How Employers Can Ease Pandemic Financial Stress

Brad Barron, CEO with My Secure Advantage

As coronavirus-driven lifestyles continue, employees look to reboot personal finances to increase financial resilience. 

From concerns about public health, to childcare, education, and an unpredictable economy, pandemic stress has taken hold of many American families. That stress has impacted financial health in a myriad of ways, with some leveraging the time for an honest look at how to reprioritize spending and maximize opportunities to save or invest, and many still navigating how to best weather the storm. With nearly three-quarters of Americans living paycheck to paycheck even before the pandemic hit, the scope of support needed to increase financial literacy and empower families with a financial resilience plan is massive.

Providing Meaningful Support

Resilience is defined as the ability to bounce back from adversity and grow from challenges. When applied to personal finance, it leverages skills of self-discovery, honest reflection, and application of purpose to spending and saving habits. However, getting started can be overwhelming and intimidating, so much so that nearly 80 percent of workers who report high financial stress say that they’re distracted by stress at work.

Many working families still need support with financial fundamentals — budget, credit, and debt — as well as planning for emergencies and larger investments, such as purchasing a home, and retirement. While financial wellness programs have existed in the workforce through a multitude of configurations — from app-based education to training and coaching — employees are often unaware of the benefits, struggle with complex navigation, or question the objectivity of advice provided. To meaningfully support employees in their unique situations, modern programs should provide judgement-free, simplified and personalized support through discovery of individualized goals — minus potential strings attached from underlying sales incentives.

“Facing our financial habits, unfiltered, is incredibly difficult for many people. Money is emotional, and this pandemic has been a social experiment for many,” says Laurie Westin, a money coach with My Secure Advantage. “Do I really need to eat out once a week to be happy? Do my kids need all of these toys? What more could I be doing to be prepared? We’re hearing the distress, but there’s also an increased awareness and desire to shape up financial habits to support what matters most.”

Understanding Stress

Framing financial health as a contributor to overall health and happiness enables employers to reduce stress overall, and support the freedom employees need to focus on their careers and family well-being. Growing segments of Gen Z and millennial workers in particular are driving demand for solutions that seamlessly integrate into daily lives and schedules, showing interest in budgeting, investment advice, debt management, student loan repayment, retirement income planning, college expense planning, special needs planning, and protection.

The return on such services includes an increased health-wealth connection. According to research across My Secure Advantage’s client base of more than 15,000 employer groups, an average of 44 percent of employee populations reported that financial stress had a negative influence on their overall health. After deploying money coaches, who form a one-on-one relationship with employees and leverage motivational interviewing techniques to create a customized program supported by digital tools, that percentage typically shrinks to half.

As planning for the future becomes more confusing than ever, offering unbiased financial insight and guidance are benefit strategy imperatives for a productive, engaged workforce, in addition to providing a pandemic necessity: hope. 

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