Best Practices for Workplace Financial Education

Every time I come home from Costco or Target, I get ‘that look’ from my husband. You know the look . . . the look that says ‘why do we need 16 gallons of Nutella?’ (I promise—It will be gone before Christmas!) And while your budgetary kryptonite may not be Nutella, most folks do have financial weaknesses. And the organizations that responded to the International Foundation financial education survey agree.

Best Practices for Workplace Financial Education

In the new report Financial Education for Today’s Workforce Survey, 2018 Survey Results, organizations reported that top challenges affecting a significant portion of their plan participants include credit card debt, saving for retirement and paying for their children’s education.

Financial Challenges

Financial challenges affect stress levels, impacting physical health, the ability to focus on work, absenteeism and morale—but educating your workforce on financial topics doesn’t come without challenges. Lack of time and resources, lack of interest from participants, and having your workers spread across multiple locations and shifts are some of the most noted obstacles. But at the same time, 40% of organizations report that the demand for financial education is increasing.

The scary part? These challenges are not going away. The not-so-scary part? There are a lot of ways to tackle these issues. Let’s take a look at some ideas.

What to Talk About?

The top three most popular financial topics covered by organizations are:

  • Retirement benefit plans
  • Preretirement financial planning
  • Budgeting.

However, popular topics change when comparing different types of organizations. Budgeting falls to fourth place for multiemployer plans, and it is not even in the top ten for public employers.

Top Five Financial Education Topics Addressed by Organization Type
Corporations Public Employers Multiemployer Plans
1. Retirement plan benefits 1. Retirement plan benefits 1. Retirement plan benefits
2. Preretirement financial planning 2. Retiree health care 2. Preretirement financial planning
3. Budgeting 3. Preretirement financial planning 3. Retiree health care
4. Investment management and asset allocation 4. Retirement plan distributions/decumulation 4. Budgeting
5. Debt management 5. Insurance 5. Postretirement financial planning

(Since credit cards and other debt are the top challenge affecting significant portions of participants across all sectors, it might be worthwhile for plan sponsors to include classes on budgeting.)

It is worth noting that large organizations (10,000 or more workers) tend to offer training on a wider variety of topics compared with smaller organizations. This is most likely due to larger budgets (large organizations are twice as likely to have a budget for financial literacy compared with smaller organizations) and a wider range of education needs.

When to Talk About It?

There are two categories of timing to consider when planning financial education sessions: time of life and time of day.

Time of Life:

Instead of pushing out a general message about retirement savings to all participants, target messages to participants based on where they are in life. While this requires some behind-the-scenes homework to segment your workers, a message about saving for a child’s future college education will make a lot more sense to workers with young children. Similarly, workers who are approaching retirement will be more apt to attend a session about Medicare or retirement plan distributions than somebody in their 20s or 30s.

Financial Education By Life Events

Time of Day:

Make sure you schedule training sessions at times that work for your participants. If the majority of your participants work in a centralized location during traditional business hours, then hosting a financial education in a conference room during business hours or lunchtime works. However, if your plan participants are spread out across various worksites or work various shifts, you may need to try a different approach such as making training available in the evenings or even on weekends. If you think a Saturday financial education class won’t bring out the masses, then get creative like this fund in Minnesota did with the LaborCare Health & Benefit Fair.

Financial Education Timing

Who to Talk About It With?

Don’t limit the invitation list to just your full-time workers. Thirty-nine percent of organizations include spouses, and 23% invite retirees to attend education sessions. In many cases, the spouse may be the person who manages the household finances and who would most benefit from learning about the retirement plan details and budget topics, as well as information about the health care plan.

Want to learn more?

Access the full report Financial Education for Today’s Workforce Survey, 2018 Survey Results.


Rebecca Estrada
Research Analyst


Join the International Foundation


Research Analyst at the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans

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