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Are You Taking Advantage of Your Employer’s Financial Wellness Offerings?

Aug 07, 2018 3 min read Karen Kroll

Key takeaways

  • More employers are offering financial wellness programs.
  • The information and tools can help you better manage your finances.
  • Ask about privacy policies before enrolling.

 

You probably look forward to your vacation each year. After all, who couldn't benefit from time away to de-stress and recharge?

Your employer may offer other benefits that can also help reduce your stress level, even if they don't involve sandy beaches or charming bed-and-breakfasts. Financial wellness benefits, such as access to a financial advisor or online financial education and calculators, also can help you sleep more soundly.

 

 

A growing number of employers offer financial wellness programs. The percentage of employers offering these programs jumped from 20% to 83% over two years, according to the Prudential survey, Benefits and Beyond: Employer Perspectives on Financial Wellness.

The definition of “financial wellness benefits” can vary from one employer to another, yet the Prudential survey found several characteristics common across most programs. These include an online portal through which you can access tools and information; calculators to help you gauge if you're saving enough for retirement; and access to financial advice and/or advisors.

 

Information available

Most companies are taking a “holistic” approach, with a goal of reaching employees, “no matter where they are age-wise and career-wise,” says Robert Lawton, president of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants in Milwaukee.

The information offered can cover a range of financial issues, including:

  • Qualifying for a mortgage
  • Reducing debt
  • Building a credit history
  • Deciding whether to buy or lease a vehicle
  • Managing your health care costs
  • Budgeting
  • Evaluating different types of life insurance
  • Managing personal finances, such as balancing a checkbook and checking your credit score
  • Leveraging flexible spending accounts
  • Maximizing Social Security
  • Saving and investing for college and retirement

Your employer may use multiple tools to provide this information, including in-person events—such as seminars and access to a financial planner—as well as online courses, information and calculators.

 

Privacy concerns

Some employees shy away from financial wellness benefits, worried their colleagues or boss may uncover information they'd rather keep private, such as a bankruptcy filing or an out-of-control credit card balance.

Privacy is a legitimate concern, and many employers will put in place safeguards to protect employees' information. At the same time, you also can conduct your own due diligence.

“Ask about privacy,” says Gregory Hammer of Hammer Financial Group in Schererville, Ind. “Ask about the procedures and policies in place” to keep your data confidential, he adds.

For instance, you'll want to check where and how your information is stored, and who can access it. If an outside firm is managing the financial wellness program, will your information stay with that company? How will they protect it?

 

Meeting your needs

Another common question is whether the advice offered will be tailored to your needs, or instead, if it will be geared to financial products the company behind the wellness program is trying to sell.

While many wellness benefits are agnostic—that is, their sole focus is education—a few programs do offer proprietary solutions, says Mark Singer, CFP and president and founder of the Financial Literacy Toolbox. “That's neither good nor bad, but should be disclosed,” he adds. That way, you can make an informed decision about your participation.

 

What you can do next

Visit your human resources or benefits department and ask about the financial wellness benefits they offer. Learn what's available, understand your own short- and long-term financial objectives, and determine if and how the program can benefit you.

Footnotes

 

Karen Kroll is an experienced freelance writer and editor, with a focus on corporate and consumer finance. Her articles have appeared in AARPBulletin.com, Bankrate.com, Business Finance, CFO, CreditCards.com, Global Finance, and many other publications.

 

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