Skip to main content

Financial Stress is a Top Wellbeing Issue for Employees: How Can Employers Help?

As costs continue to rise, the health of employees’ finances continues to pose a great risk to them. Between burdensome debt, large medical bills and a lack of adequate retirement savings, employees need their employers to step in and provide support now more than ever. Here are five ways to help your employees’ financial wellbeing. 

As healthcare costs rise, employees face greater financial risk with growing premiums and out-of-pocket expenses. Bankrate’s research found that nearly four in 10 U.S. adults don’t have enough in savings to cover a $1,000 expense, yet many people have deductibles of that much or more.1

Because of this, an accident, injury or medical emergency will financially cripple many employees. In fact, 66% of bankruptcies in the U.S. are due to medical issues like being unable to pay high bills despite having health insurance, or due to time lost from work.2

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, financial stress served as the number one concern for employee wellbeing, according to Aon’s 2020 Health Survey.3 Though other concerns such as mental health and work/life balance have shifted to the top, financial stress remains in the top five stressors for employees. Daily pressures may include:

  • Carrying long-term debt. According to the Federal Reserve, more than 44 million Americans collectively owe $1.5 trillion in student loans and 17% are behind on their payments. And while the pandemic has allowed consumers to pay down some credit card debt, the average household still owes roughly $8,000 to credit card companies.5
  • Planning for retirement. Half of today’s households are not contributing enough to their retirement plans to maintain their pre-retirement lifestyle.6  The average worker retiring at 67 would have to cut their standard of living by 20% from pre-retirement levels to overcome the savings shortfall.7
  • Preparing for emergencies. Most people are not sufficiently protecting their income or managing risk in case of unexpected expenses, such as critical illness. Nearly 40% of employees reported that they have less than $1,000 saved to deal with emergencies.8

Although many employers offer some financial assistance – such as saving for retirement, financial advising, and access to employee discount programs – financial wellbeing is not a primary focus area. Aon’s 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey found that 76% of companies have no plans to help employees with day-to-day money management.9  Yet for employers, poor financial wellbeing can reduce productivity and increase absenteeism and general disengagement.

There is a huge opportunity for employers to do more to support their people with money management and savings. Investing in these programs can ease your employees’ stress and help them feel more confident in their ability to manage their financial lives today and into the future.

Here are five ways to help boost your employees’ financial wellbeing:

1. Address your employees’ unique needs.

Pandemic or not, employees need to feel like they are being met at their level. Some employees may have been forced to reduce their expenses because their spouse or partner has lost their job, their hours have been condensed, or perhaps they are helping care for a family member or dealing with their own medical expenses. The pandemic has undoubtedly added unprecedented pressure to an employee’s financial and total wellbeing. It’s important to ensure your approach in educating employees about their financial wellbeing is practical and relatable. Using a model such as Aon’s 4 P’s Framework, you can focus on key areas where you can make a positive impact, such as budgeting, financial goals, retirement planning and preventative action against unexpected emergencies.10

2. Know your role in supporting employee financial wellbeing. 

The majority of employers reportedly have no plans to offer a day-to-day money management program, though this can be highly beneficial to the financial health of employees. Through education, planning and counseling services, organizations can — and should — influence employees and their families to make better financial choices. This requires engaging employees and families who may not believe they are ready to change certain behaviors. It also requires motivating those who are making the right choices to continue doing so. With the right mix of tailored services, employees will be more likely to define personal financial goals and create a personalized plan to help them set aside emergency savings, monitor spending, reduce debt and save for retirement.  

3. Consider the role of voluntary benefits. 

Nearly 75% of organizations are offering or planning to offer supplemental health benefits to support financial wellbeing.2  For example, critical illness/hospital indemnity plans with wellness rewards can encourage employees to get annual checkups and adopt healthy behaviors. This results in healthier employees and reduced healthcare costs. Offering access to other lifestyle benefits such as student loan assistance, pet, auto/home insurance and discount programs provides employees with lower costs and enhancements that are not only convenient but save time, money and improve productivity by reducing stress. An active enrollment can also increase employee awareness of the financial wellbeing programs and allows employers to offer these valuable programs with little to no out-of-pocket costs.

4. Use preexisting resources and vendors.

Vendors address a range of key areas when it comes to financial wellbeing. They might have educational resources, modeling tools, or even serve as financial coaches — all helping employees learn to better manage their budget, savings, debt, credit, or refinance or access loans. Some vendors can provide employees same-day access to earned yet unpaid wages without having to wait for payday so that they can pay their bills on time without incurring late or overdraft fees. Make sure to review your vendor consolidation strategy first and foremost. Consolidating your vendors can not only bring to light all the benefits your employees are eligible for but also cut costs for the employer – both in dollars and administrative time.

5. Communicate effectively with targeted marketing.

Between working remotely, and for some, a lack of childcare, your employees are busier than ever, causing their financial wellness to take a backseat. Organizations need to market their financial wellbeing programs to engage their employees in a way that works for them. Consider segmenting messages to better target your audiences; use visuals, infographics and video to help engage employees; avoid overwhelming employees with too much information; and provide focused guidance that shows the impact or benefit of financial wellbeing to employees.

Investing in employees’ financial wellbeing can give employees the resources, opportunities and commitment they need to be their best. Organizations with financial wellbeing programs tend to have more employees contribute to their retirement plan and save for healthcare expenses. It can also foster engagement and, just as important, it makes sure that you maximize all the resources that you are providing for your employees and their families.


1 Bankrate, Survey: Nearly 4 in 10 Americans would borrow money to cover a $1K emergency, 2020

2 AJPH, Medical Bankruptcy: Still Common Despite the Affordable Care Act, 2019

3 Aon, Health Survey, 2020

4 Board of Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Report on the Economic Well-Being of U.S. Households in 2019, 2020

5 Wallet Hub, Credit Card Debt Study, 2021

6 Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, The National Retirement Risk Index, 2021

7 Aon, The Real Deal: Retirement Income Adequacy Study, 2018

8 PwC, 9th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 2020

9 Aon, 2021 Global Wellbeing Survey, 2021

10 Aon, 5 easy steps to support your employees’ financial wellbeing