The importance of savings is one of the first financial lessons many of us learn.
If you grew up with a piggy bank, it likely served as a visual reminder to set aside a few pennies for a rainy day. What better feeling than buying an ice cream cone all by yourself, after building up savings one coin at a time?
Like most lessons we learn as children, however, this commitment to savings changes we grow. In fact, for many adults, savings accounts are no longer an easily managed element of financial well-being. You may have heard the startling recent statistic that 40 percent of Americans wouldn’t be able to cover a $400 expense in the case of an emergency.
As employees increasingly look to their employers to provide resources for many aspects of their well-being, laying the groundwork around the very concept of savings can make an impact. And more than anything, this added value is a key factor in building a robust sense of workplace empathy which has been proven to increase retention rates and employee engagement.
What does the savings environment look like?
Americans’ changing perspectives on savings over the past few decades have shifted. Here are a few of the key trends to be aware of:
- Lacking financial education: Americans simply aren’t receiving the information they need to take hold of their financial well-being. For many, that piggy bank lesson may have been the only time they were deliberately given information on how to save. In fact, nearly two-thirds of Americans couldn’t pass a basic financial literacy test.
- Possible economic recession: Instances of low savings often proceed an economic recession. After a recession hits, the trend shifts. In 2008, for example, the savings rate was on the rise until the end of 2012, suggesting a change in behavior in response to fears about the market. As the U.S. economy looks toward what many economists expect will be a recession in 2020, the number of Americans looking for savings options may increase very soon.
- Rising cost of emergencies: The cost of common emergencies is simply too high for many people to easily address financially without relying on credit cards or personal loans. With over half of Americans facing unexpected costs in the past year, the risk is significant.
How can employers support employee saving?
Employers may not have control over how employees spend or save their money, but they can certainly help outline what saving means and how to start strategizing. Before you take the time to implement a new savings program, here’s what you can do now:
- Understand where your employees are now. While it can be tempting to educate employees about the complexities of the current financial climate, as we’ve seen, many might not be ready to engage on this level. A resource guide provided by HR offering a list of simplified definitions, helpful apps, or financial social media influencers can help get employees more comfortable using the right words when talking about savings.
- Observe generational shifts. Is your workforce comprised mostly of Millennials? 54 percent of Millennials express worry that they will not be able to pay back student loans. Or, do you have Boomers in leadership positions and Gen X folks running daily operations? Analyzing your workforce and researching their unique financial needs will prevent you from investing in financial solutions that don’t meet the precise needs of your employees.
- Point to your existing benefits. You may already be offering benefits that can partly serve as savings tools. Highlighting the flexibility of tools like Health Savings Accounts can show employees that you’ve done your research and are thinking about their long-term well-being, just as they are.
It's imperative for employers to start paying attention to employees' financial well-being. Employee financial stress can cause a negative ripple effect that costs real dollars in absenteeism, lost productivity, and poor mental health. It's time to start making changes when it comes to helping employees with their financial well-being.
For more information about improving employee financial well-being check out our white paper below.