The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently released a new report entitled Financial wellness at work. The purpose of the report is to highlight the value of employers implementing financial wellness programs in their workplace. As noted in the report:
The American Psychological Association has been conducting its “Stress in America” survey since 2007. A 2014 online poll of 1,950 adults conducted by Harris Interactive found money is the top source of stress for the nation, cited by 71% of respondents. That is closely followed by work (69%) and the economy (59%). Another way to look at these results is that the top stress factors all converge in the workplace.
That makes a lot of sense. Money is stressful because a lot – if not all – of our basic human needs are tied in one way or another to money. We need money to eat. We need money to feel safe. A lot of us (rightly or wrongly) tend to tie money to our feelings of belonging and self-esteem.
So money, and the ability to generate and access money, really impacts us on an instinctive level. If we don’t have money, how will we manage? How will we live?
That fear creates a domino effect. If money worries you, then of course the economy would worry you; of course work would be stressful. Work is where the money comes from. A bad economy puts your job at risk, which puts your money at risk.
That fear and stress is understandable and common, but unfortunately, it’s also destructive.
First and foremost, persistent stress is terrible for your health. Per doctors at the Mayo Clinic, long-term activation of the body’s stress-response system puts you at increased risk of:
- Digestive problems
- Heart disease
- Sleep problems
- Weight gain
- Memory and concentration impairment
Financial stress is also incredibly distracting. According to the CFPB’s report, over 60% of human resources professionals admit that financial stress has a negative impact on the work performance of their employees.
Financial wellness in the workplace
Money isn’t stressful simply because it’s important. Money is stressful because it’s important and we aren’t completely sure how to protect it. Or, more accurately, we can imagine a nearly infinite number of risks associated with money, but we aren’t sure what to do if those risks come to bear. What steps do we take? Where do we turn?
We’re aware of the potential problems, but not of the solutions. So we worry and that worrying hurts our health, our personal relationships, and our ability to effectively do our jobs.
The idea behind employer-sponsored financial wellness programs is that they provide answers to those What do I do if…? questions. By providing employees with the knowledge and tools necessary to handle their finances effectively – in good times and bad – employers help reduce the amount of stress and anxiety in the workplace. And that’s good for both employees and their employers.
According to the CFPB’s report, at least 57 percent of employers surveyed believe that financial education has a direct, positive impact on employee productivity. Additionally, in 2012, one out of every five employees admitted to skipping work at least once due to financial problems. Logically, financial education would help reduce that number significantly.
It’s almost impossible to properly quantify the potential dollar value of a financial wellness program, but in considering the impact of comprehensive health wellness programs, which many employers currently offer, experts pin the return on investment for employers to be between $1 to $3 or more per dollar invested. Which means, for every dollar a company invests in promoting the health of its employees it receives at least $1 dollar back in increased productivity. So, in a worst case scenario, these health-centered wellness program pay for themselves, and in a best case scenario, they pay significant dividends.
Health wellness and financial wellness are not the same thing, obviously, but it’s hard to look at the success of these healthcare programs and not see the clear potential return on investment that financial wellness programs offer.
Push for progress
If you’re an employee at a company without a financial wellness program, push to add financial wellness to your current list of benefits. And if you’re an employer, consider the potential return on investment of a company-wide financial wellness program.
When everyone understands how to confidently manage their money we all benefit.