“What’s the Goal of Your Financial Wellness Program?”

If the goal of your financial wellness program is to get employees to take action and achieve their financial goals, then it’s critical to have a financial coach that helps keep employees accountable and feeling confident about their finances.

By incorporating real people into a financial wellness program, you’re able to achieve a much greater impact. Any financial wellness service that does not directly incorporate a coach or advisor into the employee financial wellness program is missing out on what is potentially the biggest driver of behavior change, namely a financial expert to keep employees accountable to their goals.

Since, we recognize that accountability is a key missing ingredient in financial wellness programs, we also believe that when employees do not feel a sense of accountability towards their stated financial goals, they are significantly less likely to achieve them. People work with personal trainers to ensure they exercise regularly and make progress on their fitness goals. Similarly, employees need a financial coach to keep them on track, and ensure that they are making progress on their financial goals. As we all know too well, personal finances can be confusing and that confusion leads us to procrastinate. When an employee is matched with a financial coach, they have an “accountability partner” that helps to keep them engaged and provides them with actionable steps, while coaching them one step at a time.

Additionally, by designing a program that is finite and time-bound, it creates in employees a sense of urgency to complete the program. By setting up the first part of the financial wellness program as a “sprint” when the employee’s motivation is near its highest point, you’re able to get the most action from employees.

Moreover, we believe that the financial education model that nearly all financial wellness programs employ is an ineffective approach. Research has proven that financial education and literacy programs are completely ineffective in getting employees to take action. A meta-­analysis of 188 financial literacy and education programs conducted in 2013 and published in “The Effect of Financial Literacy and Financial Education on Downstream Financial Behaviors” by Fernandes, Lynch and Netemeyer found the following:

 

“Content­-based, financial education interventions explain only 0.1% of the variance in financial behaviors.”

 

In contrast, a World Bank study entitled “The ABCs of Financial Education : Experimental Evidence on Attitudes, Behavior, and Cognitive Biases” found that coaching was dramatically more effective than education.

Nearly all financial wellness providers tout content-based solutions, such as videos, articles and resources centers, when point-­of­-fact, this approach provides literally zero impact when it comes to behavior change.

At Retiremap, we believe in what behavioral research has shown to work: personalized coaching, multi­channel messaging and just­-in-­time delivery.

That’s not to say that we don’t provide content to help keep employees engaged, because Retiremap does send employees personalized “I saw this article and thought of you…” messages. However, we do not rely on content to change employee behavior, because that flawed approach does not work.