The year is 2025. The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, and you’re at email inbox zero. Sit back, relax, and exhale.
Your workplace is thriving. Your employees are happy, productive, and so financially secure that they forget it’s payday.
They max out their 401ks and take advantage of all the amazing benefits you offer. They even contribute to their HSAs!
Your company is up for "Best Places to Work "and "Impressive Employee Benefits" lists, again. The city’s top talent is begging to join your team, and retention is through the roof.
What’s your secret? Well, it takes a smart, hard-working benefits team to create a company culture this great. But one of the best decisions you made was offering financial wellness a few years back.
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There’s no “silver bullet” employee benefit, of course. But the rise in workplace financial stress is something on a lot of employer’s minds. As a result, financial wellness is quickly becoming a leading employee benefit.
You want to bring on an innovative, impactful employee benefit, and you want to start by learning as much as you can about financial wellness. Bravo!
Before we dive in, here's a little bit of background on us. We’re LearnLux, and we’re a team of financial wellness experts. We’ve spent years building an industry-leading workplace financial wellness product, and we’ve learned a lot along the way.
We want to share our wealth of knowledge, and we hope it helps you plan and launch a world-class financial wellness program of your own.
Wondering how to use this Guide to Financial Wellness? Find your handy roadmap to the left, with quick links to each section to skip ahead. Or, simply scroll to read through at your own pace.
Ready? Let's go!
Psst - Don't have time right now to read the whole guide? No worries - just let us know where to send you a PDF copy for your convenience👇🏽
Financial wellness fi·nan·cial well·ness [fi-nan-shuh l] [wel-nis]
Financial wellness is a state of being where a person can meet current and ongoing financial obligations, feel secure in their financial future, and is able to make choices that allow them to live life to the fullest.
There is no specific dollar amount that someone must have in their bank account to be considered financially well. Instead, the definition of financial wellness (sometimes referred to as financial well-being) is closely tied to a person’s own sense of financial stress and financial confidence.
Financial experts across the industry define financial wellness in different ways, but this quote from Claire Daily, a research associate with Corporate Insight, really captures the spirit of financial wellness (via PLANSPONSOR):
Claire suggests that a person is said to achieve a state of financial well-being if they have:
Whether you love it or hate it, our modern world revolves around money. That’s why it’s so surprising that most of us were never taught about personal finance in school.
Financial literacy fi·nan·cial lit·er·acy [fi-nan-shuh l] [lit-ur-ah-cy]
Financial literacy, which is defined as the ability to understand how money works, is one of the building blocks of financial wellness, yet isn’t a priority at any level of our educational system today.
Beyond the need for basic financial education, here are a few of the top causes of financial stress in America today.
Across a wide range of demographics and age groups, more than 44 million borrowers collectively owe $1.5 trillion dollars.
Before they get their first paycheck, many recent grads are drowning in student debt, which will follow them for the rest of their career. This makes it challenging to stay afloat, and achieve financial wellness.
And, the emotional and physical burden of heavy debt on employees of all ages can be especially troubling. Chronic financial stress has been linked to a migraines, diabetes, heart disease, diabetes, sleep problems, and a range of mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
Emergencies happen, and when they do, most Americans are unprepared. Nearly 40% of Americans say they couldn’t cover a surprise $400 expense with their savings, with 1 out of 3 reporting that they would need to borrow the money in some way - either with a personal loan, credit card, or borrow from family or friends.
The landscape of retirement savings has changed. Back in the day, many companies offered pension plans to give hard workers peace of mind. Today? Not so much.
Employees now have two jobs -- making their money, and then managing it for the future. More than one third of non-retired Americans say their savings is on track, but 25% have no savings or pension at all.
On top of that, managing those assets is a big issue. Six out of ten Americans with self-directed retirement accounts, like a 401(k) or IRA, report that they are not comfortable with handling the investments and many struggle with basic financial literacy.
We see a doctor for our physical health, a therapist for our mental health, but for our financial health? Most of us are left on our own to manage our money. The reason? The traditional model of financial advising is incredibly outdated and only caters to the wealthiest among us.
Many financial advisors require a minimum balance in manageable assets (meaning money you’ll turn over to let them manage) with can be upwards of $250,000 - making it no surprise that 75% of Americans are flying solo.
When it comes to fee-based financial advisors, those are few and far between. There are a limited number of independent financial advisors that charge hourly, and rates can be as high as $200 per hour or more. This cost makes it unattainable for someone financially unwell to get the guidance they need, further perpetuating their financial challenges.
Financial Wellness is a trending topic across politics, education, and the internet (often in the form of blogs and personal finance “gurus”). However, the most interesting advancements in financial wellness are gaining traction in the workplace.
Considering the importance of financial wellness to overall well-being, companies of all sizes across all industries are starting to make it a corporate priority. This is, in part, a response to the rise of financial stress in the workplace.
Modern employers know the importance of caring for the “whole employee”, which means understanding their needs and supporting their wellness on and off the clock.
In a recent survey by John Hancock, more than 72% of working Americans report that financial stress impacts their ability to do their job, while an additional 46% of those stressed employees spend three or more hours during the workweek dealing with their personal finances.
These are numbers that can’t be ignored. Many Americans are financially stressed, and they’re taking that stress to work with them. This impacts the overall health of your employee population, and in turn, your bottom line. The total cost of lost productivity alone can be upwards $2,000 per employee per year. Yikes.
Revenue aside, employees that are stressed out by financial problems can suffer from lack of sleep and are more prone to mental health issues, heart issues and substance abuse than those with lower levels of stress.
