Why People Do — and Don’t — Participate in Financial Wellness Programs

Two of the most interesting nuggets to come out were insights into how big of a role fear and embarrassment play in people’s feelings about their company’s financial wellness programs.

What do I mean, exactly? Here are the stats that jumped out at us:

1. Employees want down-to-earth, non-threatening financial guidance

Fifty-six percent (56%) of employees wish the financial resources offered by their company used “friendlier language,” and 36% go so far as to say that their companies’ programs are intimidating to use.

2. When it comes to actually using offered resources, many employees are concerned about privacy—and the potential judgment of their colleagues

  • Among employees who have financial wellness programs available, 6 in 10 (60%) would not want their coworkers to know if they were to participate and nearly 1 in 2 (45%) would not want their company to know.
  • Among those who aren’t likely to use financial wellness programs if their employer were to offer them, the top two most common barriers are:
    • Not wanting employer to know about their financial situation (34%)
    • Not wanting co-workers to know their financial situation (30%)
  • Thirty-six percent (36%) feel there is at least a little stigma associated with utilizing employer financial wellness offerings.
  • Among those who have financial wellness programs available, about 1 in 4 (26%) think participating in their company’s program will make them look bad…in particular, those who feel a great deal of stress related to their personal financial situation (37% vs. 12% who do not) and those who are responsible for managing all or most of their household finances (31% vs. 14% who are not).

Because we’ve seen firsthand how much employees enjoy and benefit from our popular  Choosing Your Plan benefits conversation (which takes great pains to NOT be intimidating, and to use lively, “friendly” language), we had a hunch folks would want the same when it came to learning about financial stuff (which can be as confusing as benefits information is).

3. The most preferred method of receiving assistance—even more popular than one-on-one meetings with a human expert—is online tools.

For real. Forty-nine percent (49%) of the people polled said they would prefer a web-based tool, and only forty-two percent (42%) said they’d prefer a one-on-one in-person chat with an advisor.

So…if your a wellness administrator who buys into these findings, what do they mean for you as you’re thinking about what financial wellness tools to implement at your company? Two simple things:

  1. Err on the side of offering approachable AND POSITIVE financial guidance tools.
  2. Don’t underestimate how much fear-of-embarrassment plays a role in whether people use your financial planning tools or not. In other words, make sure to offer tools that allow your employees a high degree of privacy.


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