Financial wellness is a holistic approach to life – not just a stand-alone benefit

Going to a clinic for your annual check-up, you wouldn’t expect the doctor to just look at your feet and send you home. You want an examination of your entire body to ensure that all the systems are functioning properly. Expect the same from a financial wellness program. It should cover everything from educational concepts to practical solutions to financial problems – all with a good dose of fun and competition thrown in to make it more motivating.

And you expect the doctor to examine you; you don’t want him to make broad assumptions on your condition given the last ten patients he’s seen. Expect the same from a financial wellness program. It must be tailored to each individual employee, directing them to solutions that support their unique position and challenges. From recommended tools to education courses to proposed solutions – the program must focus on each unique person, not the macro goals of the organization. The organization will achieve their goals if, and only if, we capitalize on the time the employee commits to improving their financial wellness and maximize the efficiency of the solutions. It must be personal!

Let’s begin with ‘Awareness and Support’

In The New Productivity Engine, I talk about the three elements necessary to make a financial wellness plan effective and comprehensive.

The first essential element is in the partnership between employer and employee. I call it ‘Awareness & Support,’ and it’s a process needed to introduce and maintain the financial wellness program.

An assessment of each employee joining the financial wellness program is the first step. It is essential to help them identify their current financial situation and future goals – not unlike that comprehensive medical check-up. Setting a “benchmark” allows employees to use the interactivity of the financial wellness platform to do “what if” projections and take on other financial planning challenges.

Support also needs to include education resources that help employees develop and extend their financial knowledge. In fact, research shows that over 80 percent of employees utilizing comprehensive financial wellness programs reported that the platform helped them solve a financial problem, and 70 percent said that they were able to increase their personal savings.

And move on to ‘Making Informed Decisions’

‘Tools & Resources’ is the second essential element of a good financial wellness program. It is robust sets of interactive tools and resources employees can use to learn how to handle their finances and make informed decisions every day, regarding real-life events.

Buying a car? Getting married? Becoming a homeowner? Everyone benefits from a plan. An interactive financial wellness program can help employees consider their options and make informed decisions. And when circumstances change? New numbers and goals can easily be plugged in to come up with a modified plan quickly.

These are just a few of the long-term financial decisions where a strong financial wellness platform can make life easier and more manageable through educational resources and interactive tools.

Let’s have some fun while we’re doing this

In theory, this sounds great. But it seems like a lot of work. And there are so many other things to do that are much more appealing.

This is precisely why the third essential element of a financial wellness program is motivation. You must make it fun, engaging and interesting. Let’s face it, using financial wellness to relieve personal financial stress while learning to make better financial decisions may not be the most exhilarating way to spend a sunny Saturday afternoon. Give employees a reason to participate.

How about contests? Prizes? Interoffice competitions? Now that’s more like it! Creating an atmosphere where employees want to participate is key to establishing a successful financial wellness program in any organization.

Employee financial stress cuts into work time

If financial wellness takes a holistic approach, you might also ask what the employer gets out of it.

The quick and simple answer is increased productivity.

Employee financial stress often causes employees to spend your work time on their problems. Sometimes, they are left with no alternative. (If you were 90 days behind on your car payments like seven million Americans are, you’d be stressed, too.)

Financial wellness brings responsible solutions

In The New Productivity Engine, I use Sarah as an example of a stressed-out employee. Her daughter broke her arm roller skating. A medical emergency has turned into a financial emergency. Sarah has a choice to make: Pay the medical bill or pay the rent.

Given that scenario, do you think Sarah is fully focused on the big company presentation she is leading? Many of life’s crises involve money (or lack of it), as well as other factors.

Financial wellness focuses on the fiscal aspects of emergencies and unexpected expenses. It brings real-time, real-world financial solutions to help lessen the stress brought on by the other factors. In this case, Sarah was able to get a short-term loan that gave her an alternative solution – it gave her a way to pay both the medical bill and the rent.

Financial wellness is a benefit that connects the individual to their life, and their personal well-being, in a unique way. That’s why I believe that financial wellness really is a holistic approach to life – it’s not just a stand-alone benefit.