Financial anxieties also impact the workplace in the form of absenteeism, heightened risk of on-the-job accidents and turnover.
Employers are uniquely positioned to help improve their employee’s financial wellbeing. It’s good for your people, and it’s good for business, too.
Employers have the opportunity to calm employees’ financial anxiety and allow them to focus on work while helping improve their overall financial health. Money matters might seem like a sensitive topic (that you as an employer might not want to get involved in), the truth is that much of your employee’s financial life is tied to their workplace.
First, it starts with their paycheck. As their employer, you are your employee’s main source of income. A steady paycheck is a main foundation of their financial life.
Next, the medical employee benefits you offer are a key component to maintaining their health and wealth. The healthcare plans they pick could be the difference between easily handling a medical emergency or going into debt. For example, imagine an employee that lacks insurance, or doesn’t understand the benefits of preventative dental care. Down the line, they may take time from work to have major dental work done, and take on additional debt to do so.
Last, the financial security and peace of mind you provide with their retirement savings is paramount. Your employees don’t want to be working until they’re 80 - and I’m sure you’d prefer they didn’t, either. By offering a 401(k) (or alternative retirement plans) and properly educating your employees on how to use it, you can set them up for success.
In addition to these key elements of financial wellness that are directly tied to their place of work, some employees may even have stock options or equity in their company. This can serve as an important investment vehicle, helping them hit their financial goals while working hard and staying loyal to your organization, too.
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Now we hope you have a better idea of the definition of financial wellness, how it became such a hot topic, and why it’s being embraced in the modern workplace.
Next up we’ll dive into more specifics of financial wellness as an employee benefit. You’ll learn the common types of employee financial wellness programs, along with their pricing, and how you can think about the return on investment (ROI) that your organization will see from implementing a financial wellness benefit.
Today more than ever, employees are losing ZZZs over their $$$s. Whether it’s the burden of personal debt, student loans, lack of retirement savings, or the rising cost of healthcare, their worries can manifest in many different ways.
So, how can you tell if your company is financially well or if your employees silently suffering from financial stress? Here are 6 strategies to assess the financial health of your employees.
In a perfect world, all of your employees are maxing out their 401(k)s and taking advantage of your generous employer match. In reality, though, it may only be a fraction who are participating in their company-sponsored retirement plan. This is a red flag - the inability to plan and save for the future is a major side effect of financial stress.
Here are a couple of diagnostic checks you can run on your company’s 401(k) to see if employees are missing the mark on retirement.
The occasional personal day is no cause for concern, but statistics show that stress-related absences are on the rise and that employers should take note. A recent survey of working Americans reports that 36% had missed a full or partial day because of financial stress in the past year alone.
For example, consider the employee whose car broke down and they don’t have money for an emergency repair. As a result, they might be late to work or miss a day due to lack of transportation. Or, imagine the working parent who might call out near the end of the month when their childcare budget runs dry. It’s also important to consider employees that may take leave for mental health reasons as a result of stress and anxiety caused by their financial situation.
One sure sign of financial distress is when employees reach out for an advance on their paycheck. It can be incredibly hard to admit you are struggling financially, especially to your managers, but it might be their only option.
As an employer, frequent payday advances can constrict cash flow, necessitate extra paperwork and processing, and - most importantly - prolong financial challenges for your employees. These requests are important to track to determine the level of chronic financial stress in your organization.
Here’s a stat that might be surprising -- CNN reports that more than 44 million Americans report having a side hustle. Not as surprising? The majority of those hustlers are aged 18 to 26, that critical time when young people start to have bills and responsibilities, but their salary might not be enough to manage their expenses.
It might sound like a good way to turn passion into profit after hours, but surveys report that more than 50% of side hustle workers put the money towards meeting basic expenses, not saving, investing or splurging.
If your full-time workforce is also part of the gig economy on nights and weekends, their money motivator might be making ends meet, not extra spending cash. Working to hold down multiple jobs can result in a lack of focus at work, exhaustion, and eventual burnout.
Employees come and go, and the reasons for their departures may vary. But according to data from The American Institute of Stress, 40% of employee turnover is due to stress. Financially stressed employees often feel like the can “earn” their way out of their financial issues, which leads them to change jobs quickly and often, trading loyalty for marginal pay bumps.
For employers, the cost of replacing a salaried employee can run upwards of 6 to 9 months' salary on average. For example, a manager making $40,000 a year will cost an organization an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 to replace. This cost isn’t just factoring recruiting and hiring expenses. This cost also includes losses in efficiency due to onboarding, training and ramp-up time.
It’s important to identify financially stressed employees that are on the way in, and way out of your organization.
Sometimes the best way to understand the level of financial stress that your employees are experiencing is just to ask them. But tread lightly -- don’t just outright ask over lunch, or send a sketchy looking DIY survey around. Take time to conduct an actual Financial Wellness Assessment within your company. You’ll want this data collected by an independent party, since employees are often uncomfortable sharing details about their finances with their employer.
An anonymous Financial Wellness Assessment can easily help you see a high-level picture of your employee’s financial health, from identifying risky financial behaviors and troubling trends to uncovering financial literacy blind spots.
Financial Wellness Assessments can also audit the effectiveness of programs you might already have in place, to make sure they’re delivering results. Are your existing healthcare benefits, or student loan assistant programs being as effective as you would like them to be? Just be sure to using a trusted, independent Financial Wellness assessment provider.
For some companies, the decision to bring on a new financial wellness program provider comes after conducting a comprehensive assessment. For others, it’s a simple organizational decision that caring for your employees financial health is the right thing to do.
