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Workers are Increasingly Prioritizing Financial Well-Being

By George Waggott, founder, and Roberto Fonseca-Velazquez, summer law student, George Waggott Law

As the increased cost of living crisis continues to burden employees, organizations are responding with unique benefit offerings aimed at supporting their staff. In order to maximize the effectiveness of their benefit offerings, employers would do well to meaningfully consider what financial benefits workers truly desire, and design their benefits plans accordingly.

According to a recent report by Willis Towers Watson (WTW), financial well-being tops the list of items which employees seek support with over the next three years.

The WTW report reveals that two out of three U.S. employees rank financial well-being as their top priority, surpassing other well-being categories such as supportive company culture, mental, emotional and physical health benefits, and workplace connections. This highlights the growing importance of financial stability in workers’ overall perception of their own well-being.

The findings from WTW's report indicate that employees are currently experiencing a high level of financial stress. Approximately 88% of workers say they are concerned about covering their living costs, with 73% worried about affording food, 72% distressed about health care expenses, 69% anxious about housing, and 66% troubled by transportation costs. Furthermore, around one in five of the employees surveyed say that they anticipate that their financial situation will worsen in the coming year.

Traditionally, retirement benefits were the primary financial perk offered by employers. However, as costs continue to rise and workplace expectations evolve, there has been a shift towards other forms of compensation and employee benefits. Mark Smrecek, financial well-being market leader at WTW, explains that employers are increasingly recognizing the need to address broader lifestyle concerns. "As we look at broader lifestyle needs and concerns, the inventory on the employer side is far less equipped to serve its employee base," Smrecek says.

Despite the growing demand for financial well-being benefits, there is a significant gap between employee expectations and employer priorities. While 66% of workers say that they want their employers to help them with financial wellness over the next three years, only 23% of senior management surveyed say that they have prioritized financial wellness in their well-being programs. This disconnect highlights the need for employers to better understand and address their employees' financial concerns.

When it comes to the specific types of support employees seek, the WTW report indicates that 47% of workers desire assistance in growing their savings and wealth. Additionally, 35% want help maximizing the benefits which they already have, 33% seek access to emergency funds, and 21% desire support in managing debt. Financial insurance is a priority for 21% of workers, while 11% want help with student loan management.

In reviewing the WTW report, Smrecek says that growing savings and wealth, as well as maximizing existing benefits, are relatively traditional requests that employers are familiar with. However, providing access to emergency funds and helping manage employee debt are emerging demands that require employers to adapt and develop more innovative responses to employee concerns.

To effectively support their staff, employers must take a comprehensive approach to financial well-being. Smrecek says that he recommends three key actions: (1) providing relevant and accessible solutions, such as financial literacy coaching and direct access to liquidity; (2) supplementing these solutions with affordable and effective healthcare plans; and (3) proactively connecting employees with these benefits.

"As employers look to really address the core need of the employee, how that relates to their business, and how they create value from their benefits, those aspects will drive a lot of the results that they’re looking for," Smrecek concludes.

By prioritizing financial well-being and aligning benefit offerings with employee needs, organizations can foster a more supportive and productive work environment.

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