Buyer’s Guide

Financial Wellness: Buyer’s Guide

How can employers create and implement a successful financial wellness program? And what does success mean?
In This Post:

Personal finance plays a critical role in our lives and overall well-being. What we earn, spend, and save is woven into all aspects of our lives. Think about the amount of stress it causes when your finances go awry or you have to make a significant financial decision.    

As the past few years have challenged our workplaces, economy, and finances, many employees were caught unprepared with no emergency savings or financial plans.  To address increased economic insecurity and stress among employees, many employers turned to financial wellness programs as a solution 

Approachable and relevant financial education is also suitable for company culture, employee health, and business.   

The availability of HSA401(k)FSA, and others, leaves employees on a steep learning curve to understand the complexities of their benefits plans and how to allocate dollars to these products.  

With these factors becoming more lucent, employers are stepping up to help improve their employees’ financial wellness.

What is Financial Wellness?

Financial wellness is a state of feeling secure in your financial future and being able to meet ongoing and future financial obligations. An individual reaches a state of financial well-being when they have:  

  • Control over their day-to-day finances;  
  • The capacity to absorb financial shocks; 
  • A manageable level of debt; 
  • Financial acumen to plan for future goals, including planning for retirement;   
  • The financial freedom to maintain a desirable lifestyle; 

Beyond the basic definition, financial wellness can look and feel very different to an individual based on age, economic status, and other factors (cultural, geographical, etc.)  

There are also a variety of “stages” that an individual can be at in their financial journey.  

Beginning with the essential elements of understanding their financial state and being able to withstand an emergency, all the way to the more established position of financial planning, the needs of an individual can be a linear progression.

What is the Diference between Financial Literacy and Financial Wellness?

  • Financial literacy is money education programs focusing on understanding financial basics, how money works, how to budget, build savings, and reduce debt.  
  • A financial wellness program focuses on an employee’s existing monetary knowledge and equips that employee with the ability to use it properly. 

About this Guide

Given the array of personal finance needs in the market, a myriad of vendor solutions and innovations are developing rapidly to meet the growing demand in the employer space.  

But how do you, as an employer, create and implement a successful financial wellness program?  

And what does success mean?  

This Financial Wellness Buyer’s Guide aims to provide employers with the basic information needed to coordinate the selection of a provider for your financial wellness program.  

This guide is designed to help you navigate the buying process and enable your organization to: 

  • Make better-informed decisions;   
  • Decrease employee stress and absenteeism; 
  • Plan the buying process by using an actionable set of tools and resources; 
  • Understand the right questions to ask vendors to learn which solution best meets the needs of your stakeholders; 
  • Increase workforce productivity; 
  • Increase financial confidence;

Steps For Selecting a Financial Wellness Provider

Phase 1: Identify & Prepare
25%
Phase 2: Compare & Evaluate
50%
Phase 3. Identify the Winner & Contract
75%
Phase 4. Implementation & Beyond
100%

Phase 1: Identify & Prepare

While diving headfirst into demos and pricing proposals is tempting, it’s crucial to spend time analyzing and documenting your employee’s needs. The amount of time you spend preparing directly correlates to your new vendor’s ultimate success.

 1) Understand your Business Objectives 

Before considering the ROI of a financial wellness program, consider how it would align with your organization’s goals, especially with your talent goals. Outline what you want financial wellness to realize for your company. Every company is unique, so there is no one-size-fits-all solution that can work for any organization.

2) Consider Employee’s Specific Needs & Interests

If possible, consider running an anonymous survey or focus group to find out what your employees want in a program. While most employees have apprehensions about sharing their personal financial information, an anonymous survey is a great starting point.  

Here are some questions you can include: 

  • What are your most significant financial concerns? 
  • Do you have any short-term and long-term financial goals? 
  • What would help you achieve your future short and long-term financial goals? 
  • Do you have a budget? Do you stick to it? 
  • Are you prepared for an emergency? 
  • What features would inspire you to participate in a financial wellness program? 
  • What format of financial wellness education would be helpful to you?

3) Gather Information

Gathering information from various sources can help narrow the broad scope of benefits you can offer.  

Methods of information gathering:  

  • Demographic analysis 
  • Employee database 
  • Anonymous survey  
  • Employee interviews  
  • Research best practices‍ 

For example, you can work with the 401(k) administrator or other record keepers to do a demographic analysis, allowing you to identify target audiences that could benefit most from financial wellness services.  