Either way, once you’ve decided to take action, there’s a lot to consider.
Start by conducting an audit of what programs you already have in place. Before you bring on any new service or tool, it’s truly the best place to start.
At many organizations, limited digital education might be provided by your 401(k) plan provider. Or, a representative might come in to do a lunch & learn once a quarter. These offerings might be available all year long, or only coincide with events like open enrollment or tax time. It’s important to understand who’s providing these services, and what is the motivation behind them - i.e., how they make money.
All financial wellness offerings will fall into one of two business models - independent or affiliated.
Ask any employee benefits professional if they’d let a credit card company come into the office and try to educate and sign up their employees and we bet you’d hear a resounding “NO.”
Yet, many programs that call themselves “financial wellness” make their money by selling financial products and services. Most aren’t even very subtle about it.
Affiliated programs often appear in the form of education or financial coaching that’s sponsored - directly or indirectly - by a bank or financial services firm. They often offer free financial wellness education or coaching for employees. These programs seem to be an easy win for employers, but they are a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Once they have a foot in the door at your organization - often through your 401(k) provider, or under the guise of free financial coaching or benefits decision assistance - affiliated programs will sell, sell, sell.
The important difference between independent and affiliate programs is their fiduciary responsibility to your employees.
Fiduciary fi·du·ci·ary [fi-dush-ee-ary]
While independent programs may also recommend products or services, they are doing so as a fiduciary, which means they’re legally required to act in your employees best interest.
Affiliates, on the other hand, do not act as a fiduciary and may recommend products where they get the most commission. A common example is recommending retirement products with unfavorable fee structures, or pushing investment solutions before the employee has established their financial basics such as setting up an emergency fund.
Affiliated programs aren’t just dangerous for your employees’ financial future. They can quickly get your organization in hot water, too.
It is your obligation as an employer to look out for the best interest of your employees. If you allow a “financial wellness” program that’s trying to turn a fast profit to give employees advice on managing their retirement assets, things can go from questionable to illegal very quickly.
It might not always be easy to tell if a financial wellness program is independent or affiliated. Here at LearnLux, we pride ourselves on being a provider of industry-leading independent financial wellness, and we shout it from the rooftops. As you start to research other programs and services, read carefully since they might (intentionally) not be as forthcoming about their status.
As you audit your current financial wellness program, and look to bring on new providers, ask the following questions to each vendor:
With the long term financial health of your employees in mind, choosing a financial wellness program that’s independent (and plans to stay that way) is of utmost importance. From there, the world of financial wellness providers has a wide range of options. Here are the most common types of workplace financial wellness programs you’ll see on the market today.
Let’s jump right into the type of financial wellness program that most employees are asking for and most employers are seeking to offer.
Holistic ho·lis·tic [hoh-lis-tick]
What does it mean to be holistic in the context of workplace financial wellness? A program that is truly holistic will provide guidance that addresses the employee’s whole financial life with the goal of improving the quality of their life.
When you come across financial wellness that’s not holistic, the program may seem overly simplified, lacking in personalization, and out of context. These solutions will often focus only on what’s wrong in a person’s financial life and treat the symptoms.
For example, they may only focus on debt repayment strategies, instead of also addressing preventative measures. They may also define financial concepts and terms without connecting them to the employee’s real-life situation.
Your workforce is a complex group of individuals at varying stages of life, income levels, and financial literacy, and should be treated as such. Holistic financial education is designed to serve each employee and their unique situation, while providing guidance and tools that help build towards their personalized goals.
For you as an employer, holistic financial wellness programs are also an impactful solution for the organization itself. Addressing the overall financial health of your population works to solve pressing issues like employee attraction, productivity, and retention.
Holistic financial wellness programs should offer interactive and personalized resources to help your employees learn, plan and act on their toughest financial challenges. These resources should cover a broad range of financial topics, and ensure that employees have access and resources to enable preventative measures. These resources should be available 24/7 for employees to access when they need it most.
When considering holistic financial wellness, make sure the program covers essential topics such as:
To cover such breadth of topics while being highly personalized, the best holistic programs will offer one-on-one guidance with Financial Advisors. Because each employee’s goals and financial situations are completely unique, the ability to speak to a Certified Financial PlannerⓇ or independent coach can provide an incredible amount of value to any program.
What’s the difference between a Certified Financial PlannerⓇ and financial coach? Stick with us - we’ll cover that shortly.
Now, let’s take a look at some of the more specific programs you might come across. These offerings are more selective in their delivery or scope, and may only address a portion of your population’s needs. However, they can be beneficial as add-ons to your existing financial wellness strategy, or to solve a particular employee need.
Financial education (sometimes referred to as financial literacy) is a broad term that covers many types of financial wellness “programs” and their content. In a recent report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, 63% of employers say they currently provide financial education for their workforce, and an additional 19% are considering such education for the future.
In terms of content, financial education usually defines key terms, and may cover the “how-tos” of personal finance (such as, how to roll over an old 401k). However, financial education that covers the how-to should also address the “should I”?.
Employees need to understand the “what”, the “why” and most importantly the “how” in order to be confident in their financial decisions.
Taking the 401k example again, an employee might want guidance as to whether they should be saving for retirement versus paying down student debt. It’s good to know what steps to take, but without the context of whether it’s a good idea for the employee personally, the education falls short.
Financial education programs come in two forms: the first way financial education can be administered is via in-person education classes or workshops, the second is via digital solutions.
According to the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans survey, 90% of employers that say they offer financial education do so via voluntary classes or workshops. Traditionally, lunch & learn style educational seminars were the gold standard. Today, the modern workplace poses some challenges to this old school strategy.
