16 April 2021

Got Debt? Your Boss Wants to Help

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Your boss knows that your finances may need some help. This year, you just might get it.

Just over half of employers surveyed by Alight Solutions said they are in the process of creating financial wellbeing strategies at the workplace.

And nearly 30 percent of the participating companies said they already have such a program and are putting it into action, Alight found.

The benefits administration company polled 171 employers in September and October of 2018. The participating businesses represent a total of 7.6 million workers.

Whether you call it "financial well-being" or "financial wellness," the concept is the same: Companies want to improve the overall health of their workers' finances.

This can run the gamut from helping you budget to educating you on how to get the most out of your retirement plan.

Why should employers care? The answers range from wanting to "enhance the overall employee experience" and "we believe it's the right thing to do," said Rob Austin, director of research at Alight.

"Employers are looking at what benefits employees, including helping them reduce financial stress and get a handle on what they're spending," he said. "If you're feeling better about yourself, it could translate to better

There's something to that.

About half of the workers polled by PricewaterhouseCoopers said that they were stressed over their finances. The firm surveyed 1,600 working adults in February 2018.

Of those stressed employees, more than half said they had less than $50,000 saved for retirement. Further, 2 out of 3 said they consistently carry balances on their credit cards.

Here's how your employer is trying to help you clean up your finances.

Education vs. budgeting  

At the very least, most companies plan on teaching their employees more about their money.

About a third of 106 employers polled by consulting firm Callan said they offered financial wellness services in 2018. That's up from 17 percent in the prior year.

Of those who offer these programs, 96 percent said they would focus on basic financial education. Nearly 85 percent said they would offer budgeting or savings tools, according to Callan.

In addition, 73 percent of that same group said they would provide "student loan tools."

Some employers have adopted plans to help workers who are grappling with debt.

For instance, Abbott introduced its Freedom 2 Save Plan: Employees who put 2 percent of their pay toward their student loans will receive a 5 percent "match" into their 401(k) plan account.

Still, it could be awhile before these wellness solutions become commonplace among employers, said Jana Steele, senior vice president in Callan's defined contribution consulting group.

"For defined contribution plans, we don't see movement unless there is a driver around it: regulation, litigation or legislation," she said.

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