You can also review 401(k) loan data, hardships, wage garnishments, and so on to provide insight into your “lowest hanging fruit.” 

4) Map out your Benefits

Evaluate and map out your total financial benefits offering — from your retirement offering and health insurance to discount or banking services.  

Evaluate those offerings, align them with your wellness goals and fill in any gaps with other solutions.  

By re-evaluating your current solutions and knowing which ones are unutilized, you can replace them with more focused alternatives.

5) Identify Internal Obstacles & Challenges

You will inevitably face challenges and obstacles when implementing a financial wellness program.  

The cost of developing this program is one of the most significant challenges.  

Other challenges include the potential liabilities tied to your fiduciary responsibilities and employees’ reluctance to participate in the program. It is best to identify potential setbacks and mitigate potential threats to successful implementation.

Strategic Questions for Identifying & Preparing:

  • What are the key areas where my employees are struggling financially?
  • Could you tell me the key features I would like to know about?
  • Will my employees benefit from a financial wellness service?
  • How will others in the organization use this solution?
  • What are the things that would make me nervous about buying this sort of solution?
  • What kind of service level and support am I seeking from my provider?
  • Are there tax breaks our company can take advantage of with this program?
  • Can a new solution be designed and implemented within an acceptable time period?
  • What would constitute a stress-free implementation of a new solution for you?
  • What short- and long-term priorities would I achieve with the new solution?
  • What are the regulatory risks I need to be aware of?

Phase 2: Compare & Evaluate

After gathering information on which areas your employees need financial assistance, you can start identifying which vendors you want to look into. It’s time to meet the vendors!  

Keep the following in mind as you’re evaluating options:

1) Keep your Priorities Top of Mind

Specific programs only address one demographic or benefit (for example, only student debt or retirement), while others provide a full spectrum of benefits.  

Keep your priorities top of mind when considering the breadth of offerings, then choose a solution that offers the benefits you will need for your ideal program.

2) Check the Provider’s History & Motivation

A vendor’s motivation is fundamental in this industry because you want the help that you provide to your employees to be “independent and unbiased” financial advice, and you don’t want employees to be sold on additional or unnecessary products and services.    

Historically, the financial wellness market has been primarily driven by the need to give everyday people access to financial advice they can trust. Therefore, many vendors distinguish that their services are free from any underlying motivations to sell additional services/products. Understanding a vendor’s background and ownership structure can provide insights into their motivations.

3) Consider their Credentials

The professional staff’s education and experience who guide your employees also matter. Some vendors require that all their counseling staff have the Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation.   

Other vendors purport that this high degree of expertise is not necessary for the typical customer.  

They believe that most people just need guidance on getting out of debt, developing a budget, or building emergency savings – all those things can be handled by a trained financial coach or someone with an Accredited Financial Advisor (AFC) designation.

4) Compare Multiple Providers

There are many types of firms providing a variety of financial wellness services.  

When you’re just starting out, there are some ways to start your research: 

  • Perusing lists of financial wellness vendors 
  • Asking for recommendations from your industry peers 
  • Visiting an industry trade show 
  • Talking with providers.  

Tip: If you find a provider you like, ask them who their key competitors are. 

5) Integration with Other Benefits

Financial wellness services should be seen as an extension of your employer’s overall benefits package.  

Do you know if the provider will assist with onboarding new hires?  

How will they integrate with your existing EAP arrangements?  

Do they provide help with financial crises (referral services, counseling)?

6) Client Services & Alignment

Aside from the desired services and employee experience, finding the right financial wellness vendor-partner isn’t much different than other HR benefit vendor selections. Strategic alignment is critical because leadership, communications, and culture all come into play.     

Take the time to get to know the potential partners and understand what it will be like working together throughout the year. Key attributes to consider about the vendor you select include: 

  • Strategic planning 
  • Account management  
  • Engagement “boosters” (i.e., promotional support and incentive administration) 
  • Reporting and success measurements

7) Solicit Pricing

Most vendors charge a per-employee-per-month (PEPM) fee for access to their digital platform, health literacy library, or other stand-alone resources. There may be a one-time implementation and setup fee, as well.  

Financial coaching is usually an additional, separate fee, with a variable cost range (either PEPM or Per Participant), primarily dependent on how the service is delivered (online chat, phone, in-person) and the expertise of the professional staff.  