With the rise of remote work and dispersed employee populations across multiple offices in different states, cities and countries, it’s time to retire the lunch & learn. Not only are educational sessions like these poorly attended, employees that do show up are afraid to raise their hand and get answers to their toughest personal questions in front of their colleagues.
While adding workshops to a more holistic program is a great way to drive engagement, as a standalone strategy it may fail to solve the core issues causing financial stress in your workplace.
The second most popular method for administering financial education is through digital content.
In many cases, this information is buried in the FAQs of your retirement or employee benefits plan. Some employers may “check the box” of offering financial education by sending out a few email campaigns with basic definitions and how-tos. While this is a step in the right direction, it’s a far shot from the impactful financial wellness solutions that many employees need.
In fact, simply providing “internet links to informational sites” is how 58% of employers that say they offer financial education distribute it to employees. Yes, linking to a blog on student loan repayment strategies technically is providing them with financial education, but as an employer with a world-class benefits strategy, you want to offer a program you can be proud of.
Next, let’s dive into the specific human-driven programs you might see. The important distinction we’ll make between these two types of personalized financial guidance is the qualifications of the professional that’s providing it.
Think of financial coaches as trainers for your team’s personal finances. Their specialty is in providing information on the basics of personal finance, and helping employees develop and maintain healthy financial habits.
They will provide general education, share best practices, and can continue to coach from the sidelines. They are a good choice for employee populations with more simple financial challenges and common goals, and can be on-call to help with their first big money challenges.
That all sounds great, and it is. But the one thing to keep in mind is that financial coaching is a relatively new field, and is not bound by any regulatory standards. Financial coaches don’t need any formal education, certifications or licenses to start coaching. Therefore, it’s up to you as the employer to make sure you’re working with someone independent, trustworthy and competent.
Because they are not licensed professionals, coaches cannot legally give financial advice or make recommendations on how to manage money. This can lead to some dicey grey areas if employees have questions for their coach about managing retirement assets, choosing a healthcare plan, or even paying down student loans.
For added peace of mind for your employees and your organization as a whole, opt for personalized guidance provided by a Certified Financial PlannerⓇ.
As the name suggests, a Certified Financial PlannerⓇs, called CFPⓇs for short, are licensed financial professionals that are qualified to both guide and advise your employees about their money matters.
When reviewing a financial wellness program for your employees, solutions that provide guidance from a CFPⓇ offer a higher quality experience for program participants, while reducing your liability as an employer.
To become a CFPⓇ, candidates must:
By choosing a program that employs CFPⓇs, you can be sure that your workforce is learning and receiving advice from the most qualified professionals in the business.
Now that we’ve covered holistic financial wellness, financial education, financial coaching and CFPⓇs, let’s dive into a few of the financial wellness point solutions that you might see in the space.
These stand-alone products will often address one specific financial challenge or opportunity. While they may not serve your entire employee population, they can be a valuable ad-on to a more holistic strategy.
One point solution category we’ll touch upon is budgeting and cash flow management solutions. These tools can be a step up from the traditional spreadsheet budget by helping employees track their income and expenses, often through an app or online tool.
Employees may already be using apps like Mint or Clarity on their own, so it’s important to look into what additional value you can provide by offering something similar in the workplace.
Establishing (and sticking to) a budget should be at the core of any quality financial education solution. To best integrate budgeting into your financial wellness strategy, look for a holistic program where an interactive budgeting tool is built right into the platform, supported by education and able to be easily shared with a Financial Advisor.
For employees that are struggling to get from paycheck to paycheck, earned wage access programs may be a good fit. These programs give workers access to wages earned for the time they’ve worked, instead of making them wait for the next pay period.
Earned wage access can be a valuable alternative for employees that may have to ask for an advance directly from their employer, or turn to expensive payday loan and cash advance shops.
Earned wage access programs are most popular with a demographic that struggles to cover expenses with their income, or hasn’t been able to build sufficient emergency savings to cover unexpected expenses.
Without a solid base of financial literacy, employees can easily use earned wage access programs to overspend and cause deeper financial issues for themselves and their families. Earned wage access solutions should be offered in conjunction with robust holistic financial education to see long term positive results. Make sure that you are treating the cause, not the symptoms of your employee’s financial stress. And, keep in mind that these programs must account for deductions such as wage garnishments and taxes.
Another popular point solution addresses the $1.5 trillion dollar student debt crisis that is negatively impacting the U.S. workplace. Traditionally, employers might have offered tuition reimbursement or educational stipends. Today, workplaces are taking student loan assistance a step further and actually paying down employee’s student debt, either through one-time or ongoing payments.
In one controversial example, insurance company Unum group announced that they would pay down employees student loans if they traded in five vacation days in exchange. This program received a lot of backlash but brings to light how prominent the student debt crisis has become.
As with any point solution, education should go hand-in-hand to help employees navigate challenges around repaying, refinancing, consolidating and other confusing student loan concepts.
Now that we’ve covered the types of financial wellness programs you’ll see on the market today, let’s talk about the results you can measure.
On a high level, you know that financial stress hurts employees, which in turn costs your business money. By implementing a financial wellness program, you can reduce employee stress and increase productivity while improving employee engagement.
Those results sound great, but we’re here to help you actually quantify the ROI of financial wellness at your own organization.
What is Financial Wellness ROI? It’s the Return on Investment (ROI) that your company receives in exchange for offering financial wellness as an employee benefit.
So, where should you start? What data can you track? Which metrics matter? What key performance indicators (KPIs) should guide your ship?
