“Most employers don’t think their workers have serious financial problems—after all, they have jobs,” says Chris Viale, president and CEO of Cambridge Credit Counseling, a member of the Association of Credit Counseling Professionals (ACCPros) in Falmouth, Maine. “But we know that the opposite is true,” he says. “Even people who are holding down good jobs can have financial difficulty, and that makes for distracted, unproductive workers.”
Promoting financial literacy isn’t just good for employees, it’s also good business, says Judy Sorensen, president of ACCPros. “Employees who aren’t stressed about their finances can better focus on their jobs, have higher morale and tend to have lower rates of absenteeism,” she says.
Sorensen and her colleagues offer employers five strategies to better the financial lives of their employees:
1. Host “lunch and learn” financial workshops.
“Holding a lunchtime series of financial literacy seminars is a good way to let employees know how to avoid problems and learn how to manage their money,” says Viale.
The seminars or workshops can focus on general subjects such as budgeting, saving money, and managing credit and debt; or specific topics like paying for college, buying a first home, or planning for retirement.
2. Boost employee paychecks with “tips.”
“Lots of employers put inserts in with their employees’ paychecks—from important company notices to marketing pieces from vendors looking to sell products or services to those employees,” says Bradley Wood, education director at Christian Credit Counselors.
Instead of marketing materials, Wood suggests employers insert money-saving tips in the envelopes carrying workers’ paychecks.
“A simple tri-fold with money saving tips on it, or an educational piece on financial topics could be inserted in the pay envelope quite easily,” he adds.
3. Sponsor a financial empowerment event for couples.
A company can host an on- or off-site event focused on personal finances and invite their employees’ spouses or significant others.
The money-related event doesn’t have to be a formal lunch or a stand-alone evening affair. It can occur during a corporate retreat or even as part of the company picnic.
“Both spouses need to be on the same page,” says Will VanderToolen, director of Counseling Services at Fair Credit Foundation.
4. Have a company-wide financial challenge.
Issue a challenge to employees and ask something like: “How much debt can you shed?” or “How much money can you save?” Then encourage employees to work toward healthy financial goals such as reducing credit card bills or building retirement savings.
Some companies might make it a fun competition among employees. Other employers may opt to simply add up all the financial totals and show the overall economic progress made for all workers in the organization.
“You can track the total debt paid off over a given amount of time, or even the amount of money saved in dollar terms or as a percentage of income,” says VanderToolen.
5. Use the power of email.
An easy way to leverage time spent by employees reading company emails is to have a financial “contest,” which can be done strictly via email.
“A company can send a weekly email blast with a single financial literacy question. Then it can offer a reward or recognition to the employee who is the fastest responder with the correct answer,” suggests Paul Donohue, president of Credit Card Management Services.
The Association of Credit Counseling Professionals is a credit counseling trade association that provides services dealing with best practices, quality service, education, training, and professional ethics.
Highlighting the importance of financial literacy to employees has been an ongoing effort by industry experts (see “The Importance of Financial Literacy”).