According to a recent study by Fidelity Investments, American companies are slated to spend upwards of $3.6 million on wellness programs for employees and their families in 2019. From HSA funding to gym memberships and pet insurance, the trend towards prioritizing holistic wellness is part of a larger movement by many firms to nurture the deep connections between an employee’s physical and mental health with their financial wellbeing.
At the recent HighTower Pinnacle conference, Fidelity’s VP of thought leadership, Meghan Murphy, took the stage to lead a presentation on the many stress factors that can impact staff productivity and how advisory practices can be proactive in resolving them. The most common stressors, according to the Fidelity data, were the following three factors:
- Overall financial situation
- Saving for the future
Here are some key points from Murphy’s talk:
Debt can be deadly.
Fidelity’s data suggests that employees who are experiencing financial stress are less likely to be physically healthy and more likely to report feelings of stress or anxiety. In fact, Murphy said that people who struggle with debt miss more work hours and generally feel “more burnt out” even when they do make it to the office.
Financial advisors are far from immune to the impact that financial stress can have on health. According to 2019 research from Financial Planning Association, Janus Henderson Investors and Investopedia, 71 percent of financial advisors and 57 percent of investors feel more stress today compared with one year ago. What’s more, 54 percent of financial advisors reported that stress negatively impacts their health. With mounting pressure to find and retain clients in this competitive industry, coupled with managing their clients’ financial stressors, advisors can greatly benefit from employee wellbeing practices.
To help employees cope with financial stress and, in that process, become more productive, Fidelity started offering debt consultation and counseling programs that provide guidance on everything from mortgage refinancing to student loans. Murphy explains, “Companies should jump in to help people pay down debts, plan for the future and manage their budgets. We are really trying to address the circumstances that drive the most stress in people’s lives.”
Stress levels vary by demographic.
While debt and financial issues affect everyone regardless of gender, age or occupation, Murphy pointed to data in the Fidelity survey indicating that women reported feeling higher levels of stress when faced with money problems. “Women who have taken on debt are three times as likely to tell us that they’re gaining weight, sleeping worse, have higher levels of stress and are saving less,” said Murphy. “This is the impact of debt,” she concludes.
Interestingly, the Fidelity data also found that younger people reported feeling more stress than those in their pre- and post-retirement years (ages 55 and up), suggesting that learning to manage money and the stress that comes with it is a lifelong journey that should begin early.
These stats suggest that firms that support their team beyond professional development by focusing on reducing stress related to their personal finances can benefit from a work pool that has a higher capacity to service clients and build their careers. With RIAs increasingly working towards ensuring that their firms have skilled successors, firms that prioritize employee health and wellbeing will have an advantage in cultivating talent and growing their businesses.
What are we most stressed about? Work, money and more money.
The number one stressor at work? While “demanding bosses,” “long commutes” and “annoying coworkers” were mentioned, most of the Fidelity survey respondents reported that their overall work environment was the primary factor “getting them down.” Also noteworthy, 80 percent of people without emergency savings reported feeling highly stressed about their finances, with this stress spilling into their work lives in the form of absenteeism and an overall drop in productivity.
“By talking to employers about what makes their employees tick, and what drives their financial and workplace decisions, we have been able to create a total wellbeing assessment for employers,” said Murphy. “It’s essential,” she continued, “for employers to understand what’s going on with their workforce across all aspects of their lives, be it finances, work, or health. Once they understand that, they can create programs to support employees from all sides.”
Implementing a range of wellness programs within advisory firms can contribute to a positive culture that ultimately allows teams to better serve clients. Knowing that your employer cares about your health and is willing to provide you with tangible services that encourage wellbeing helps minimize stress. By focusing on the health of the individuals who comprise a firm, that firm is better poised to focus on the needs of the client.
To learn about how HighTower supports advisory practices through human resources consulting, team building and other business services, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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