Mercer | Re-examining financial wellness part three

Mercer | Re-examining financial wellness part three

Employee Financial Wellness

Re-examining financial literacy Part 3: From education to action

Q&A with Betsy Dill
US Financial Wellness Advisory Leader

 

Our employee population is so varied in terms of age, salary, gender, and more. How do I go about changing behaviors across the whole group?

It’s important to use research and data, instead of assumptions, to know what’s really happening in your workforce and encourage the right behaviors.

For example, maybe you have a large millennial population. You might assume that these individuals need student loan refinancing. But maybe most of the millennials who work for you have no college debt. You’d be investing in a student loan repayment vendor, and in communicating this benefit to them, and you would get very little engagement. Last year, we had a high-tech company client that had followed down this very path. We did a workforce poll in which we asked its employees which financial tools they felt were missing, and student loans scored the lowest — budgeting and retirement planning were much larger concerns.

The same can be said for women and financial wellness. Research has indicated that women make worse investment choices and contribute less to their retirement funds. But our recent work with a a major national retailer revealed that its female employees were significantly higher savers than the male employees. That said, when adjusted for pay and the fact that some invested more conservatively, the women’s balances were lower. Women face a different set of challenges than men when it comes to saving for retirement: lower pay, more time taken out of their working lives to raise children or care for family members, and longer life expectancy.

You have to take a close look at your workforce, at who your workers are and what they need, and what’s really stopping them from getting to where they want to be, instead of just making assumptions. This means taking the data that your company maintains on your employees — their benefit elections, their account balances, and health care spending — and analyzing the data to understand what segments of your workforce are actually doing. Once you understand your workforce segments, you can then ask, “Are you adding a benefit because everyone else is, or do you have data that indicates that your workforce really needs it?” 

Understand the types of employees in the workplace and the barriers to their financial well-being, and then figure out which solutions are most important and how to most effectively implement them.

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