Financial Wellness Programs In The Workplace

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According to a recent Bank of America Merrill Lynch study, nearly two in five employees, or 38 percent, feel less than financially well. Financial wellness is defined as managing current finances while preparing for the future. It is not about being wealthy but being able to address short- and long-term financial goals.

We recently sat down with Rachel Barzilay, CAP®, CFP®, CRPC®, Managing Director, Wealth Management Advisor and Senior Portfolio Manager with Merrill Lynch Wealth Management in Boca Raton, to discuss this study and what employers can do to get their employees more involved in wellness programs.

Why was this study conducted?

The 2018 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report is the eighth annual edition of a series, and it tracks the growing importance of workplace financial wellness programs. It points toward personalized advice and planning as key to improving participation and employees’ financial wellness. The research found that employers and employees agree that financial wellness programs are valuable.

However, participation in these programs is not widespread. Employees could benefit further from financial wellness planning that is relevant, timely and easily actionable. The study also shows that enhancing how we offer personalized help, deliver guidance and even integrate healthcare into the conversation can help employees be more financially well. Women, in particular, experience stress over finances, and could benefit from additional financial assistance and guidance.

What are some of the implications for women?

The report finds that women are less financially well than men, underscoring the need for financial wellness programs that are tailored to a woman’s financial journey and life path. Forty-seven percent of women say they are less than financially well, compared to 29 percent of men.

The study also uncovered a gap in women’s retirement savings. Female employees contribute less to their 401(k), and they have $119,000 in investable assets on average, compared to $196,000 for men. The gender savings gap is particularly concerning given the increased financial demands placed on women, including higher health care costs and generally living longer, as uncovered in the recent Merrill Lynch Women & Financial Wellness: Beyond the Bottom Line study.

What do employees look for in a financial wellness program?

Employees feel the best approach to improving their financial wellness is getting a personal financial assessment, supported by specific actions to take. They would also like help measuring their progress, through tracking and measuring accomplishments.

Seventy percent of employees say they would be comfortable sharing financial information, such as savings and investments, as part of an employer-offered financial assessment; and 81 percent of employees say they prefer that financial wellness be offered as a bundled program rather than as stand-alone resources.

Employees are speaking loud and clear about their desire for programs that give them a holistic, personalized and measurable roadmap for achieving financial wellness. At Merrill Lynch, we are dedicated to pioneering programs that not only address employees’ wide-ranging financial needs, but also tangibly measure results and fully account for employees’ diverse financial goals, challenges, life paths and experiences

For more findings from the Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report and actionable advice for plan sponsors, visit ml.com.