Specialty niches (i.e., student loan repayment, short-term loans, and investment advice) can have more unique pricing structures.  

Be sure to discuss pricing plans during your demo.

8) Find a Provider that meets both Short & Long-Term Needs

Unfortunately, many financial programs focus on higher-income individuals and emphasize retirement savings.  

While there is nothing wrong with supporting your employees to plan for the future, many are facing urgent financial issues today. Ideally, it would be best to look for a financial wellness program with options for short-term and long-term financial goals.

9) Delivery Channels

Finally, you want to consider the medium through which your financial wellness services are offered.  

Take into account that the resources and materials are tailored and available to the age and demographics of your employees, and avoid ones that are only accessible via one medium.   

To maximize engagement, it’s best to offer various options that will attract different types of people. Some people prefer to engage from the privacy of their homes, while others are comfortable having these conversations (with discretion) at work.  

Some prefer to work one-on-one with a live person, while others prefer to do so independently online. The more options you can provide, the better it will be to engage most of your workforce.

Desired Product- Specific Services

Description

Standard Financial Wellness Services Offered

Financial education

Cash flow management and budgeting

Personal and household budgeting

Personal financial assessment

Consumer credit building

Consumer debt reduction

One-on-One support from a coach or counselor

Student loan repayment management

Emergency and short-term savings

Spending behaviors and consumer attitudes

Financial crisis management (dealing with collections, extended unemployment, and even certificates required for filing bankruptcy)

 

Program Features Add-ons

Calculators

Automated cash flow management

Financial goal setting & progress tracker

Social support

Mobile app

 

Product-Specific Capabilities

Benefits portal - An online, interactive platform that guides employees through financial topics relevant to them 

Total rewards platform (e.g., compensation, equity, insurance, retirement contributions, PTO, voluntary benefits) 

Financial assessment software 

Cashflow tool 

Budgeting tool 

Debt management counseling 

Retirement savings tracking 

Credit account tracking 

Bankruptcy support 

Credit report review 

Foreclosure prevention 

Homebuying counseling 

Short-term lending solution 

Student loan repayment support 

On-demand pay solution 

Dependent's eligibility coverage 

Connections to local organizations and agencies in the local community to help employees address specific needs.  

24-hour availability with guaranteed consultation within 24/72 hours 

Advisors possess Certified Financial Planner (CFP) designation

Strategic Questions for Vendor’s Comparison & Evaluation

  • Are you affiliated with a bank or financial product?
  • Do you push financial products, sell services, charge fees, or make affiliate commissions?
  • Does the solution report on employee adoption and engagement?
  • Do you provide access to investment advisors?
  • Do you provide financial guidance and financial coaching on a per-employee basis? Are these available to employees via live chat, virtual video, or an in-person meeting?
  • How long does it typically take for a member to set up a session?
  • Do you provide financial aid guidance, such as assisting working parents with information on government FASFAs, and other college aid?
  • Does your program provide fiduciary guidance?
  • Are the onboarding and offboarding of employees supported by software that offers significant support for participants in automation and streamlining at these stages?
  • How do you coordinate care with other services, such as well-being platforms, care management providers, or EAP programs?
  • How will this solution fit into the rest of my tech stack? What integrations do I need?
  • What are the implementation process, timing, requirements, and fees associated with the client setup?
  • Can I have a demo of how employees use this platform? Is it mobile-friendly? What about customer service options?
  • In how many languages are your services offered?
  • How many sessions are included? Can an individual pay out of pocket for additional sessions?

Phase 3. Identify the Winner & Contract

After a thorough discovery and shopping process, you’re ready to move forward with a decision!   

Congratulations!   

Key milestones here include:

1) Vetting the Vendors

Before you sign any contracts, you may want to verify that the company has a good reputation.  

This includes: 

  • Check references  
  • Researching the company’s reviews – While data may be limited, you should be able to find some info on a vendor’s track record. 
  • Carry out a performance analysis – Does the vendor really do everything they claim? Are their services and system reliable?  
  • Analyze their security and data – How is their data stored? Is it easy for employees to access and understand their data?  
  • Meeting with key decision-makers – It is a good idea to get a consensus from your key team members before you partner with a company.

