Financial Literacy Newsletter - January 2020

woman doing yoga to relax about finances

Financial wellness in the workplace

A word from the financial literacy team

Welcome to our first newsletter of 2020! Our focus this month is on promoting mental health awareness in the workplace, in tandem with the Bell Let’s Talk campaign.

As you will see in this month’s offerings, many of our stakeholders are aware that money worries are the biggest source of stress for Canadians. Financial concerns have surpassed health, work and family obligations as the number one preoccupation of Canadian adults. And this preoccupation is affecting the physical and mental well-being of employees in the workplace. When employees bring financial stress to work, it can lower productivity and negatively affect an organization’s bottom line.

To mark the new year, we want to focus on the good news: that employers are in a unique position to offset financial stress among their employees by implementing a financial wellness program in their workplace.  And there’s more good news: employers don’t need to start from scratch.

At the Financial Consumer Agency of Canada, we have developed an online resource, Financial wellness in the workplace, which is a free, unbiased tool designed specifically for employers. It offers strategies and resources based on best practices to help them build their own financial wellness program – tailored to the specific needs of their employees and the nature of their organization or business. Here is what you’ll find:

Everybody wins with financial wellness

As this month’s articles emphasize, it’s important to connect the dots between mental health and financial stress. Unchecked, financial stress can spill over into the workplace, with negative effects for employees, companies and organizations. By engaging their employees with financial wellness programs, employers can help them improve their financial knowledge, skills and confidence. Such programs will reduce the negative impact of financial stress, and make the workplace healthier and more productive.

So please share this resource and all of our tools widely.

As always, we want to thank you for your collaborative efforts. All the best for a productive and financially literate 2020!

MoneySmart Living: Supporting your team during the post-holiday blues and beyond

By Anne Arbour, Financial Educator at Credit Counselling Society

Happy New Year! Another holiday season has come and gone. How are you feeling in this post-holiday period? How is your energy level? Your mood? Your productivity at work? How will all that change once the credit card bills start coming in?

It’s very common that we can be so invested in the emotions of others around the holidays as we try to create that perfect experience for our loved ones that we can sometimes lose ourselves in the process.  We miss signs of our own physical and financial stress. This can really become apparent  when we return to work to hear our co-workers share stories of their own effortless, perfect celebrations, complete with expensive gifts given and received, and lavish travel. The pressure is on to not show any cracks in the face of this unspoken competition, even though we may be keenly feeling some crumbling ourselves.

It’s hard to remember, of course, that this isn’t reality. Just like no one shares the story of their perfect kids having a meltdown at the family party, rarely does anyone share their own story of overspending and financial overextending. We don’t talk about money with our co-workers because it’s so personal. We don’t want to admit that we might not actually have it all together or that we let things get so far. Beyond the interest payments and extra fees we could soon be facing, what is the true cost of this scenario? What are we really doing when we hide our true selves, including our financial stress, in the face of that illusive perfection and how does it affect us?

Anxiety, depression and other mental health issues are the most obvious results of financial stress. Increased vulnerability to a host of physical ailments is also a very real consequence. At a minimum, financial stress can affect our overall mood and ability to focus, impacting our work performance, jeopardizing productive team relationships, even opportunities for advancement.

How then can we support ourselves and our team during this stressful time of year and beyond? Employers who arrange financial literacy workshops as part of their overall health and wellness programming recognize that employees are whole beings who need and want support. An estimated 84% of employees say that they would be interested in financial education programs in the workplace. Opening the floor to conversations about financial wellbeing can pay dividends like increased employee engagement, retention, productivity, and savings on health benefits.  Most of all, it helps normalize the conversation around financial stress and makes it ok to talk about other important wellness issues, breeding an overall healthier workplace.

MoneySmart Living is a program conducted by the Credit Counselling Society to bring increased financial well-being to the workplace through in-person workshops, interactive webinars and appearances at employee wellness events. Free and confidential 1:1 financial coaching is also available to participants on a voluntary basis after the sessions for additional support. MoneySmart Living topics are wide ranging to meet employees at every stage of their financial lives, from starting out to living on a retirement income. Each title can stand alone or work in a series to provide reinforced and continued learning, and easily complement any existing programming through an established Employee Assistance Program (EAP) relationship. Presenters are unbiased, accredited and experienced, all of which are attributes cited by employees as important.  For more information, please email info@moneysmartliving.ca or call 1-888-527-8999 ext 1212.

