Financial Wellness Programs Should Be Customized for Women

Interrupted careers, greater longevity and other factors call for unique help for women in employer financial wellness programs, a paper from the Retirement Advisor Council suggests.

The Retirement Advisor Council has published a guide that explains the unique financial challenges women face and identifies strategies employers can implement to create more attractive and inclusive programs.

The council notes in its Viewpoint, “Creating More Impactful Programs for Women,” that the trajectory of men’s and women’s careers is different, with many women leaving the workforce to raise children or care for elderly parents. Compounding the problem is the fact that women tend to live longer than men. Women also carry a greater share of the college debt burden.

To alleviate these challenges, the council says financial wellness programs should be customized for women—with an emphasis on the importance of having an emergency savings account, strategies for saving and investing while paying down debt, financial planning worksheets, and alternative approaches to save for retirement.

“A financial wellness program can have a positive impact on your business,” says Abigail Benham, a vice president with John Hancock Retirement and chair of the editorial board that wrote the guide. “The 2020 John Hancock Retirement financial stress survey found that 86% of retirement plan participants feel it is important for employers to offer financial wellness programs.”

The guide notes that women are far more financially stressed than men. Twenty-two percent of women say debt is a major issue, whereas only 14% of men say so. If they were out of work for an extended period of time, 38% of men say they would be able to meet their basic expenses, but this is true for only 24% of women. Sixty-five percent of women say their personal finances are their top cause of stress, but only 52% of men say the same.

Furthermore, 55% of women believe they are behind in saving for retirement, while just 45% of men agree. Nearly a third (32%) of women have student loan debt, but just 15% of men do, and 51% of women have less than $1,000 in emergency savings, but this drops to 38% for men.

The guide also notes that women earn 82% of the median earnings of men, and this drops to 62% for Black women and 64% for Hispanic women.

The guide also notes that financial wellness programs resonate more with women than with men, with 75% of women saying such a program would reduce their financial stress, but only 64% of men agreeing. Sixty-eight percent of women say that if their company offered a financial wellness program, they would be more inclined to stay at their current job, but this dips to 59% among men. Fifty-nine percent of women say such a program would boost their job productivity, but this declines to 53% among men.

This Viewpoint is the second of seven that the council intends to publish to help employers offer their employees strong financial wellness programs. Future Viewpoints will look at the return on investment (ROI) to employers from financial wellness programs and how to tailor a program to meet the unique needs of executives.