Morgan Stanley
  • Wealth Management
  • Sep 3, 2021

Facing Financial Stress? How your Employer’s Financial Wellness Program Can Help

Many of us face money worries. You may be able to get advice and education from an unexpected source.

Jane works for a major firm. She’s well paid, enjoys lots of benefits and perks, and lives in a bustling metropolis. Life is good, but she worries. Taxes take their toll. The rent keeps rising. There’s that monthly student loan payment she’s still making that feels like it will never go away. Also, she’s in a relationship and thinking about starting a family—someday—but the thought of how much that’s going to cost feels unmanageable.

Sound familiar? Jane is not alone. More than half of employees at midsized and large U.S. firms say that financial concerns are a source of stress, even more than family, medical or work-related problems. Of those employees reporting high financial stress, 78% say that this anxiety affects their work, according to the survey conducted by the Financial Health Network, on behalf of Morgan Stanley.1

The survey also reveals a surprising fact about financial stress: Employees at all levels of income deal with money woes. For example, 52% of all workers who earn more than $100,000 a year in household income say that their finances cause them stress. Overall, respondents cited a need for long-term planning around savings, as well as help with budgeting, managing debt and building emergency savings. 

How Your Employer Can Help You With Financial Problems

If you’re like Jane and looking for help with your finances, you may find relief from an unexpected source: your workplace. Increasingly, employers are looking to help their employees handle money issues. 

For example, according to the survey, more than 8-in-10 employees of midsized and large U.S. firms say they have access to a retirement plan at work. However, as the usual standbys, such as 401(k) plans start to become old hat, companies are rolling out new features and tools to help their employees better manage their finances, according to the Financial Health Network. These offerings can help employers with retention, maintain morale and boost employee satisfaction and, ultimately, help lift performance and bottom lines. 

The new workplace financial tools that employers may offer include free access to a financial-planning app or website, tools to help with investments, emergency savings with an employer match, or even employer contributions toward student-loan repayments. 

For employees, these tools can help with common money concerns, including long-term savings and planning, as well as budgeting, managing debt and building a rainy day, or emergency, fund. 

Yet many employees (42%) in the survey said they don’t feel adequately informed about the benefits and programs their employer offers. How can you stay on top of what help may be available at your own workplace? A great first step is to see what your employer currently offers in terms of benefits that can help you manage your financial health, whether that’s a retirement plan, flexible spending accounts that you can use to save for health or child-care expenses on a pretax basis, or tools to help with budgeting and planning. Then, make sure you are taking advantage of any matching funds your employer may offer.

How Employers Can Help Workers Achieve Financial Wellness

Employers have a clear opportunity to help improve employee productivity, retention and satisfaction by offering financial wellness programs at work. Though many provide some financial help, a gap may separate what they offer and actual employee interest. Less than a third of employees surveyed said they had access to benefits that could help them with their everyday finances. Yet, when those benefits are offered, between 40% and 60% of employees take advantage of them. 

Moreover, nearly 75% said that they believe it’s important for employers to offer financial wellness benefits; 71% would be open to receiving personal finance support at work from a financial professional; and 60% would be more likely to stay with an employer who offered useful financial wellness programs. 

But simply offering holistic financial wellness benefits to employees isn’t enough; they need to be clearly communicated and easy for employees to use. In fact, Financial Health Network's survey found that a clearer explanation of benefits and easy access were the two most important factors in encouraging employees to use such—even more than incentives.

For the Janes out there—and the companies who employ them—accept that the impact of financial stress on productivity and satisfaction at work is real and remember that solutions exist to bring relief and a better balance that benefits both employees and employers, who can set themselves apart in the marketplace through holistic financial wellness benefits. 

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