Tips for making financial wellness a workplace resolution

by Julie Stich, Certified Employee Benefit Specialist, Vice-president of content at the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans

The holidays are over. It’s back to work, the gym and eating salads for lunch. And, sticker shock as the credit card statements arrive. Employees’ financial stress—whether it’s long-term like saving for retirement needs or immediate like paying those credit card bills—can directly affect their performance at work.

According to a survey report by the International Foundation of Employee Benefits Plans, Canadian organizations reported the two biggest financial challenges facing workers are debt (credit card and other kinds)  and trouble saving for retirement. Rounding out the top five challenges are saving or paying for a child’s education, covering basic living expenses like rent and groceries, and supporting elderly parents.

Employers were asked how these financial challenges impact employees. Not surprisingly, the number one answer was stress—and employees bring that with them into the workplace. Not far behind were the inability to focus on work and absenteeism/tardiness, all of which lead to a drop in productivity. Employers also reported employees’ financial challenges negatively affect their morale, physical health and relationships with coworkers.

When asked to rate the financial status of their employees, almost half of employers reported their employees as only a little bit or not at all financially savvy. And a third said their employees who have reached average retirement age are only a little bit or not at all prepared for retirement.

What can employers do to help?

Here are five ideas for employers interested in offering workplace financial education.

Commit to financial education. While some employers believe their only responsibility is to educate employees about the group benefits and retirement plans they offer, others see value in offering education to help employees become more financially literate. Signs of commitment to workplace financial education include leadership support, a budget devoted to this type of program, and offering benefits like pension and retirement plans, disability insurance and employee assistance programs.

Know your employee population. In order to build a program that addresses employees’ needs, it is crucial to understand the financial challenges they face. Before implementing a program, employers should survey their employees to assess both their financial well-being and knowledge deficits. Employers should also measure improvement and behaviour changes after the program is in place.

Diversify topics and formats. Not all employers have the resources to implement a comprehensive financial education program at the outset. If an employer starts with a limited approach, it is best to focus on one or two topics that an employee assessment has identified as critical. Employers that have the ability to offer a wide-ranging program can successfully provide education on a variety of topics including budgeting and debt management, savings, investments, insurance, taxes and pre-retirement financial planning. Employers also find success when offering education using a wide variety of formats, including free personal consultation services, classes and workshops, online resources, videos and calculators.

Customize and personalize education. Education is more effective when it resonates with the learner. Although it is easier and cheaper to communicate generically, employers find more success when they customize education for specific groups based on age or employment level, or by life event (e.g., getting married or divorced, starting a family, or purchasing a home).

Increase accessibility and inclusion. Employers can set up programs to be convenient and open to all or most. For example, if a face-to-face program is planned, more workers will participate if the event is held during work hours. Financial education has more impact when it reaches more individuals, including spouses and retirees, and is available in multiple languages reflecting the workforce.

Workplace financial education programs work best when an employer identifies the unique concerns of its employees, tailors the message to fit that audience, and offers a variety of topics and access points to increase opportunities for participation. Workplaces with financially healthy employees report fewer employees calling in sick, higher workplace morale and higher productivity overall. So seize on the goal-setting momentum of the New Year and make financial wellness a priority for your organization in 2020.

Bringing financial education into your workplace

By Doretta Thompson, Financial Literacy Leader at Chartered Professional Accountants of Canada

Why employer programs now?

It is no secret that money is the number one stressor for Canadians. Money stress affects Canadians at home and at work—causing sleepless nights, headaches, decreased productivity and strain in our personal relationships. Despite the negative effects, we refuse to talk about it. Money is the last taboo.

The shame that comes with financial struggles prevents Canadians from speaking up and asking for help. On average, it takes up to 5 years to work up the courage to ask for help—compounding the financial problems and its effects.

Employers can be proactive and create a safe space for people to learn and talk about money. 78% of Canadians say that they are interested in financial education programs offered by their employers. Financial literacy programs in the workplace pay dividends to both employers and employees. Benefits include:

Building a financial education program in your workplace: 6 steps to success

Step 1: Senior management buy-in is essential. Build your case with senior management. Help them understand how a financial literacy program supports organizational goals, and provide them with an estimate of the program’s cost and benefits.