The first step is to gather baseline metrics, then set goals for your company and the financial wellness program you plan to implement. It’s valuable to understand the cost that financial stress could be having at your organization already. Use the Financial Stress Cost calculator below to run the numbers for your organization (based on industry averages from PwC’s Workplace Financial Wellness data).
Now, let’s move on to some areas where you can see measurable ROI from a holistic financial wellness program.
For each fact and figure listed below, think about your own organization and how much that cost or savings could contribute to seeing a return on your investment. Here are some top examples of ways that financial stress is costing your organization lots of cash, and how financial wellness could be saving you money.
Financial stress is keeping employees up at night, but did you know it’s also keeping them out of the office? A recent Willis Towers Watson study found that workers stressed about their finances are absent from work 3.5 days per year, on average – nearly double the absenteeism of people who are not stressed. And, when these worriers do come to work, they are “highly distracted”, which can eat up 12 additional days per year, interfering with their productivity, and overall engagement.
Ensuring that your employees are financially well and supporting them to establish the foundations of a healthy financial plan can make them more productive. For example, even something as fundamental as having an emergency fund can change how often employees call out of work.
These two results alone would save a 50,000-life employer upwards of 5 million a year, the study concluded.
When an employee is financially stressed, they more likely to pursue opportunities to make more money. Financially stressed employees are more likely to leave your company for higher wages elsewhere, which leads to more turnover.
Turnover can be very pricey, and rates of turnover vary by industry. The cost to you as an employer includes the time and fees associated with recruitment, interviewing, screening, hiring, onboarding, and training, and these costs scale up with salary paid.
For example, mid-range positions earning $30,000 to $50,000 annually, the cost is around 20% of annual salary. If financial wellness could assist just one employee in understanding and utilizing their benefits and retirement plan, that retention could save your company upwards of $10,000 to replace the employee.
Keep in mind that simply offering financial wellness could be enough to get employees to stick around. According to a 2019 Morgan Stanley report on financial wellness in the workplace, 60% of employees are more likely to stay with a company that offers them financial wellness offerings. Set them up for financial success today and build loyalty.
Maintaining a healthy workforce is also on the forefront of every benefits professionals’ mind, and here is how financial wellness fits into the conversation.
Financial stress directly affects employee healthcare costs, especially for those conditions which are related to or exacerbated by stress. The CFPB estimates that financial stress can increase healthcare costs by about $400 per stressed employee annually.
At an organization of 1,000 employees, that’s around $144,000 in increased healthcare costs due to employees feeling financially unwell.
When employees retire on time, it’s a win-win for employees and employers alike. But with financial stress on the rise, many employees are expected to delay their retirements because they don’t have enough savings to cover their cost of living and healthcare in their golden years. In fact, this problem is only getting worse.
In a recent survey conducted by NAPA, the percent of employees that expect to postpone retirement due to their financial situation has actually gone up over the last four years, from 37% in 2015 to 52% in 2019.
Prudential ran the cost implications of these retirement delays, and the numbers are staggering. For an employer with 3,000 employees and workforce costs of $200 million, a one-year delay in retirement age may cost $2-$3 million. For an individual employee who’s retirement is delayed, an incremental cost of more than $50,000 could be incurred based on the cost differential between the retiring employee and a newly hired employee.
These higher benefits and payroll costs could cause big problems down the line, along with delays in implementing your succession and exit plans.
When you look at the bigger picture, these measurable costs can really add up. While other factors can influence absenteeism, presenteeism, turnover, healthcare costs and retirement readiness, implementing a financial wellness program that could reduce the costs associated with financial stress by even 3%-5% can really improve your bottom line.
In fact, an employee benefits study commissioned by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau reports that employers typically see a return of $3 for every $1 spent on financial wellness programs.
What's the ROI of Financial Wellness? Employers typically see a return of $3 for every $1 spent on financial wellness programs, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
While financial wellness might seem like an emerging benefit, it’s already able to prove significant ROI for the companies that offer it. And, its potential continues to grow as the modern workforce implements, learns and iterates on their programs.
Workplace financial wellness programs comes in many shapes and sizes. When shopping for or building out a financial wellness strategy for your employees, the budget is often the first considered factor.
Depending on the needs of your organization, you may be looking for a financial wellness solution that’s digital, human-driven or a combination of both. You may be on the hunt for a holistic program or one that’s more topic-specific. All of these factors will influence the cost of a given financial wellness solution. Many programs even offer a-la-carte options so you can customize the program to fit your needs and budget.
As you begin to research more about financial wellness pricing, here is what to consider (along with some industry cost benchmarks).
Across the workplace financial wellness space, there are a few common pricing models. Here are the popular cost structures that you may see as you explore your options for bringing a new financial wellness program to your workplace.
Keep in mind that the example pricing below is for general reference and may vary widely. For example, factors such as company location can greatly skew average costs. If your organization is located in a big metropolitan area, fees for on-site financial wellness programs like lunch & learns could be more pricey than in a suburban area based on average expert hourly rates, travel, parking, and other considerations.
Looking for a one-off financial wellness solution for your employees? You will likely encounter one-time, flat-fee pricing.
Examples of one time solutions include one-off lunch & learns, webinars, and flat-rate financial coaching. These kinds of programs may include a financial expert like an Advisor or CFPⓇ coming on site to your organization for a special event. One time solutions are common during special times of year like open enrollment when employees need help with benefits decision making, or during the holiday season when financial stress is extra high.
One time programs can be free if offered through existing solutions such as your 401(k) provider, but be sure to confirm that the guidance is unbiased and in your employee’s best interest. Pricing for one time flat-fee programs that do charge starts around $500 for a small scale event and reach upwards of $50,000 for company-wide seminars.
