Employees Want Financial Education and Employers Are Stepping Up

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans found employers are providing education on a variety of topics, but the top five most common topics covered in employer-sponsored financial education programs include retirement plan benefits, pre-retirement financial planning, budgeting, investment management and retiree health care.

According to employers, the number one financial challenge facing employees is credit card and other debt (reported by 70% of employers).

The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans’ “Financial Education for Today’s Workforce: 2018 Survey Results” report says other top issues worrying employees are saving for retirement, paying for their children’s education expenses and covering basic living expenses. The survey finds these factors are taking a toll on the workplace in the form of stress (79%), the inability to focus on work (64%), physical health concerns (36%) and absenteeism (34%).

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When asked to rate the financial status of their employees, 40% of employers report their employees as being only a little bit or not at all financially savvy, and 36% of employers say employees are only a little bit or not at all prepared for retirement once they reach retirement age.

More than two in five employers report an increased demand for financial education among employees in the past two years.

Employers are answering the call. The report says 63% of employers currently provide financial education for their workforce, and an additional 19% are considering such education for the future.

Among the employers that offer financial education programs, 24% report they have a financial education budget in 2018, which is significantly higher than the 14% of employers that had such a budget in 2016. An additional 20% of employers are considering adding a financial education budget. More than half of employers with budgets are planning to increase their budget in the next two years. Of employers with a financial education budget, 20% are measuring the return on investment (ROI) of their initiatives, and another 29% are considering measuring ROI in the future.

The most popular education methods used by employers offering financial education include voluntary classes or workshops (90%), free personal consultation services (63%), retirement income calculators (59%), internet links to informational sites (58%), and projected account balance statements and/or pension benefit statements (53%).

The survey found that employers offer financial education on a wide variety of topics, from life insurance and identify theft to student loan debt and end-of-life planning. However, the top five most common topics covered include retirement plan benefits, pre-retirement financial planning, budgeting, investment management and retiree health care.

Employers are making sure their education is impactful to their workforce by taking steps such as:

  • Providing financial education to employees’ spouses (39%);
  • Asking their workforce which areas they are most interested in (35%);
  • Providing education in other languages (30%); and
  • Providing education by generation (25%).

Additionally, employers are beginning to target education for life events; 17% are currently doing this, and 23% are considering doing so. Among employers offering life-event education, the most common events highlighted include approaching retirement, funding an education, getting married, purchasing a home, getting divorced or having a child.

“Employers are stepping up their commitment to providing financial education to their employees,” says Julie Stich, CEBS, associate vice president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans. “More employers are devoting a budget for this type of education. They’re also going the extra mile to assess the concerns and needs of their unique workforce and the type of education that would be effective.”

Of employers offering financial education, 57% report their program is successful—just 6% say their program is unsuccessful. Most commonly, employers are measuring success through increased participant deferral rates in defined contribution (DC) plans, overall participation rates in DC plans, and participation in specific initiatives such as in-house seminars.

Financial Education for Today’s Workforce: 2018 Survey Results contains data from 448 organizations representing corporations, multiemployer trust funds and public employers across the United States and Canada. Data was collected in April 2018.

For more information or to view the entire survey results, visit www.ifebp.org/financialed2018.