How’s Your Financial Wellness? Take This Quiz

Money worries on the job hurt employee productivity, and could contribute to lower overall company profits.

That should worry both employees and employers.

"Nearly a quarter of employees confirm that personal finance issues are a distraction at work, and 39% say they spend three hours or more each week dealing with issues related to personal finance," says Prudential Insurance.

Meanwhile, a study by Pension Consultants, Inc. shows that for every hour an employee is off the job, companies lose $3,600 in productivity, with "financial distress" cited as a "leading cause of employee absence."

To help fix the problem, more and more businesses are looking to train employees on key personal financial matters. "Increasing numbers of employers are implementing financial wellness programs that educate employees about the financial risks they face and provide tools to manage those risks," the insurance giant notes.

Chances are, if a company offers an employee access to a financial wellness program, he will take the employer up on the offer. According to a recent LIMRA study, 72% of U.S. workers would participate in an employer-sponsored financial wellness program, if one was offered.

Of course, not all company money management training programs are the same. The ones that work best are the programs that aim to take a wholesale approach to better money management skills.

"The key to driving financial wellness success within an organization is to develop and implement a program that focuses on solving the key critical problem and not just the symptoms," says Matt Cosgriff, a financial advisor with Lifewise, in Minneapolis. "For example, most of retirement education programs in the 401(k) world currently focuses on solving low savings rates and high loan balances, but it doesn't get at the heart of the critical issue, which is how to help employees save more money."

Instead, financial wellness programs must help people better manage their cash flow by giving them small actionable steps to improve their cash flow, create an emergency account and tackle debt. "Information alone is useless, so the best financial wellness programs will focus on tackling the main problem through behavior change," Cosgriff adds.

That's why it's so important that career professionals, themselves, ask the right questions to get the most benefits out of company financial wellness programs.

"When taking advantage of a financial wellness program, there are several key questions to ask," says Neal Frankle, a financial advisor and chief editor of the personal financial website Wealth Pilgrim.

Specifically, Frankle advises asking the following three questions to human resources, to trainers, and to direct bosses if you can't get a straight answer:

1. What can I expect from this program? Is the program focus on budgeting, debt management, investing, health care, something else or all of the above?

2. What should I do after the program ends to make sure I maximize the value of the program?

3. When should I expect to see the benefits? Many people come into a program like this and stop implementing far too soon.

Asking for direct help with personal money issues should be a priority for workers, too.

"The most important thing you can do to maximize a financial wellness program is taking advantage of the free investment advice, and having an expert take a look at all of your accounts to put together an investment strategy for you," offers Noa Rodriguez-Hoffman, founder of GenWise Planning, in Los Angeles.

Also, be patient with your company financial wellness plan; it does, after all, take time to lose the bad financial habits and build productive ones, and that's the goal for any program participant.

"Many Americans suffer from their immediacy bias, a tendency to prefer an immediate benefit over greater long term gratification," notes Stephen Rischall, a Sherman Oaks, Calif.-based a financial advisor who leads financial wellness workshops for community groups and businesses. "I find that money and emotions are the portions of my presentation that garners the most interest practically every time. On that front, developing more awareness to think about the future impact of today's financial decisions, goes a long way."

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