Employees want to get into financial shape -- and they rely on their employer’s benefits package to help them get there. (Photo: Shutterstock)

New year, new goals: For many people, January 1 marks a recommitment to being our best selves.

This isn’t just limited to being more productive or going to the gym three times a week; it extends to getting into financial shape, and people rely on their employer’s benefits package to help get there.

For people seeking help for achieving financial fitness, employers can reassess their benefits and position them in a financial wellness light to help employees see the value of what’s already offered.

Here’s a deep dive on how to launch a financial wellness program to help ensure a financially healthy 2018 and beyond.

Risk management

Many employers offer basic insurance, like health, life and disability insurance, to their employees as part of their benefits package.

While they’re not the flashiest benefits, they are some of the best safeguards against any sudden changes to an employee’s financial situation thanks to an unexpected life change.

Life insurance gives an employee’s family a cushion to help manage debt bear additional costs, and potentially replace lost income in case the worst should happen.

In addition to preventing minor illnesses from spiraling into major health conditions, health insurance protects against incurring high, unpayable medical bills. Disability insurance is available to replace a paycheck if an employee needs an extended amount of time off work.

Retirement readiness

There are three basic factors that predict how much money an employee will have in retirement: how much they save, how well they are diversified, and how much is eroded by fees. And there are two critical ways employers and employees do both.

Assuming the employer offers a 401(k), the most comprehensive vehicle to allow employees to save for retirement, it should consider adopting an auto-enrollment feature and adding a professionally managed account.

Both strategies encourage employees to save more for retirement, be well-diversified, and this eliminates the guesswork from employees.

Employers should set the default auto-enrollment contribution to six percent and bump it up each year until it hits ten percent – no matter the employees’ salary – to encourage them to save more.

Additionally, by adding a professionally managed account to a 401(k), participants are more likely to receive actual advice tailored to their individual situation when they need it.

 

Company stock offerings

Every employees’ income and personal needs are unique. Each employee should be armed with information and specific advice on what all their benefits packages mean for them in concert with other potential savings strategies.

One potential savings vehicle for employees might be owning stock in the company for which they work. Employers should consider whether or not they give employees stock as part of their compensation package or provide an opportunity to buy company stock, potentially even at a discount.  Employees then have a direct interest in the growth and success of the company, while potentially rewarding them in ways outside of a paycheck.

Either way, it’s important that employees understand the risk and rewards of owning stock in the company they work. While employers aren’t required to offer advice, they should consider doing so – and not just offering background materials that will never be read.

Employers should consider offering a financial advisor to guide advice across all investing and savings strategies, so that they have the employees’ entire financial picture in mind.

Compensation and bonus package

Compensation is an obvious tool to ensure employees are financially healthy – bonus packages, too, if it’s an offering that organizations are open and able to do.

Compensation and bonus packages are often the only vehicles that younger employees look at in regards to their financial picture, but, of course, it shouldn’t be. It’s also critical for employees to use their salary and bonuses to save at least six months of expenses for an emergency fund.

Employers who are deeply committed to the employee financial journey and employee success should ensure that they’re enabling staffers to be financially aware and savvy by offering programs and advice. Financial wellness equates to high productivity, less absenteeism, and more engaged workers.

 

Tom Conlon is Head of Client Relationship Management at Betterment for Business.