Another kind of pricing that is flat-fee but on an ongoing basis can be found with financial wellness programs that are recurring in nature. These programs take the form of yearly, quarterly or monthly events, which are signed into a contract or session-by-session basis.
By having financial wellness content or events on a recurring basis programs are able to gain more traction with employees over time. However, if the program is not of value, you may be locked into a series of digital or in-person events that you can’t break out of until the contract ends.
Pricing for recurring flat-free programs can range from $2,000 per year for the most basic solutions to upwards of $200,000 or more for robust programs.
One of the most common types of financial wellness program pricing, especially for digital solutions, is Per Employee Per Month (PEPM) pricing.
In the modern workplace today, employers are on the hunt for financial wellness programs that are flexible, scalable, and accessible for all - which is why digital, PEPM priced products are starting to lead the pack. PEPM pricing is usually very flexible and can be handled in a few different ways:
The first and most rigid type of PEPM pricing is commonly called “seat based”.
Seat based pricing is where an organization pays per user, per month for a defined population of employees to access a financial wellness program. This would allow a set number of employees to opt into a solution, and allow your company to control the product’s usage as well as restrict the number of employees that can access it.
The seat based PEPM model can stay budget-friendly, especially if you are looking to serve a specific demographic with a given program and know how many employees might take advantage of the offering.
On the flip side, it can be challenging to roll out a financial wellness program to a small subset of employees, especially if there is a wider demand for an offering among the organization. Many companies find that they max out their seat allocation much earlier than expected, as financial wellness is a top requested employee benefit in the workplace.
Organizations also may find that maintaining who has access, or who is using the limited number of seats takes time and energy. As a result, it’s common for organizations to outgrow Seat Based PEPM pricing in favor of Flat-Rate PEPM pricing (we'll cover this next).
A common use case for seat based PEPM pricing is when rolling out a financial wellness pilot program. Offering 100 seats and allowing early adopters at your organization to test out and customize a given financial wellness solution can be a good way to gauge interest and estimate return on investment (ROI) in a controlled environment.
Seat based PEPM pricing tends to be the most costly of the PEPM pricing models, usually starting around $6 per employee per month and going up to $20 PEPM or more depending on the solution’s offerings.
However, some financial wellness programs may offer a complementary set of seats for a pilot program. This allows your organization to test adoption, utilization and ROI of a given program before committing to a contract. Our team at LearnLux is happy to speak with you to see if a pilot program of our holistic financial wellness product is right for you.
Building on the seat-based pricing model, utilization based PEPM pricing allows any number of employees to access a financial wellness program, but as an organization, you only pay for what is used.
The definition of what it means to “use” the program will be set between your company and the financial wellness vendor but could mean anything from account activations to monthly active users and anything in between. The great thing about utilization based PEPM is that it allows unlimited access to financial wellness education and tools to your employees that need it most.
On the downside, however, it can be hard to know the exact budget you should allocate for your financial wellness program. Some months might be really slow for utilization while other months (like after New Years or tax time) might have big influxes of utilization. And, since additional usage will drive up the cost, utilization based PEPM Pricing often discourages employers from distributing the program and reminding employees of its benefit.
Pricing for utilization based PEPM pricing can start as low as $2 PEPM and go upwards of $20 or more based on the value of the solution’s offerings. Utilization based PEPM pricing may also vary as events such as Open Enrollment drive surges in utilization.
The final structure of PEPM pricing that you may see is a “flat-rate” type billing.
This is the most common type of PEPM pricing. This pricing model is based on the size of your organization, multiplied by a per month cost. This price is billed at a flat rate whether employees opt-in or not.
Flat-rate PEPM pricing is often the most straightforward of the PEPM cost structures. While you may be paying for unused seats, this model is operationally the easiest because there is no need to add/remove seats, and pricing only changes at the same rate as your company grows, which avoids seasonal fluctuation.
Flate-rate PEPM pricing is usually much cheaper per-seat because vendors and HR departments understand that not every employee is going to take advantage of the benefit. This is factored into the cost.
Additionally, flate-rate PEPM Pricing encourages the organization to advocate usage of the platform, since higher utilization and enrollment won’t increase the monthly cost.
Flat-rate PEPMs can start as low as $0.50 per employee per month and scale up into the $20 range depending on what level of value is offered.
Lastly, financial wellness programs that are solely Advisor-powered might have an hourly or set rate model.
This setup is common in situations where the financial wellness program is centered around one or more human financial advisors who charge a set rate to give guidance to employees.
Depending on the Advisor’s personal experience or levels of certifications, expect to pay anywhere from $150 per hour to up to $2,000 per employee to build a one-time custom financial plan.
To stay in-budget but still get big value from offering a financial wellness program with Financial Advisors, look for holistic programs that blend digital and human elements and wrap both services into a simple PEPM model.
First and foremost, any good financial wellness program will be clear and upfront about its costs and fees. With that in mind, there are a few types of financial wellness program fees that you might come across.
The first is setup or implementation fees. This will usually be a one-time, set fee to get your company’s account set up and running. These fees start around $50 and can climb upwards of $10,000.
The second is content customization fees. Financial education providers may offer a standard set of content but for customization or edits, such as integrating your organization’s unique benefit offerings into the program, you might pay extra. Customization drives engagement and action for your employees, so consider the positive return on your investment of customizing a program to fit your needs, with information that’s specific to the benefits you offer.
Lastly, some companies may charge an account maintenance fee, late payment fee, renewal fee or any other number of fees. Be sure to speak with the program provider’s sales rep to fully understand any fees and charges that could potentially occur.
