Employers Hold the Key to Financial Well-Being in the Age of COVID-19

By Phil Mason

Phil Mason

We’re dealing with the most significant public health concern of our lifetime. And it’s led to a crisis of confidence about our financial futures. Right now, this is top of mind for everyone—rich or poor, employed or unemployed, and at every career stage. And as we know, financial stress can take a huge toll on emotional and physical well-being as well as on job performance.

Now, financial stress—aggravated by COVID-19—is the leading cause of lost productivity, unplanned absences, low job performance, and distractions among workers.

How Employers Can Support Their People

Clearly, people need support. Given our new landscape, benefits have never been as valuable, and people have never been as engaged and receptive as they are today. Fortunately, employers are uniquely positioned to help them. How? By providing communication, education, and holistic wellness programs.
  1. Communicate frequently, authentically, and transparently. Throughout the pandemic, employers have used a variety of media—digital, print, Zoom conferences—to communicate with their employees about protecting themselves and their families, accessing benefits, and taking advantage of critical information as soon as it’s available. And, as boundaries continue to blur between work and home, senior leaders are speaking more authentically and transparently about their own experiences, which has further strengthened the trust employees have in their employers.
  2. Provide financial education and training. The key to success is tailoring offerings to specific age groups and/or the financial issues faced by individual sectors of their workforce.
  3. Offer a holistic financial wellness program. Any program focusing on financial well-being needs to have the right mix of benefits to support employees’ emotional and physical health, alleviate anxiety, and drive productivity.

Tackling the Right Mix of Benefits

Today’s workplace is marked with a level of diversity unlike any in history. Right now, there are up to five different generations in an increasingly multicultural workforce, along with corresponding socioeconomic differences and varying ranges of financial literacy.

With so many variables at play, to get a mix of benefits that reflects and addresses this heterogeneity, employers need to consider two key factors.

First, a holistic wellness package should include a mix of high-touch features like access to a financial advisor and low-touch offerings like savings incentives. And, second, benefits should be meaningful and smart—not just for now, but over the long term.

Notable examples that fit both of these criteria are high-deductible health plans (HDHPs) and the health savings accounts (HSAs) that they’re typically paired with. A health savings account is unlike any other savings account, because it’s both a spending and savings account.

Accountholders can contribute tax-free1 to their HSAs and use their HSA funds to pay qualified health expenses for themselves and their dependents, now and later—even in retirement. That’s because the account is always theirs. Even if they change employers, retire, or find themselves no longer enrolled in a high-deductible health plan, accountholders can continue to pay for qualified health expenses with the money in their HSA.

How HSAs Can Cushion the Blow During Emergencies

With the national unemployment rate hovering at just over 10%, people at every point along the economic spectrum are struggling to make ends meet.

HSAs can help people manage during unpredictable times, because they’re a great place to stash emergency savings. I cannot overemphasize the advantages a health savings account brings to the table, particularly in light of what we’ve seen in the past six months.

We don’t know what the future will look like. But we do know that whatever the scenario, it’s essential that people have a range of benefits they understand how to use. In particular, financial benefits that allow them to accrue savings they can access in an emergency and build on for the future. Employers are perfectly positioned to help them achieve both.

To learn more, visit hsa.umb.com/engage


1 States can choose to follow the federal tax-treatment guidelines for HSAs or establish their own; some states tax HSA contributions. If you have questions about your tax implications, consult your tax advisor.

As Executive Vice President, COO & Director of Healthcare Services for UMB Institutional Banking, Phil Mason is responsible for the Healthcare Services line of business within Institutional Banking. He focuses on executing strategic initiatives within the division and oversees the division’s financial performance, daily operations, and compliance teams, among other groups.