2017 News

Event explores employers’ options to improve workers’ financial wellness

JPMorgan Chase, Prudential and Staples were among the companies that sent representatives to a conference about financial wellness programs for employees, hosted by the Center for Social Development (CSD) at the George Warren Brown School of Social Work.

The September 19 “Catalyzing a Financially Stable Workforce: How to Choose the Right Financial Wellness Program for Employees” drew more than 120 attendees.

A survey by Mercer finds employees spend an average of 13 hours a month at work worrying about their finances, CSD Associate Director Michal Grinstein-Weiss said. That’s dangerous if that distracted worker is a nurse handing-out medication, Paul Staples, partner at Mercer, pointed-out later during a panel session.

Research by CSD shows employers can assist workers by offering financial wellness programs (FWPs), which can include everything from financial coaching to partnering with a lender to offer employees short-term loans. During the event, CSD and partner Prosperity Now released a resource for employers, The Workplace Financial Wellness Services Directory. They also recently published a primer and actionable guides for employers about best practices for starting FWPs.

Among the panels and presentations were “Workplace Financial Wellness Programs: What’s Trending, Staying, and Growing,” “Selecting the Right Financial Wellness Program: Stories from the Field,” “Getting Internal Buy-in for Your Financial Wellness Program” and “Employer Insights: Research Findings.”

Dan Ariely, Duke University behavioral economist and best-selling author, spoke during lunch about why saving is hard for people. “Saving is maybe the most difficult human activity ever,” he said. “It’s about delayed consumption, and we’re just not good about delayed consumption. Saving is all about giving something up for the future.”

Attendee Angela Williams, institutional relationship manager at Ascensus College Savings, said she plans to share information from the event with human resources managers at companies with whom she interacts. “The more clear I am, the better I can help.”

Brendon Kinney, relationship manager at Neighborhood Trust Financial Partners in New York, said he liked the advice he heard, including the importance of financial coaches’ likeability and the relationships they develop with clients. “To us, that is the backbone of our organization and something we really emphasize [during the hiring process] as a nonprofit,” he said.

The event was the first for CSD’s Employee Financial Wellness Programs project and was funded by the W. K. Kellogg Foundation, the Ford Foundation and the JPMorgan Chase Foundation.