Everything’s not fine.
Employers are feeling it. Industries of all sizes and scope, from financial services to healthcare, are feeling it too. And of course, as study after study shows, most of all, employees are feeling it.
The “it” in the room, as we all know, is the COVID-19 pandemic, which has given business leaders increased insight into how the overall well-being of employees impacts workplace productivity.
Now more than ever, employees want action, education, and resources to help them meet their wellness and life goals, causing organizations to reevaluate and re-tool their Employee Benefits packages to meet their evolving needs.
I recently participated in a Q&A session at the 2021 Employee Benefits Leadership Forum, an event for industry leaders to collaborate on the most effective ways to support employers and employees in a landscape being transformed by consumer-centric desires and emerging technologies. The sessions offered takeaways on how employers and brokers are re-imagining benefits to provide comprehensive coverage from telehealth, genetic-based therapies, and financial wellness.
Here’s a quick breakdown of what I shared, what the data tells us, and how employee benefits can meet workers where they are today to give them more peace of mind for a healthy financial future.
The Education Gap
At Experian, we know there’s an intrinsic link between financial wellness and mental wellness. Our experience and data have also identified an existing education gap on the path to financial health and knowledge-building.
Consider this: While most American workers, nearly 90%1 according to data from the Financial Health Network, admit that their financial anxieties interfere with their work and 65%2 worry about their credit, only 19%3 of Gen Z, for example, feel like they have a solid grasp on their credit.
Although that “grasp,” better known as The Financial Wellness Education Gap, shows encouraging signs of closing, with 90% of employers claiming financial wellness benefits have positively impacted their workforce, there’s still work to be done.4
Closing the Gap
Now that we know what the gap is, what can we do about it? First, the good news: Employers have generally done a good job addressing it with limited resources, especially throughout the nearly two year-pandemic. However, more work is needed to ensure employees understand all their benefits, what they do, and how they work together to create holistic financial wellness. At Experian, we believe this can happen by:
1. Giving employees the right tools
To achieve financial wellness, doubling down on education is essential—this means access to financial education products must move into the mainstream and shed their potential categorization as ancillary or afterthought benefits. And this goes for employers’ perceptions, too, since delivering financial literacy can help offset non-work concerns employees might be experiencing, like credit skills. At Experian, we’ve seen over 60% of consumers1 improve their VantageScores™5. On average, people who use our knowledge-based credit tracker tool see their scores improve by an average of 48 points5.
With a better understanding of credit and personal finance, employees get more access to achieve other financial goals, like buying a car or home. Their point increase could make all difference in hitting a higher credit band and saving points on interest rates. The second, and equally important part of this, is providing tools to maintain the good financial standing employees work hard to achieve with identity protection and data privacy resources. Together, these resources help employees build their credit standing and protect their financial future.
2. Supporting financial wellness programs beyond open enrollment
Employees can have upwards of 15 different products to consider during often short enrollment windows. Given the large cost commitment of core medical, dental, vision, disability, and life options, employees tend to focus most of their attention on those benefits.
So, how do we make it easier for employees to engage with financial wellness products?
First, employers should consider adding touchpoints throughout the year to connect with employees outside of the open enrollment period to make sure they know these benefits are not set it and forget it products.
The Future of Employee Benefits
The shift is here. Gone are the days when mental health and financial wellness benefits were a “nice to have.” Now, they’re must-haves. The proof: In 2021, 88% of employees use the financial wellness services their employers provide.6 Financial Education supported by Identity Protection will become table stakes sooner rather than later. Experian can fill in the gap by combining financial wellness, through credit education and data privacy with identity protection, into a consolidated benefit, reducing the number of external carriers to create a more seamless employee benefits experience.
To learn more and connect with an expert Experian Employee Benefits partner, click here.
1 Financial Health Network “Employee Financial Health: How Companies can invest in workplace wellness”
2 Experian Brand Tracker Q4 FY ’19 (N = 2,253; general population consumers)
3 Source: Experian Consumer Credit Survey 2019
4 Employee Benefits News, Employers Fail Without Financial Wellness Benefits, March 2021
5 VantageScore 3.0, with scores ranging from 300 to 850, is a user-friendly credit score model developed by the three major nationwide credit reporting agencies, Experian®, TransUnion®, and Equifax®. VantageScore 3.0 is used by some but not all lenders. Higher scores represent a greater likelihood that you’ll pay back your debts so you are viewed as being a lower credit risk to lenders. A lower score indicates to lenders that you may be a higher credit risk. There are three different major credit reporting agencies, Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax that maintain a record of your credit history known as your credit file. Credit scores are based on the information in your credit file at the time it is requested. Your credit file information can vary from agency to agency because some lenders report your credit history to only one or two of the agencies. So your credit scores can vary if the information they have on file for you is different. Since the information in your file can change over time, your credit scores also may be different from day-to-day. Different credit scoring models can also give a different assessment of the credit risk (risk of default) for the same consumer and same credit file. There are different credit scoring models which may be used by lenders and insurers. Your lender may not use VantageScore 3.0, so don’t be surprised if your lender gives you a score that’s different from your VantageScore. (And your VantageScore 3.0 may differ from your score under other types of VantageScores). Just remember that your associated risk level is often the same even if the number is not. For some consumers, however, the risk assessment of VantageScore 3.0 could vary, sometimes substantially, from a lender’s score. If the lender’s score is lower than your VantageScore 3.0, it is possible that this difference can lead to higher interest rates and sometimes credit denial.
5 Population: Experian Partner Solutions subscribers enrolled in Jan ’18 – Jul ’18, with bundles including periodic credit reports, scores, and/or summaries. Score change measured 12 months post enrollment.
6 2021 PwC Employee Financial Wellness Survey