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The Price Employers Pay for Neglecting Financial Well-being

Practice Management

When it comes to financial wellness benefits, it’s clear that more than just financial well-being is at stake, as it’s not just employees who are impacted by financial stress, but employers suffer the consequences as well. 

In fact, three out of four U.S. workers are facing at least one source of major financial stress, and 51% felt more stressed about their finances in 2021 than ever before, according to the survey findings by SoFi at Work and Workplace Intelligence. As a result, employees are shifting their personal and professional lives—with some taking on second, part-time jobs (25%), while others opt to carry higher credit card debt (25%) or tap into retirement savings (19%). 

As for the impact on companies, employees say they are spending a weekly average of 9.2 hours on their personal finances while at work—more than one full day of work each week, or the equivalent of 12 workweeks each year, the survey found. Financial stress has also caused around one in five workers to say their ability to focus (23%) and their productivity (18%) have been affected while at work. In addition, 34% of workers plan to push back their retirement dates by six years due to the pandemic.

But there’s widespread optimism that 2022 will be a turning point, with 91% of employees confirming they’ve committed to improving their financial well-being. Perhaps even more important, according to SoFi, is that 75% of employers plan to increase financial wellness benefits within the next two years to ensure employees have the tools they need to reach those goals. 

According to the findings, the top five financial wellness benefits that companies offer include:

  • retirement matching/401(k) (70%);
  • financial planning tools (69%);
  • access to a financial planner/advisor (63%);
  • financial education, seminars or courses (61%); and
  • budget planning tools (58%).

“Today’s business leaders are facing a daunting set of growing concerns around some of the biggest business challenges in recent history, like talent scarcity, increasing concerns around the impact of rising inflation on compensation (67%) and others,” notes Jennifer Nuckles, EVP and Group Business Unit Leader at SoFi. “With this, it’s important to realize that there are other levers employers can—and should—pull to add value.” 

Perception Gap

Many employees aren’t sure where to begin and they feel they are not getting the support they need from their employers, the study found. According to the findings, 84% of employees believe their company should be responsible for their financial well-being, but only 55% feel their company is concerned about their financial wellness. 

And even though employees value their financial benefits, the survey found that, on average, 38% of workers are not using them. When asked why, 23% reported that the quality of their financial benefits is poor, they are not sure how to get started (21%) or they were not aware of these benefits (19%). 

What’s more, there was a significant difference in satisfaction among workers with different incomes. For instance, 81% of people making over $200,000 per year reported that they are very satisfied with their benefits versus just 32% of those making less than $60,000 per year. 

“It’s clear that while some employers are setting the example by offering high-quality benefits, others should reevaluate whether they’re offering the right tools to help all their workforce achieve financial success,” the study observes.

Apparently, employees’ preferences are also changing. While benefits like retirement matching and financial planning tools remain important, SoFi found that adding an emergency savings fund and homeownership assistance were among the top five benefits that employees want their companies to add or improve. 

“Offering financial well-being benefits isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s also a critical way to boost employee engagement and productivity,” says Dan Schawbel, Managing Partner at Workplace Intelligence. “But people’s preferences are quickly evolving, and the companies who can adapt quickly are the ones that will come out on top in the war for talent.” 

SoFi conducted the survey Dec. 21–29, 2021, among 800 HR leaders and 800 full-time employed workers to understand what role financial well-being plays in employees’ work life and to help employers gauge how certain benefits might impact their broader business and the employee experience.