There’s a lot that goes into choosing the right financial wellness program. In previous chapters we’ve covered how to address your company’s need for financial wellness, common types of programs you will see on the market today, and even specifics on pricing and ROI.
All this info comes together when it’s finally time to evaluate and choose the program that’s right for your organization. With so much to consider, taking the deep dive to evaluate a potential program (or multiple programs) can feel overwhelming. That’s why we’re about to share the ultimate evaluation resource with you - a list of 75 qualifying questions to ask any prospective financial wellness program.
We encourage you to use this evaluation template in partnership with your broker or benefits team to make sure the questions get to the core of your specific company’s needs. These evaluation questions will serve as a solid starting place.
Years in business.
Year of launch of financial wellness employer offering.
How is your organization funded (outside investors, shareholders, parent company, shareholders, etc)?
Describe your organization’s strengths and value provided to your clients.
Please identify your 3 main competitors.
What makes you different from your competitors?
Do you differentiate yourself with your commitment to social responsibility? If so, how? Please list all initiatives and partnerships.
How many employer clients do you have?
What is the size of the largest employer client?
What is the size of the smallest?
What is the average size?
Is there a minimum threshold for employee count? Maximum threshold?
How do you get paid for the costs of the financial wellness services? Please explain who pays you and how payment is handled.
How much does your program cost? Please explain your pricing model in detail.
Does your organization recommend financial products? If so, how are those products chosen?
Does your organization sell financial products?
Provide a description of any commissions, referral fees, incentives, or awards that are provided to any individuals or groups in your organization in return for their recommending the purchase of financial products or services from your organization or the use of any business partners.
Do you have any economic interest (such as revenue sharing, commissions, asset-based fees, advertising, promotion or referral revenue) in the sale or marketing of any products or services directly to consumers? This could include loans, brokerage products, investment products, credit monitoring, mutual funds, annuities, insurance… etc.
Please list any corporate affiliations you have. (This should include any and all companies you are affiliated with to provide your services)
Does your offering include products/services from a third party (white labeled product)?
What other companies do you partner with to service/provide your core and ancillary solution? (e.g. financial education materials are outsourced to Company A, short term loans are serviced by Bank B, retirement planning services are provided by Company C, tax advising is outsourced to D Advisors, etc.)
Do you have any other strategic alliances relevant to your services or offerings in this space?
Where are your products available? (Just United States, US and Canada, international…)
Will you cover expat employees for a US client?
What languages are available in your product?
Are your products accessible for employees with disabilities? If so, please explain.
Are there any populations you cannot serve or provide your full solution? (E.g. "unbanked" employees, employees without US credit history, employees without citizenship, etc.)
Do you have a mobile app? Is your website mobile friendly?
Describe the technology capabilities of your solution. IE: ability to integrate SSO, API linkage with existing platforms…
Do you support single sign on?
How long does it take to initialize and launch your solution? What is required? What is the estimated timeline?
Do you offer a financial wellness assessment? Can it be offered on a stand alone basis?
Does the program offer education / tools around the following topics:
⃞ Goal setting
⃞ Budgeting / cash flow management
⃞ Retirement readiness
⃞ Student loans
⃞ Employee benefits
⃞ Employee stock options
⃞ Identity theft
⃞ Emerging topics like Cryptocurrencies
How is your content created? Is any content outsourced? If so, from where?
Is the educational content customizable by client and if so is there an additional cost?
What is the lead time to customize content?
Is the product personalized for each employee?
Are participants directed to certain content or actions that may be relevant to their unique situation? If yes, please elaborate on the factors that contribute to this personalization and/or action prioritization.
How are other benefits integrated into the product?
Do you offer in-person seminars or workshops?
Can your company provide on-site benefit fair representation? If so, what is the cost to the employer?
Can the workshop be offered live via WebEx or webinar?
Are your employer products the same services that are available in the retail market?
Are all your products available for purchase to the public?
Does your program offer financial counseling services for employees?
Please give a brief overview of the financial counseling services that your organization provides.
What is your screening process for counselors?
Please list the percentage of current financial counselors with the following accreditations/certifications:
Other (e.g. CFPⓇ 70%, CPA 10%, etc.):
What is the average number of years of counseling experience for your counselors?
Are your counselors fiduciaries?
Are your counselors multilingual? If so what languages are available?
If applicable, please describe the investment counseling services that your organization provides.
What is the typical counselor to employee ratio?
If a participant uses the counseling service multiple times, is continuity maintained between contacts? If yes, please elaborate on how this is achieved.
What are your operating hours during which counselors can answer employee questions?
Do your counseling services extend to individuals other than employees? If so, who is eligible and how are they verified?
How do participants interact with counselors? Please list all possible ways to interact.
What data can I access as an employer? Please share information on any admin tools and reports that are produced by the program for review.
Please outline the essential sensitive employee data fields for your solution (e.g. SSN, bank account information, etc.).
How is employee / employer data used? Is it ever shared or sold?
Has your firm or parent company ever been a part of a data breach? If yes, please provide details including dates, data compromised, participants affected and resolution.
Please detail your security compliance / policies.
How is employee data anonymity handled?
Are you GDPR compliant?
What are the steps to implement this program?
Can you share a sample timeline?
Describe the ideal employee experience when using your service, including follow-up and ongoing engagement with the participant.
How does your program distribute communication to employees? How much is handled by the program and how much needs to be handled by the employer?
Please share sample(s) of employee communication.
Please provide the percentage of unique eligible participants that utilized your platform and online tools in the past year across your entire client base.
