How voluntary benefits are alleviating financial stress

How voluntary benefits are alleviating financial stress

In the immortal words of Snoop Dogg, “I got my mind on my money and my money on my mind.” Knowing how much money is in the bank is always a priority. Without it there would be no home, car, education, toys, phone, anything. That is why when financial stresses become too heavy the motivation to focus on the job takes a toll and it is up to advisers and consultants to aid their clients on how make these stresses less worrisome.

Xerox HR Services recently released its 2016 financial well-being and voluntary benefits survey and found that two-thirds of companies are integrating more voluntary benefits to supplement core benefits packages to promote financial well-being.

Traditionally, voluntary benefits have been considered non-core offerings and have been paid either partially or entirely by employees. That has begun to change with employers now bringing these benefits into the core offerings and providing them with the employer’s open enrollment options. The most common examples of voluntary benefits entering into core offerings are generally critical illness, accident and hospital indemnity.

“Our study shows 78% of employers view voluntary benefits as being extremely effective or very effective in supporting employee financial well-being. [This is] giving them peace of mind and a roadmap to financial control,” says Tom Kelly, principal at Xerox HR Services.

Nearly 55% of companies are either working on implementing financial well-being strategies or plan to offer them within the next three years, while 38% have a program already in place, according to Xerox’s survey. Of these strategies, the most popular include financial health assessment, workshops, education materials and retirement planning calculators.

When financial wellness often goes unchecked in the workplace, advisers are able to note to clients that these stresses can lead to health issues and higher benefit costs. Offering voluntary benefits to relieve these stresses can lead to:

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  • Reducing absences
  • Increasing productivity and reducing workers’ compensation claims
  • Attracting and retaining talent
  • Providing awareness and education about the need for financial protection

More than a third of global companies rate their organizational stress levels “high or very high” and 87% see employee performance as the most important reason to address work-related stress and poor mental well-being, according to Xerox research.

“Many employees are becoming increasingly stressed about their finances – whether it’s planning for unexpected expenses or readying for retirement,” Kelly says. “It’s safe to say finances are a major concern for the modern-day workforce and employers can help alleviate the entire gamut of stress by providing a more robust voluntary benefits package and addresses an employee’s overall well-being.”

Jeff Oldham, vice president of consumer strategy at Benefitfocus, says the implementation of voluntary benefits to help promote financial wellness is a consistent trend.

“By meeting a wider variety of financial needs, these nontraditional perks help to offset the stress that comes with managing personal finances – which can have a direct effect on employee productivity and satisfaction,” Oldham says. “When we began offering solutions like student loan benefits and financial education tools through Benefitfocus, the impact was huge and employers on our platform began reaching out immediately.”

Oldham added that in 90 days, a number of larger employers, whose combined employees totaled 500,000, contacted Benefitfocus to request more information on financial wellness offerings, proposals, ROI info and more.

“Even though financial stress in the workplace is commonplace, most employees don’t discuss it,” he says. “Therefore, it’s important for an employer to foresee any obstacles and offer a solution before it’s needed.

By foreseeing these obstacles, a whole new level of support can be offered in the workplace and providing financial wellness benefits is the next big move an adviser’s client should make when considering their benefits packages.