Shhh! We don’t talk about that.
So just what is the problem?
There are three things Americans don’t talk about: politics, religion and money; a familiar statement many of us have heard since we were children. It seems we’ve done a good job of taking this advice to heart, especially when it comes to the topic of money. According to a Wells Fargo survey1, 44 percent of Americans find personal finance to be the most difficult subject to talk about, even more than politics, religion and death.
Even with spouses.
Based on data2 from Fidelity Investments, 43% of Americans don’t know how much money their spouse makes.
You can lead a horse to water, but…
If money is such an uncomfortable topic even at home, it’s certainly not something an employee is willing to talk about at work. However, you can bet for many it’s top of mind! When you compound social stigma with the feeling of shame or embarrassment that can accompany financial challenges, it’s going to be difficult to get employees to open up about their specific needs. So it’s no wonder there aren’t more participants in your financial wellness program – employees are likely too uncomfortable to ask you about it.
Removing the money taboo
Based on a Health and Wealth study conducted by Manulife3, an approach for overcoming the stigma surrounding money issues is one that has been working for companies seeking to overcome mental health issues.
This approach is based on normalization, non-judgement and ongoing education. According to the article:
- Normalization communicates the message to employees that financial issues are “common and experienced by many others – they’re not alone and there is a way forward.”
- Non-judgement in your organization communicates the message that “having financial issues doesn’t mean those suffering are inept or unable to manage money.” This message is supported by making your financial wellness program easily accessible to your employees. It’s distributing information using channels that employees will actually take note of – communicate to them where they are engaged. It’s having an open, welcoming door for employees seeking assistance. And when employees do put their trust in you, it’s important to be knowledgeable about the benefit you offer and to have the information they need readily on hand to support your message of non-judgement. It’s like putting your money where your mouth is.
- Education includes helping “employees understand that financial literacy is a learned skill for everyone – one which requires education and practice.” Encourage your employees to utilize your financial wellness program by spotlighting different features throughout the year. Point out the ability to take a personalized assessment that will guide them toward the program resources that will help them achieve their goals. Let them know about budgeting tools and financial calculators that can help them figure out things such as how much car they can afford or how long it will take to pay off credit card debt.
It takes a village
It’s time to get comfortable talking money with your employees. This doesn’t mean discussing your or your spouse’s salary (do you know how much your spouse makes?). It means talking up financial wellness. Encourage conversations about retirement goals and your company’s 401(k) matching program or talking about the triple tax benefit of your HSA benefit. If your company has a solution to help with student loan debt, acknowledge these financial struggles and make sure your employees know you have the resources to help. If you find informative articles that support any of these money-related conversations, share them with your workforce. Show them it’s okay to talk about money in your organization. For the financial wellbeing of your employees, it’s time to break down the money stigma barrier.