When it comes to money, many of us focus on our day-to-day lives and what it takes to get by in the immediate future -- giving little thought to 20, 30 or even 40 years from now. This is especially true when planning for our retirement, which for most seems far away.
We look at retirement as one issue we can always put on hold. With each passing day, however, we get closer and closer, eventually realizing that our retirement is nearly here, and only then do we start asking ourselves important questions: "Do I have what I need to retire in comfort?" "What are my retirement goals?" "Have I done enough planning?" But by the time many of us start asking these questions, it may already be too late.
Saving for retirement can be a daunting and intimidating task that makes even the most financially knowledgeable of us nervous. Unfortunately, many individuals are either too overwhelmed by their retirement future or just don't know where to start learning about their basic benefit and retirement options.
This is where employers can help. The International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans recently conducted a survey with nearly 400 responses from employers in the U.S. and Canada about financial education programs in their workplace. We found that many already provide financial education programs, with the most common topics focused on savings, investments and retirement. Employers say that they provide this kind of education so that their employees will be better able to manage their money and make better retirement investment decisions.
So what's in it for the employer? Most told us they believe personal financial issues have a significant impact on their employees' overall job performance, especially as it relates to increased stress levels and an inability to focus on work. Financial stress can adversely impact morale and physical health, and can cause job absences and tardiness. What does all this mean for you as an employer? It means a direct financial impact on your bottom line.
As an employer, what can you do? The possibilities are limitless, but some ideas include:
- Educate: Use in-house staff to educate employees, or turn to professional service providers like retirement plan administrators or investment providers.
- Provide resources: Offer classes, workshops or "lunch and learn" sessions, or provide retirement income calculators and other online resources.
- Offer tips: If you offer a retirement plan, you likely already provide benefit statements that employees look over -- add some financial tips.
- Support major milestones: Consider targeting education to life events like marriage, buying a house or having a baby.
- Tailor materials to your audience: Customize information by age or gender. Invite spouses and partners to sessions.
- Keep educating and learning: Employees should never stop learning about their financial security and retirement, and employers should never stop offering education. Laws and benefits can change, and these changes can truly impact an employee's well-being.
April marks Financial Literacy Month. It's the perfect opportunity for employers to start providing financial education programs to employees, and for employees to ask about the benefits they receive and education that's available in their workplace. After all, employees who have the tools to make smart financial decisions will be healthier, more productive members of your team.
For more information on the survey, see www.ifebp.org/financialeducation.