2) Notify your Winning & Losing Vendor Candidates

Of course, you’re going to notify the vendor to whom you’ve awarded your business, but be sure also to take time to provide feedback to the vendor candidates who didn’t win your business.  

They have invested time and resources into your project, and hearing some details about the decision is good practice and will only help them improve.

3) Finalize Pricing 

Ensure you review the contract with the vendor before signing it and understand the pricing and any additional fees you may be charged. Your list of needs and requirements may look different during the selection process, so revising the pricing plan is essential.

4) Timing

When is best to introduce the benefit to the workforce?  

The consensus indicates that off-cycle from annual enrollment is the best time to incorporate a new benefit to manage for the HR staff and grab employees’ attention outside of the busy yearly enrollment period.    

From there, promoting the new benefit will be an ongoing endeavor to ensure that employees are aware of the benefit and take advantage of it.  

Incentive designs are becoming more common to help with engagement as well.

Phase 4. Implementation & Beyond

You have finally reached the final step to implementing and starting your financial wellness program. While it may seem like the hard work is finished, the truth is that this phase is critical to a successful project.  

These steps will help things stay on track:

1) Plan for your Implementation

In terms of implementation, lead times vary based on the type of service and level of portal customization.  

Some digital tools and stand-alone resources are so turnkey that they can go live within a month. However, a more comprehensive program will typically take 90 days if there are complex customizations or integrations.

2) Communicate with your Employees

Before you even launch this benefit, get your employees excited about it!  

This way, they will be more inclined to use it once it’s fully established. Keep them informed about the program you are building, make announcements, do demos, and answer any questions.  

A comprehensive communication plan is essential for program participation, employee buy-in, and program success.

3) Prepare for Obstacles

No technology implementation is without issue and prepare for problems to pop up during implementation and beyond. Accept that things will go wrong and have realistic expectations and goals.

4) Multi-Channel Marketing

Ideally, you should adopt a multi-channel approach when promoting your new vendor. Apart from the common promotion approaches like workshops, webinars, and newsletters, you can include more innovative solutions like automated alerts or email campaigns.

Top Financial Wellness Providers

learnlux_logo
LearnLux's financial wellness program empowers employees with personalized financial plans covering budgeting, debt management, benefits selection, equity compensation, retirement planning, and more.
best money moves llc_logo
Best Money Moves LLC alleviates financial stress among employees, leveraging machine learning and AI to provide personalized recommendations and tools across 15 financial stress categories.
Your Money Line_logo
With unlimited 1:1 human money coaching, top-tier education, and AI-powered software, Your Money Line stands out as a financial wellness benefit solution.
simplifistudentloans_logo
Summer's financial wellness program offers innovative solutions to help organizations and employees navigate and reduce student loan debt through proven technologies, policy expertise, and personalized support.
origin_logo
Origin's financial wellness offers modern solutions to empower employees to maximize their paycheck, make informed benefit decisions, and build a secure financial future.
Questis_logo
With personalized guidance from financial experts and cutting-edge technology to help businesses empower their employees and alleviate financial stress, Questis is a leading choice for financial wellness.
financialknowledge_logo
Financial Knowledge offers accredited, conflict-free financial education covering various aspects of personal finance for workplaces to empower employees in the US and Canada to make informed financial decisions.

Conclusion

Financial wellness is a hot topic these days – and for a good reason!  

Financial stress damages employees’ productivity, engagement, and attendance; therefore, a financial wellness program’s benefits are plentiful for your employees and your company.   

Shortlister has gone through a process to identify and onboard all the key players in the space into our database, allowing us a unique insight into this market.  

If you need assistance understanding the best vendor option for your needs or streamlining the process of comparing vendors, we are in the best position to help you do so.

Disclosure: Some of the products featured in this blog post may come from our partners who compensate us. This might influence the selection of products we feature and their placement and presentation on the page. However, it does not impact our evaluations; our opinions are our own. The information provided in this post is for general informational purposes only. 

Written by SHORTISLTER EDITORIAL TEAM

Financial Wellness Programs

Browse our curated list of vendors to find the best solution for your needs.

Stay Informed

Subscribe to our newsletter for the latest trends, expert tips, and workplace insights!

Share on facebook
Share on linkedin
Share on twitter

Related Posts

flsa status

What Is FLSA Status?

Unravel the complexities and implications of FLSA status and its significance in employment law, ensuring fair compensation and compliance for employers and employees.