Employee Wellness is a growing priority among employers, and no longer refers only to the physical and mental wellbeing of employees. Companies are increasingly beginning to recognize the impact of individual financial burdens on the emotional and physical wellbeing of employees, and the effect this has on workplace productivity and attendance. According to a study featured in an article by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), 4 out of 5 employers report that financial stress among employees affects performance quality, and results in higher rates of absenteeism. Consequently, financial fitness has also become a key facet of many corporate wellness programs, and is the focus of Underground Elephant’s 2016 Financial Wellness Week (October 10 – 14).
The launch of Financial Wellness Week coincides with the announcement of the Underground Elephant Future Fund, a new employee benefits program which aims to foster the financial wellness of employees and their families through assistance with student loan repayment, investment in college savings plans, and stock option incentives. Financial Wellness Week was set up to prepare employees for the rollout of the Future Fund in 2017, and consists of 5 financial education activities aimed at improving the overall financial awareness of employees. These activities will address the following 5 important financial considerations and/or programs.
To kickoff Financial Wellness Week, UE is bringing in an advisor from Ameriprise Financial to speak to employees about managing their taxes. The goal of this session is to help employees understand how their income is allocated to various state and federal taxes, and how they can better control their taxes through tax diversification. During this advisory session at UE, employees will learn about various tax-deferred and tax-free investments, as well as other methods for managing their income and minimizing their tax liability. Additionally, employees will learn about other important financial issues, such as the long-term implications of stock option ownership, and may even schedule individual sessions with the advisor to construct a more customized financial profile.
With the rising rates of student loan debt in the United States, more employers are considering ways to help relieve their employees of student loan debt and high interest payments. According to the Wall Street Journal, “The average class of 2015 graduate with student-loan debt will have to pay back a little more than $35,000.” That’s nearly twice the average amount owed by borrowers only ten years earlier. Additionally, it is now estimated that nearly 71% of bachelor’s degree recipients will graduate with at least one student loan, which is up 13% from 2005. With a population of over 80% total employees with at least a bachelor’s degree, UE recognizes relief from student loans as a pertinent issue for its employees.
In order to help employees minimize interest and pay off their loans more quickly, Underground Elephant has partnered with Student Loan Genius (SLG) to offer UE team members a convenient student loan advisory solution. SLG will join Financial Wellness Week to educate employees on all matters student loan-related, and to introduce them to the SLG platform that will enable them to create and manage a customized repayment plan online.
Buying a home is a huge life event, and requires much advance preparation and planning. In order to help employees navigate the uncertainty, UE has teamed up with James Hilgesen of homePERQs to advise employees throughout the home buying process. James has been providing mortgage and real estate guidance to UE since 2015, and has already helped a few employees find (and land) their dream homes. He will be supporting UE’s Financial Wellness Week by hosting a homePERQs happy hour for employees.
One of the most important benefits a company can offer to its employees is a 401(k) retirement savings plan. Investing in a 401(k) plan is a great way to save for retirement while taking advantage of special tax incentives. Additionally, many organizations – including Underground Elephant – will match up to a certain percentage of an employee’s contributions to a qualified 401(k) plan. Unfortunately for employees, choosing the right plan and investment mix can be complicated, which discourages some from participating altogether. UE’s 401(k) provider, Nationwide Retirement Solutions, will make an appearance at Financial Wellness Week to help employees troubleshoot the 401(k) enrollment process, and to provide them with tips on how best to manage their investments.
UE has recently joined the less than 10% of employers to offer a 529 savings program to employees. 529 college savings plans allow employees to contribute tax-free dollars into investment funds that can later be applied to a family member’s education costs. UE has joined with Gradvisor to help the 15% of UE employees with young children, and all others who are savings-conscious, prepare for future tuition expenses. During Financial Wellness Week, Gradvisor will share with employees the benefits of investing in 529 plans, and introduce them to the Gradvisor platform where they can customize a savings program to suit their needs.
Financial wellness is an important element when considering the overall wellbeing of employees. Employers can help minimize financial stress among employees and maximize return on investment through financial literacy workshops, such as UE’s Financial Wellness Week. Studies show that employees who participate in financial education are more likely to contribute to 401(k) plans, make fewer requests for pay advances and 401(k) plan loans, and benefit from an overall decrease in financial stress.