SURVEY SAYS: Financial Know-How Education

PLANSPONSOR NewsDash readers share what financial topics they need more education about.

Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “What financial topics does your company educate employees about, and which of those do you need more education about?”

More than two-thirds (67.9%) of responding readers work in a plan sponsor role, while 21.4% are TPAs/recordkeepers/investment managers, 7.1% are advisers/consultants and 3.6% are attorneys.

Investment basics (67.9%), budgeting (57.1%) and simple strategies for investing properly (42.9%) topped the list for financial topics responding readers’ firms educate employees about.

Here is how other topics ranked:

  • Paying off credit card debt more quickly (39.3%);
  • Wills and estate planning (39.3%);
  • Saving for and paying for children’s education (32.1%);
  • Strategies for creating income in retirement (28.6%);
  • Student loan repayment strategies (14.3%);
  • Paying for caregiving responsibilities (7.1%); and
  • Tax strategies (7.1%).

“None of the above” was selected by 10.7% of respondents, while 7.1% selected “All of the above.”

As for financial topics responding readers need more education about, wills and estate planning (42.9%), strategies for creating income in retirement (32.1%), tax strategies (25%) and paying for caregiving responsibilities (25%) topped the list.

Other financial topics ranked as follows:

  • Student loan repayment strategies (17.9%);
  • Paying off credit card debt more quickly (14.3%);
  • Budgeting (10.7%);
  • Saving for and paying for children’s education (10.7%);
  • Investment basics (10.7%); and
  • Simple strategies for investing properly (10.7%).
“None of the above” was selected by 14.3% of respondents, while 3.6% chose “All of the above.”

Among those who left comments about financial know-how education, several stressed that financial education should be done in school. A couple noted that it is hard to focus people on the long term or get them to change their habits. One argued that employees are expecting employers to do too much, and one pointed out that with competing financial priorities and many employees living paycheck to paycheck, financial discipline can be difficult. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “We try to teach our employees about simple day-to-day spending habits. Most of our employees are young, single males. Reducing that beer budget is tough!”

A big thank you to all who participated in the survey!


I hate financial topics—they are dry and totally uninteresting. But, like lawyers, they are a necessary evil (I can say that because I am a lawyer). So, I have to force myself to listen to the information and stay awake during the process.

It is hard to teach people the discipline to look long-term.

I need more education on Medicare and supplemental insurance in retirement as well as how to optimize Social Security benefits when both spouses have accrued benefits.

By the time people hit the workforce, it’s almost too late for financial basics. We need to rethink algebra and geometry (when’s the last time you did a geometric proof IRL?) and replace them with topics like calculating interest, understanding credit, banking basics, etc. OK…maybe some geometry is helpful (sometimes you need to be able calculate the area of a space to buy paint or fertilizer)!

We try to teach our employees about simple day-to-day spending habits. Most of our employees are young, single males. Reducing that beer budget is tough!

As far as our participants go, interest in financial education is mixed. Those who need it most should have had it in high school or post-secondary. We can’t force them to engage. The other issue is that wages only go so far, and many employees live paycheck to paycheck. The stress and anxiety this causes, when trying to turn things around and become financially disciplined, living within a budget, can be enormous. Change is difficult.

Financial know-how and education—there is never enough. I just wish time was spent educating people on how to do their job.

I used to volunteer at a local school teaching basic budgeting, taxes, benefits and how to save. Unfortunately, the schools don’t have time to teach those classes now, and it shows.

The cry for financial education is another indication that employees expect employers to do too much. Financial information is available all over the place, but few choose to seek it on their own. All you need to know is: spend less than you make; build an emergency fund; resist debt; and save for retirement. This is not rocket science.

Other than general 401(k) onsite meetings and webinar, we rely on our employees visiting vendors’ sites. More should be done but “we don’t have the resources.” In other words, priorities of Benefits staff are elsewhere.

As a church we provide this education not only to our staff but to our congregation. Reducing financial stress can improve the physical and mental health of our staff and congregation as well as the health of their marriages.

I am fortunate to work for an investment advisory firm, where any information or tools we need regarding our personal finances are at our fingertips. In turn, we pass on our knowledge to our plan sponsor clients and their participants—helping one person at a time become more financial savvy makes a difference!


NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Institutional Shareholder Services (ISS) or its affiliates.