Help your employees achieve the four elements of financial well-being

Money concerns aren’t usually something people like to talk about, especially at work.

So it may not be apparent to an employer when their employees experience financial stress. Yet recent data suggests financial stress is widespread. Employers can make an effort to recognize when money concerns affect their employees, so they can offer resources to help them move toward financial well-being.

The 2018 Employee Financial Wellness Survey by PwC reported that 53 percent of survey respondents feel financial stress.

The stress takes a toll on their focus and productivity at work. The same survey found that half of financially stressed workers took three or more hours of work time each week to deal with financial issues. Another 30 percent admit their productivity has suffered, and 16 percent occasionally miss work because of financial issues.

Financial stress could even lead to stress-related health issues, according to the Philadelphia Business Journal .

Signs of financial stress to look out for:

  • Requesting an advance on a paycheck
  • Being mentally distracted during work
  • Spending more time on phone calls
  • Showing up late or other attendance issues
  • Avoiding social occasions with co-workers, such as going out to lunch
  • Withdrawing money from a 401(k) early
  • Choosing not to participate in a retirement plan

Four elements of personal financial well-being

The opposite of financial stress, financial well-being, comes when people feel both secure about money and that they have the freedom to spend their money how they'd like.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau recommends that individuals review their financial well-being from four distinct perspectives.

People with high levels of financial well-being:

  1. Feel in control of daily and monthly finances
  2. Have the capacity to absorb a financial shock and have a safety net
  3. Have the flexibility to make choices about their finances
  4. Are on track to meet goals


Together, these four elements from the CFPB address someone’s financial security and freedom in the present and future.


In the present
In the future
Financial security
Feeling in control of daily and monthly finances
Capacity to absorb a financial shock, having a safety net
Financial freedom
Flexibility to make choices that represent their values and make them happy
On track to meet goals, setting and working toward goals that matter to them

Resources for your workplace financial wellness program

Developing resources to address financial stress requires knowing what stressors exist for your employees.

Jody Rogers, SFM Senior Vice President, Human Resources, recommends surveying employees about their needs and benefits.

“Even a small employer can put a survey together and hear what employees are asking for and what they need,” she says. “If you are tapped into and know what’s bothering your employees, and if financial stress is one of them, look into resources you can offer.”

Consider using your benefits broker to conduct an anonymous survey. Based on survey results, employers can tailor their financial wellness program to address the issues most common to their workforce, whether that’s budgeting and debt reduction or longer-term retirement savings plans.

According to the PwC survey, two of the most desired benefits employees sought were “access to unbiased counselors” and “help understanding and using their employer benefits.”

Rogers offers several strategies for building financial education into your benefits program, based on her extensive experience and what’s worked for SFM’s benefits program.

Components of a financial wellness program

Financial benefits or a financial wellness program could include any of the following:

  • Financial education – Inform new employees of all of the benefits available to them. Education could include group trainings on planning for retirement or an introduction to investing. It could also mean providing access to 1:1 financial counseling.
  • Retirement savings plans – According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Bloomberg , “Two-thirds of Americans don’t invest in their company retirement plan at all.” Make participating the default to increase employees’ long-term savings.

    SFM has designed the 401(k) plan to make it easy for employees to participate. Employees are automatically enrolled in SFM’s 401(k) plan and would need to take action to opt out, making participation the default. Employees may choose to automatically increase their contributions by 1 percent each year. SFM matches a portion of the investment as a further incentive. Combined, these techniques lead to a very high participation rate and make reaching savings goals effortless.
  • Student loan forgiveness – If your employees or potential employees have student loan debt or attend school while working, a benefit increasing in popularity is student loan repayment or tuition reimbursement. This benefit may give you an edge in a competitive job market.
  • Employee Assistance Program – Your Employee Assistance Program (EAP) might offer multiple resources, including referrals to a financial planner, and it’s all anonymous.
  • Reputable resources – Provide links to trustworthy sites for further information. Government programs include and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau . For more on designing your workplace financial wellness program, visit Prosperity Now . Local nonprofits may offer financial counseling services.

Making financial benefits available to employees based on their needs shows you care. Employees can choose the benefits they want to build their financial well-being, for the present and the future.

This is not intended to serve as legal advice for individual fact-specific legal cases or as a legal basis for your employment practices.

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