Step 2: Identify content that is relevant to your employees. CPA Canada’s 2018 Canadian Finance study found that the biggest personal finance concerns for Canadians are:

Step 3: Identify delivery channels that work best for your organization. How do your employees want to learn? Do they prefer in-person group learning or would they prefer independent online learning? Ask your employees what they want and need.

Step 4: Curate content. Offering financial education in your workplace does not have to cost a lot and you don’t have to start from scratch. Many organizations, like CPA Canada, offer free resources. CPA Canada offers free in-person sessions through a network of CPAs across Canada. With over 45 sessions to choose from, there is something for everyone! Book your session today! 

We also offer tools for independent learning, including:

Financial Wellness Guide: an online questionnaire that guides users through a series of questions about their finances. When finished, users are provided with a free, straightforward report that includes tools and information they can use to plan their next steps.

Just the Facts: a series of financial topics presented in an unbiased, objective and straightforward way to help Canadians learn the basics of managing their money. Download the electronic version here or contact us at financialliteracy@cpacanada.ca to order free posters for your workplace.

Step 5: Lead, communicate and motivate Promote your program throughout the organization and consider building financial education around key employment milestones like new hires, parental leave and retirement planning. Encourage attendance by holding sessions during working hours and offer incentives such as a catered lunch or coffee break.

Step 6: Measure the success of the program to see the impact of the program on your workplace.

Make 2020 the year that you bring financial education and empowerment into your workplace.

Employee financial wellness: A practical guide to financial empowerment

By Excellence Canada

What is your organization’s New Year’s resolution?

As an employer, you can do something right now to reduce anxiety about money matters that almost half your people may be experiencing. According to the 2016 Sun Life Canadian Health Index Survey:

People are ready for help

January and February are the right months to spread financial hope and reassurance, with holiday season expenses and bills coming in, 2020 household budgets being made, and the winter blahs looming large.

The role for employers

There is an expectation for employers to help – 68% of employees believe their employer has a role in their financial health. By committing to financial wellness, employers can bring lasting benefits to employees, and positively impact business outcomes. Excellence Canada is standing by with access to all the tools you need, ready to help you fulfill your promise to your employees to help keep them healthy and safe.

The Financial Wellness Standard

Combining the three elements of financial wellness means an individual has the money to meet short-term obligations, is making appropriate plans to meet long-term obligations, and has the knowledge, skills, and confidence to manage their financial affairs. 

The tools and resources have already been prepared for your use and are ready to go. The tools and resources have already been prepared for your use and are ready to go. Reach out with questions to advice@excellence.ca

There are vital free resources available from the many websites of the Financial Wellness Standard Advisory Committee members, focused on individuals’ education, budgeting, retirement planning, and investing. The employer’s role is to provide a foundational framework and the appropriate means by which employees can identify, access, and use these resources with confidence and peace of mind. 

The FINANCIAL WELLNESS Standard is a set of 19 questions or “requirements” based on research and knowledge pertaining to success factors of employee well-being in the workplace, the experiences of the Advisory Committee members, and the outcomes of leading organizations.

Employers that focus on the overall health of their people recognize the need for policies and corporate values that support employee health, including physical, psychological and financial wellness. It is good business to have employees who are physically and psychologically healthy and safe, and managers who are sensitive to the impact of short- and long-term decisions on employee health.

Successful organizations know that a conscious effort to focus on employee wellness will have a direct impact on the success of the contributions made by employees, and on the overall success of the business outcomes.

Whether your organization is large or small, private sector, public sector or not-for-profit, the employee Financial Wellness Standard will help you to: 

Arrow pointed towards the benefits of the Financial Wellness Standard
  • Reduce the anxiety of employees
  • Improve productivity
  • Reduce absenteeism, presenteism
  • Increase satisfaction
  • Improve loyalty
  • Improve morale
  • Have healthier employees

Financial Wellness Standard – Advisory Committee 

Excellence Canada has created the Financial Wellness Standard to ask the right questions and provide the step-by-step roadmap to success, with advice and feedback from its national advisory committee, comprised of representatives from the following organizations:

Certification

Employers may also apply for certification and successful applicants will be eligible for a Certificate of Merit under the Canada Award for Excellence program. Please contact Bonita@excellence.ca, 1-800-263-9648 extension 233 for more information about certification.

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