By Treg Balding
As we kick off 2020, companies – large and small – may be thinking about new workplace benefits strategies that can better position them as the employer of choice. Although flex time, unlimited vacation and remote working continue to be popular with employees, the topic of employee financial wellness can be just as important. And there’s a reason why. Research continues to show that many working Americans are financially stressed, particularly about their ability to save money or plan for unexpected circumstances. For example, 40% of working Americans have less than $400 in the bank for emergency expenses, Guardian Life’s research showed.
This poses an opportunity for employers to think about how to play a role in increasing their employees’ financial confidence, particularly when it comes to offering insurance products that can contribute to an employees’ bottom line, and ultimately help them feel prepared for whatever life brings them.
Guardian Life did extensive research on the major financial concerns impacting working Americans, and the findings revealed the following three financial worries:
- Paying off college debt. One topic that continues to capture national headlines is the crippling college debt that plagues so many Americans. For example, seven in 10 working adults with college debt rate their finances as the major source of their stress compared with four in 10 who have no college debt.
Compounding this stress is that fewer working Americans believe they are making good progress toward paying off their college debt or saving for their children’s college education compared with two years ago. What’s worrisome is that seven in 10 parents plan to use some retirement savings and investments (stocks/bonds) to pay for their children’s college education.
- Loss of a paycheck. Many Americans may overlook the need to protect their paycheck if an injury or illness were to impede their ability to work. Yet, three in 10 households have experienced at least one disability leave in the past 10 years, and 55% say it had a major/devastating financial impact on their household. Guardian’s findings underscore the need for employers to not only offer disability insurance but to find ways to dispel the myths around disability insurance, particularly because of the confusion caused by its name.
- Preparing for a premature death. This is a topic that many of us do not like to think about or speak about with our families; however, being prepared financially in case of a premature death is crucial. Our findings revealed that 88% of working Americans agree it’s important that their family is protected financially in the event of their premature death. The downside is that 60% of households have either no life insurance or less than the industry recommended coverage amount. Unfortunately, of those households who did experience a premature death, 75% are living paycheck to paycheck.
Strategies Employers Can Implement
Employers can begin to do their part by diversifying their companies’ benefits offerings and educate employees about how benefits are a vital component of a smart financial plan. It starts with the following strategies:
- Employers may want to consider offering their workforce financial tools to help create an understanding around basic financial concepts and insurance products, such as disability insurance and life insurance, as well as college savings. Financial tools, such as online needs assessment calculators, online apps, worksheets and guides are a great starting point.
- A strong understanding of both workplace and individual insurance strategies and how they differ will help ensure employees make the right decisions to help secure their family’s future. For example, a life insurance policy through work is a valuable benefit; however, evaluating the coverage amount and supplementing it with an individual policy can make a big difference.
- Consider adding the following three employee benefits: a college debt and savings benefit, disability insurance, and life insurance. By adding these three employee benefits, the employer can demonstrate its commitment to increasing financial confidence among its workforce. The reality is many consumers don’t understand how these insurance products work or how they can help when needed.
Finally, companies should consider working with the right partner to help them formulate an employee benefits strategy that includes personalized communications designed to resonate with employees and educate them about financial preparedness. In doing so, employers could a find favor with their workforce and ultimately brand them as a great place to work.
Treg Balding is vice president, group and worksite distribution, with Guardian Life. Treg may be contacted at [email protected].
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