midsize to large companies found that many struggle financially, and this financial stress negatively affects their productivity at work. Among those experiencing financial stress, 78% say it distracts them while at work.

Asked what caused their stress, respondents said their No. 1 answer was finances (54%), followed by their work situation (51%), health issues (45%) and family issues (44%).

Thirty-seven percent of employees said they have more debt than they can manage, and 41% reported having too little saved to cover three months of living expenses. Even among high-income employee—those with a household income over $100,000—52% said debt causes them stress, followed by 55% citing unexpected expenses as the cause and 43%, inadequate savings.

Seventy-four percent of employees said a financial wellness program is an important benefit, and 60% said they would be more inclined to stay at a company that offered a program that helped them better manage their finances.

Among employees whose company offers them financial wellness benefits that help them save for emergencies, provides them with student loan repayment tools or gives them financial coaching, between 40% and 60% said they have used the service in the past three years.

However, 42% of employees said they feel inadequately informed about the benefits and programs their employer offers. Of employees who do not use all of those benefits, many said if those were explained more clearly and easier to access, they would be more apt to use them.

Asked how they want to learn about their benefits, 66% said through online calculators, 62% through live meetings with a financial adviser, 55% through in-person seminars, 43% through live webinars, 31% through chat rooms, and 31% through social media platforms.

“Providing financial wellness resources and education to employees has tremendous benefits,” says Brian McDonald, head of Morgan Stanley at Work. “Finances are one of the greatest sources of stress for employees, and those concerns affect their productivity. Firms that invest in financial wellness resources for employees will clearly set themselves apart in the marketplace.”