Financial stress is unfortunately even a bigger factor in the workplace than it was this time last year. The COVID-19 pandemic upended life for millions of people around the world, not only from a health perspective but from an economic one too.
Between uncertainty surrounding schooling and childcare, increased health expenses and increased unemployment, employees are feeling unprecedented pressure when it comes to their finances. The pandemic unfortunately highlighted the need for financial wellness and that many people do not have enough money saved to face an uncertain situation.
Brokers can’t ignore this when planning for open enrollment with their clients. Although financial stress often originates at home, it doesn’t stay there. It follows employees to the office, leading to decreased productivity. It also can manifest as physical illness when severe enough, increasing absenteeism rates.
Employers are realizing this, as 63% of respondents in a recent survey reported plans to expand their voluntary benefits package to provide more ways for employees to overcome financial challenges -- and they’ll be looking to their brokers for guidance.
When helping clients prepare for their 2021 open enrollment period, encourage them to include benefit options that reduce financial stress. Here are some popular options to consider:
- Short-term employee loans
Typically, when employees need urgent financial relief, they take out a payday loan and face astronomical interest rates. By offering loans as an employer, your clients can offer an option for relief in a financial emergency with lower interest rates. Payments can be taken directly from the employee’s payroll, so repayment is easy on both ends.
- Student loan repayment plans
The freeze on federal loan collection is coming to an end and many employees will once again face the burden of paying their substantial student loans. There are a few options you can present to your clients that help manage student loans: employer contributions, automatic payroll deduction payments, repayment plan education and more.
- HSAs, FSAs & HRAs
A lot of financial stress originates from people not knowing how they would pay for things in the case of a medical emergency or if their personal expenses change unexpectedly. HSAs, FSAs and HRAs are great options to offer your clients as they provide flexibility, triple tax advantages and peace of mind for employees.
- Caregiver benefits
COVID-19 has left giant question marks around schools, daycares, nursing homes and other care facilities. With caregiving needs changing, expenses might be higher in 2021 for many employees. Caregiver benefits help your clients ease the burden of caregiving costs for their employees by setting aside (and in some cases contributing to) child/dependent care funds. Dependent Care Accounts are a great option to offer your clients for achieving this.
- Educational sessions
Your clients may also be looking for ways to empower employees to make the right financial decisions for themselves. They can offer educational sessions to cover topics like credit, investing, refinancing, retirement savings and more.
While nobody knows for certain what 2021 will bring, we know for sure that the impacts of COVID-19 will still be felt. While your clients may not have all of those impacts within their control, they can offer benefits that help ease financial stress. As their broker and trusted advisor, you can help them choose the option(s) that work best for them and help give employees one less thing to worry about in this uncertain world.