Help Employees Limit Financial Stress Through the Holidays

Helping Employees Limit Financial Stress Through the Holidays

The holidays are in full swing – we’re hanging lights, buying presents, watching and listening to holiday music and movies, making travel arrangements… the list goes on and on. And while joy and cheer mark most holidays, for many people, the holidays are a stressful time. There’s not much employers can do about some sources of stress during the holidays (like when family comes together and Uncle Mike brings up politics), but there is a way for employers to help their employees limit one common source of stress, specifically financial.  

In general, more than 70 percent of employees say money is their biggest source of stress and 44 percent admit to worrying about personal finances at work leading to lackluster productivity and pressure on emotional and physical health. Add the extra stress of the holidays, and financial stress can be particularly apparent during this time of year. A report by T. Rowe Price found that when asking parents what methods they use to pay for holiday spending, 47 percent use credit cards, 9 percent dip into emergency funds, and seven percent tap their retirement accounts.

But while finances can often seem taboo especially in the workplace, it’s time for employers to take a proactive stance. So, how do you help alleviate financial stress and spread some holiday cheer? Buddy the Elf would suggest, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.” And he may be on to something. Clear communication and getting the word out about the financial programs available to employees is key.  

Communicating Financial Wellness Offerings

From the SHRM conference earlier this year, we had some important takeaways around financial education. Two essential takeaways for effectively communicating financial wellness stand out this time of year: make it personal and make it accessible.

It's important to take into account the various needs and life stages of your multigenerational workforce. For example, some of your employees may be taking on additional financial responsibility. A PwC survey found that there has been an increase in those providing financial support for parents or in-laws with 22 percent now financially responsible (compared to 16 percent in 2015). On the other hand, some employees may be burdened by debt from student loans or education, hindering their ability to build emergency funds or even think about starting to save for retirement. Millennials money woes tend to fall in the latter category. A survey from Colonial Life reports that millennials' biggest concern is not being able to pay their monthly bills. And a third of them say they have no savings set aside if they become unable to work.

Whether it’s baby boomers, gen Xers or millennials, trying to look through their lens can help employers make content more personal while adopting the right tactics for the most effective communication. Which brings us to making it accessible…

You may have heard the saying “you have to go deep before you go wide.” In the situation of helping address your employees' financial needs, you have to do both. Making content personal means going deep by creating content based on the type of employee, their situation, etc. But making communication accessible means going wide – using multiple touchpoints and channels to engage your diverse, multigenerational workforce. Using print mailers, mobile tools, video, in-person seminars or any variation is imperative to getting them the information they need in the format they want.   

Drawing Attention to the Employer Investment 

Employees want financial advice and they’ve said so. Out of the 48 percent of Americans who have received financial advice, 77 percent wish they had done so sooner, according to TIAA’s Advice Matters Survey. That’s why drawing attention to all of the investments you're making to secure your employees’ financial wellbeing shouldn’t feel off-limits because it could be very much appreciated and one of the biggest ways to help them this time of year. Set their minds at ease this time of year with the following reminders:

  1. Your employees have short-term and long-term goals. Right now, they are focused on managing expenses through the holidays. Help them do that by offering financial education tools or one-on-one coaching sessions. This gives them an easy, accessible way to build a short-term plan. And it gets them in front of resources to start building towards long-term goals for financial management, forecasting needs and mitigating risk.
  2. Holidays have always been deemed the season of giving, but you’ve been investing in your employees year-round. The end of the year is a good time to remind employees of your contribution to their 401(k) or HSA, while also encouraging them to make the most out of these financial vehicles. Employees with FSAs may have forgotten to look at their remaining funds. Giving them a gentle reminder to take a look and make any end of year appointments could help ensure they don’t let any dollars go to waste.
  3. What do these two numbers have in common - $37,000 and 42 percent? If you guessed student loan debt, you're right. Currently, the average amount of debt for someone coming out of college with an undergraduate degree is $37,000. Additionally, millennial employees make up the largest contingent of the workforce and 42 percent of them have student loan debt. Student loan refinancing has become a popular benefit employers are now offering along with the more traditional student loan repayment benefit. If either of these are part of your benefits picture, reminding employees of this type of financial option may help alleviate a little bit of stress. And a little bit, can mean a lot to someone struggling with student loan debt.  

The holidays are a good time to wrap your financial benefit messages in a bow and deliver some holiday cheer. And if you want to learn more ways to help employees manage financial stress year-round, watch this on-demand webinar highlighting the urgency for financial wellness benefits in the workplace.