Some Companies Are Offering “Financial Wellness Programs” to Employees

Which is great, but they could also offer more money.

Photo credit: Elvert Barnes, CC BY 2.0.

This recent NYT article pairs nicely with this morning’s discussion of financial stress:

Not many employers provide workers with a paid day off to put their financial lives in order. And probably fewer still offer up to $1,000 to each employee to seed an emergency savings account.

A paid day off plus a $1,000 bonus? Wow, it’s almost like olden times! Who is this generous employer?

Mr. Moore’s employer, SunTrust Banks, provided these benefits as part of a financial wellness program, something that Bill Rogers, the bank’s chief executive, decided to introduce about two-and-a-half years ago after he came to a startling realization: Even his own workers — who he had assumed were more knowledgeable about money and in better financial shape than most people — were making poor financial choices, like borrowing against their 401(k) plans. And many of them were ill-prepared for a financial emergency.

Wait, why are these workers borrowing against their 401(k) plans? Could it be that they’re part of the 48 percent of Americans whose expenses match or exceed their income?

And yes, the NYT makes the obvious “why don’t you just pay your employees more” argument:

Though employers have said the №1 reason they offer the plans is that it is the right thing to do, many rank-and-file workers might argue it is the very least they can do, particularly as pensions fade, wage growth is slow and employees continue to shoulder an ever greater share of medical costs.

It’s worth noting that Mr. Moore, the employee the NYT references at the beginning of the article, used his paid day off to develop a financial plan that would help manage his wife’s unexpected medical expenses.

But SunTrust is excited to offer its financial wellness plans not only to its employees, but to companies across the country. (For a fee, no doubt.) Maybe these financial wellness plans will be like other employee wellness plans, and provide incentives for people who make “healthy choices!” (While simultaneously monitoring employee behavior and sucking up a lot of data.)

I shouldn’t be so snarky about this, because when it comes down to it, a company giving you $1,000 to put in your emergency fund is a really good deal. But we’re also at a point where having an extra $1,000 feels like a really big deal, and that makes me feel uncomfortable. Anxious. Ready to bite the company that feeds me, as it were.

What do you think of SunTrust’s financial wellness program? Would you want your employer to offer something similar?