The reason was simple. Across the U.S., Americans at virtually all income levels are experiencing financial insecurity and a growing awareness of just how great that insecurity is.
This oppressive level of financial stress is impacting all areas of Americans’ lives, including their productivity in the workplace. As a result, employers have increasingly addressed this crisis by offering financial wellness programs designed to improve their employees’ financial literacy and reduce their financial stress.
Unfortunately, simply making financial wellness programs available has not produced the desired result. Consider that despite employers’ ongoing investments in financial well-being, only 6 percent of employees “strongly agree” that their company does things to help them manage their finances more effectively.
Despite this assessment, we’re confident 2018 will be the year financial wellness solutions achieve their promise.
Our view is that a good portion of this results gap boils down to a fundamental disconnect between:
- Knowing what to do.
- Understanding how to do it.
- Actually doing it.
When it comes to complex, emotionally driven issues such as money, simply teaching financial literacy is not enough to enable individuals to improve their financial situation.
If we want to design financial well-being solutions that make a meaningful difference in people’s lives, we need to also draw on established principles of behavior change science. We need to meet individuals where they are, and offer them the actionable advice they need in the moment they need it.
To this end, we must offer financial solutions that are:
- Mobile. Gone are the days when Americans paid bills or managed investments exclusively at their desk. Whether at work or on the weekends, we are always connected via multiple devices and constantly making decisions about our money, on the go. As such, we need financial help that is as mobile as we are, that will be instantly available, when and where we need it.
- Right-sized. In this era of information overload, it’s tremendously helpful to have a comprehensive financial plan. But many of us are more accustomed to processing and acting on information in much smaller bites. For us to be successful, the big-picture view of our financial situation needs to be complemented by precisely targeted, doable action steps.
- Self-paced. Deep transformation is about more than one or two steps in the right direction. Our goal is sustained, long-term engagement. When employees are supported with the financial advice and tools they need so that they feel empowered at each step; they are excited and look forward to learning what’s next.
Much of the data needed to build these solutions exists. It is up to us — employers and benefits services providers — to use technology and data in innovative ways to effectively meet the challenge of helping each individual employee attain financial well-being. New approaches are starting to become available with more in development. That’s why we’re confident 2018 will be the year these solutions are put in the hands of those who need them most.
Carla Dearing is CEO of online financial wellness service Sum180. Comment below or email firstname.lastname@example.org.