As inflation mounts and interest rates rise, employers could face far more than their own financial pressures. It turns out that not investing in employee financial wellness can cost you big time. Productivity loss to personal money woes is one thing, but your benefits costs could actually increase for employees who aren’t supported by financial wellness programs.

Money is still the number one source of stress for Canadians, and it’s likely to get worse in the current environment. According to the 2022 FP Canada Financial Stress Index, a whopping 92% of Canadians are worried about the rising cost of living. So if you have employees, that likely means pretty much all of them are worried about the cost of living. But it’s not all bad news. Rolling out a new employee financial wellness program during challenging times may be effective and appreciated because people may be more likely to use it. If you already have such a program, now is the time to make it a regular part of the conversation.

Well before the pandemic, and the heavy cascade of financial impacts, the Society of Actuaries found that employees engaged with financial wellness actually reduced their health care spending by 4.5%. Meanwhile, those who never used the program increased their health care spending by 19.4%. They also found that companies that provided financial wellness programs to their employees saved approximately $271.50/year, per employee. 

When you start adding all the ways in which financial stress hurts your employees and your organization, it makes it seem like adding a program would be a no-brainer. But just cutting a cheque and marking it off your list won’t actually make it work. Read carefully above–that 19.4% increase in health care spending was from employees who never used the program. It’s one thing to sign up; it’s another thing to ensure your team uses it. Like everything else that works in your business, you have to work at it, at least a little. But it doesn’t have to be painful. In fact, you can leverage a lot of your regular company rhythms to make financial health a regular practice for you and your team. 

1.  If you’ve got it, flaunt it 🏆

If you’ve already invested in a financial wellness program, make sure you’re actually making the most of it. Can your employees find it easily? How often are they reminded of it? Is it part of new hire onboarding? Are you measuring any sort of engagement or results from the program? 

Compare how you showcase your financial education and tools to the way you ensure other benefits are easy to find and simple to use. Are there gaps in how you enable employees to access one benefit over another? If that’s the case, you are wasting money, and you’re not going to get the results you’d hoped for from your program. 

If you haven’t already, make some time to go through the actual program yourself, even if you’re one of the few who aren’t worried about the cost of living. Be critical. Was it easy to find? Did you know how to get back to it? Did you have access to tools behind a login that enabled you to immediately apply what you’d learned? 

Consider showing your team that financial wellness is a priority for your organization by giving someone the job of championing it to help everyone make the most of the resources you have.

2. Ensure they can use it before they lose it ⏳

We can’t stress enough how important it is for your program to be verifiably useful. You can’t just check a box if you’re going to reap the rewards of a true reduction in financial stress. So test the usefulness of your current program by reviewing it yourself. Can you take a course, watch a video or post, and make a personal financial change? Was it a list of tips or were there tools or some sort of method included so that you can apply the new knowledge to your own finances?

If your employees have to work too hard to make any positive strides with their personal finances, they won’t. Because money is already stressful, making it difficult to access or apply solutions doesn’t get people to take action. Your program must lean into people’s need to quickly see how to use what they’ve learned, or they’ll never use it. Did you know that math and science instruction have approximately 5 times the effect of financial literacy instruction? Those subjects are stickier because we’re not taught facts alone. Instead, we learn formulas, processes and procedures. We don’t just learn what something is; we learn how to do it. Financial wellness programs that work need to go beyond facts, and show employees specifically how to evaluate and decide on various aspects of their personal finances. 

3. Make a game of it ♟️

Some of the most effective ways to get humans to do anything is to gamify it. This can be especially useful with financial wellness programs because how to reward the learner is really obvious; make the reward financial. But don’t just throw dollars at it. Relate the financial reward to the principles of your program. Consider entering everyone who finishes a specific spending lesson in your program into a draw for spending money (like a gift card) for a very high-risk expense, like groceries. If possible, offer a one-time top-up to the employer portion of your group RRSP for everyone who completes a specific retirement-related aspect of your program within a certain time frame. 

Don’t forget to measure various things, like your health insurance costs and claims experience over time as you implement and work at financial wellness in your workplace. When you see it for yourself, you’ll be able to continue pushing your program in the right direction. 

Of course, your focus can’t solely be financial wellness. But if you don’t come up with ways to make it a priority, employee financial stress will cost you far more than investing in a program ever will. There has never been a better time to make money management a skill that anyone on your team can access. 

About CacheFlo

CacheFlo is a financial education company that builds eLearning and tools to help financial professionals and individuals make behaviour-based changes, which allow them to get more life from their money. We want to make it easier for people to predict the impact of their financial choices before they make them.

About the Certified Cash Flow Specialist (CCS) program

CCS professionals go through enhanced cash flow-based training to develop the skill set to deliver behaviour-based cash flow advice. They start the financial planning process with a cash flow plan to genuinely help their clients get more life from their money.

About the Financial Capability Program (FCP)

The FCP combines quick and practical lessons with tools, including Winton, which helps people make financial changes they can stick to. Users can apply what they've learned to their financial situation, thus bridging the knowing-doing gap. The goal of the FCP is to help people get more life from their money.