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The Time for Benefits Education & Boosting Financial Literacy is NOW!

Soon the days of summer will end and with annual enrollment fast-approaching, the back-to-school season is an ideal time to focus on benefits education. The return to routine, getting a reprieve from balancing work commitments with entertaining children who are home or in numerous activities, the reminder that bills still pile up — all of these provide the opportunity to help employees regroup as we take on the new school year.

For many, this can be a stressful time of year, especially as things haven’t totally righted themselves after the pandemic. Autumn can bring about new financial obligations such as college tuition or mortgage payments on a new home. For parents of school-age children, there is little quiet as the pace of life picks up quickly with return to school, sports and other activities.

And yet many important decisions lie ahead for your employees:

  • Do we have the right health coverage option to fit our needs?
  • Does a flexible spending account (FSA) or health savings account (HSA) make sense this year?
  • Should savings shift to cover monthly expenses, or towards retirement, college, etc.?

Support Employees with Workplace Education

As you know, workplace education can be an invaluable tool. And not just to the benefit of employees. Research has shown that the stress of financially burdened employees negatively impacts organizations. According to PwC’s 2022 Employee Financial Wellness Survey, employees’ trouble with finances can “directly impact an employer’s bottom line in key areas like productivity, retention, attendance and overall engagement.”1

Employees’ decisions about money and how to best care for their families weigh heavily on your workforce, especially at this time of year. What can employers do?

Employee Benefit News offers the following tactics for reaching and engaging employees:

  • Communication from the top down acknowledging that post-pandemic, many families are still figuring out the “new normal”;
  • Benefits fairs and educational webinars; and
  • Contests and other incentives for participation2

Sending out a short survey can be beneficial in getting a better understanding of what type of information and benefits your employees need most. Do they know about the health and financial education benefits available under their employee benefit plan? Do they actually understand their retirement plan and how to contribute? Do they need help taking charge of their finances? It’s important to create and communicate an action plan based on survey results so that your employees feel heard.

Connecting Employees with Trusted Financial Resources

On the topic of financial literacy, one survey found employees are 24 percent more likely to feel connected with their employer if offered financial education benefits in the workplace, while 20 percent are consequently less likely to feel anxiety about finances. Yet employees don’t always know what financial benefits are offered or how they work.3

As a reminder, through Portico’s retirement plan, employees have access to valuable money smart resources, including Fidelity’s on-demand finance webinars, Financial Wellness on Net Benefits, and members also receive confidential financial counseling and online education through Lutheran Social Services of Minnesota (LSSMN) Financial Counseling.

When sharing information about financial benefit offerings, it may be equally important to help employees better understand the psychology behind financial decision making, and how emotions and family history play an integral part. This may be the key to long-term financial wellness, according to commentary in a recent BenefitsPro article.4

Health Plan Reminders

In the area of health coverage, you’ll want to remind employees about some important considerations that may impact which health coverage option they choose. These include:

  • Financial circumstances
  • Changes to family structure and number of dependents (due to marriage, birth, adoption, or aging out at age 26)
  • Anticipated need for increased medical care compared to the prior year
  • Interest in taking advantage of an FSA or HSA

Additionally, be sure to share the differences between FSAs and HSAs with your employees. As you know, both are designed to help pay for medical expenses and offer tax advantages. However, there are some key differences: employees must qualify for an HSA by choosing the appropriate high-deductible health coverage, and HSAs roll over into the next year and FSAs do not. Portico offers both Preferred Provider Organization (PPO) and high-deductible health coverage options.

At this time of year, it’s important to acknowledge that there can be a lot going on for your employees beyond caring for the clients they serve and keeping facilities in order. Take time to get to know what they need most in their benefits and where they’re lacking in information and knowledge.

12022 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey, Retrieved June 14, 2022 from https://www.pwc.com/us/en/services/consulting/business-transformation/library/employee-financial-wellness-survey.html

2Krystal Barker Buissereth, Making the Back to School Season a Time for Benefits Education, Employee Benefit News, Retrieved June 17, 2022 from https://www.benefitnews.com/opinion/making-the-back-to-school-season-a-time-for-benefits-education

3Katie Kuehner-Hebert, Helping Employees Improve Financial Skills Can Pay Off, BenefitsPRO, Retrieved June 17, 2022 from https://www.benefitspro.com/2022/05/31/helping-employees-improve-financial-skills-can-pay-off/

4Kris Alban, Why Understanding Financial Behavior is Critical to Achieving Long-Term Financial Wellness, BenefitsPRO, Retrieved June 17, 2022 from https://www.benefitspro.com/2022/05/31/why-understanding-financial-behavior-is-critical-to-achieving-long-term-financial-wellness/?slreturn=20220516151903