This is a guest post by Audrey Kim, former Senior Product & Strategy Director at LearnVest, an award-winning personal finance platform, which through its subsidiary, LearnVest Planning, provides fee-based financial advisory services.
Employers across the country are increasingly using financial wellness as a strategic asset for employee retention. The reasons are simple: Money stresses out everyone, your employees included. A2015 Bank of America study found employees citing financial stress as their #1 concern (5x greater than their personal health). A similarPrudential study cites 7 out of 10 HR managers revealing that personal financial issues have a large impact on employee performance. Short of giving everyone a massive raise, the more you can do to alleviate employee financial stress, the higher the chances that your team can focus on their work and move your company’s goals forward.
Employee Stressor #1: Cash Flow Management
For high and low earners alike, a surprisingly large financial stressor is personal cash flow management (i.e., budgeting). Sometimes this has to do with spending irresponsibly. But oftentimes it comes down to a mismatch between how frequently money comes in (roughly every two weeks) and how frequently money goes out (all the time – sometimes in big, irregular chunks). Many people try to stick to a monthly budget (for example, $500/month on restaurants) and plan to save whatever’s leftover. The problem is that large, non-monthly expenses (think vacations, holiday gifts, or annual insurance premiums) obliterate the opportunity to save and create a domino effect that lasts for several months. The end result can be going a full year without effectively having saved anything — which can cause a wave of panic during the times that most people reflect on their finances, like year-end or tax time.
Flip the Cash Flow Funnel Upside Down (Especially For Retirement)
Modern financial planners, likeLearnVest Planning Services, have a clever answer to this problem: Flip the cash flow funnel upside down. Rather than save whatever’s left at the end of the month, they advise you to commit to a particular savings goal and then spend whatever is left after that. It sounds simple, but the problem with most financial advice like this is that it’s easy to listen to and difficult to act upon.
This advice is particularly relevant when it comes to your employees’ retirement. Retirement is the largest financial goal that most people ever attempt: you essentially have to pay yourself as an employee for several decades. That goal has only grown more daunting over time, as life expectancy has grown faster than wages, and as the savings burden has shifted from the government (through Social Security) to the individual earner. Disconcertingly, that sea change hasn’t triggered an accompanying shift in savings behavior; according to theNational Institute of Personal Finance Employee Education, 90% of US workers are not consistently saving for retirement. And they know it’s a problem – a recentHarris Poll found 85% of employees uncomfortable with the status of their retirement savings.
How You Can Help: A Lightweight, Affordable 401(k) Plan
An employer-sponsored 401(k) is the perfect way to help your employees to flip their cash flow funnel upside down, because the savings contributions are fixed and automatic, and because the contributions get deducted before the money has a chance to burn a hole in their proverbial pocket (not to mention the significant tax savings provided by both the Traditional and Roth options). The automatic nature of 401(k) contributions make it incredibly easy for employees to “set and forget” something that dramatically increases their financial well-being.
Until now, small business 401(k) plans have been prohibitively expensive, mostly in time and bandwidth for the small business. Thankfully, a new wave of technology-enabled companies are beginning to provide affordable, truly out-of-the-box solutions for small business owners.