Is this engagement number representative of what a new client can expect? Why or why not.
What type of quality assurance program is in place to monitor the services provided to employees? Please also include the frequency of performance measurement.
Please share your program’s Net Promoter Score and any other customer satisfaction metrics.
When an employee leaves the employer, how are your services altered on a go-forward basis?
Take a look into your employee benefits crystal ball. What does the future of workplace wellness hold?
The workplace is rapidly changing. Planning for the future (and beyond) is a challenge, but industry trends can tell us a lot. Here are our top predictions for what the future of our industry will look like.
In the future, the most successful programs will blend powerful technology with human advising for one-on-one guidance. This might come as a surprise as many industries are looking towards fully digital solutions to scale (and save money), but personal finances will always be just that - personal.
We’ve found that 80-90% of employees can get their financial questions answered and plans created with digital tools. However, some people prefer a human expert to review the decision before they make changes. This is similar to how a parent might know that their sick child has a head cold, but might bring them to a doctor anyway to confirm that it isn’t something more serious.
Another factor to consider is that many employees don’t have enough money in manageable assets to speak to an independent human advisor on their own. This leaves a big percentage of the population out on their own, especially those struggling to manage debt and expenses. This is especially true for individuals with a high earning potential but limited liquid assets. At LearnLux, we are on a mission to fill this gap with tools that are both tech and human-powered. This is the #1 trend that other financial wellness products will offer in the future.
The future of financial wellness at work will be about connecting the dots in each employee’s financial life. Point solution programs that address a single topic such as student loans or credit scores miss the bigger picture, so holistic solutions will continue to be on the rise. For point solutions, that will mean teaming up with financial education providers to become more well-rounded. For employers, that might mean creating their own holistic program by bringing on solutions a-la-carte.
Cutting edge programs will start by administering assessments to identify employee needs, and insights will be used to create action plans to help each individual reach their goals.
The future of financial wellness content is much more holistic and far-reaching. You might offer a 401k or a student refinancing program, but employees want to know about their benefits, their RSUs, employee stock purchase plans, health insurance, and estate planning. Without a solution that can help get them started in those areas, a program is limited in its impact.
By caring for the whole employee with financial wellness, organizations can address deeper workplace challenges like motivation, productivity, and absenteeism due to financial stress.
Organizations will also look for solutions that support their diverse workforce.
Income diversity and disparity will be at the forefront of the financial wellness solutions of the future. Companies like Amazon, for example, pay their corporate team large salaries while their warehouse workers are making an hourly wage. Employers will look for solutions that empowers their high earners and supports their population that might be living paycheck to paycheck as well.
Generational diversity is another challenge that financial wellness programs of the future will have to face. There’s no doubt that employees are living and working longer. This means businesses can soon expect to have up to five generations of employees in their ranks. Implementing a program that plans for the multi-generational workforce is incredibly important today, and will be the gold standard in the future.
Additionally, geographic diversity and remote work is on the rise. Lunch and learns used to be the standard way to share financial and employee benefits information with employees. In our workforce today, and in the future, financial wellness needs to be available to employees in headquarters and in the field, in corporate settings and warehouses.
One size fits all just won’t cut it. Employers and employees alike expect information that’s timely, relevant and responsive. Innovative financial wellness programs will use data and AI to create custom experiences at scale, and content will be highly tailored to each organization’s benefits options.
Employees have different confidence levels, risk tolerance, debt and target retirement dates, so their financial well-being plan should be as personal as their fingerprint.
Employee trust is everything, so financial wellness of the future will have to be 100% independent. We cover this in detail in our chapter on Types of Financial Wellness programs, because at the core of any product is one question - are they independent, or are they affiliated? Many employees are naturally suspicious of financial services, and earning their trust is crucial.
A solution that’s truly independent and plans to stay that way is so important for your employee’s financial wellbeing. That’s because affiliated programs push products, and guide employees towards solutions that are the most profitable for their business.
It’s important to ask the right questions today to be sure the financial wellness program provider is independent today and will be tomorrow, too.
The sandwich generation refers to the growing population of people that are supporting both aging parents and growing children. According to the Pew Research Center, some caregivers provide at least 21 hours of unpaid care per week, and almost 25 percent of caregivers are now Millennials (between ages 18 and 34 years old).
As your employee population ages, the financial strain for the sandwich generation will increase - from a dollar perspective and a financial literacy one, too.
More Americans will tasked with handling the increased complexity of their own finances, on top of challenges like saving for their children’s education and helping their parents prepare for retirement. Financial wellness programs of the future will adapt and rise to meet these needs.
When it comes to implementing financial wellness, modern workplaces will want to move fast to launch and learn from data. As a result, financial wellness pilot programs have become an emerging trend that will really take off in the next three years.
Pilots establish benchmarks and deliver insights quickly, which will help show a return on investment out of the gate. Pilot programs are often used to justify the ROI of implemented a program for the entire organization, and getting budget approval to do so. Companies will be on the lookout for financial wellness programs with simple, intuitive onboarding to accelerate time-to-launch speed even further.
Way to go! You’ve made it to the end of the Guide to Financial Wellness. That was a lot of info to take in, so some major congratulations are in order.
It takes a lot to become an expert in a topic as complex as workplace financial wellness. But with this guide on your side, you have the knowledge you need to build your company’s strategy with confidence.
Now it’s your turn to build a plan and turn it into action. Our team at LearnLux is here to help, every step of the way. Have questions about anything in this guide, or want to chat about next steps? Use the form to drop us a line below. We can’t wait to hear from you.