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Danielle Varela

 Founder & CEO 

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Financial wellness at work, a competitive program to respond to successive crises or paternalism?

This year, many of our U.S. and Canadian clients have taken an interest in the issue of financial wellness for their employees.

Enabling employees to meet the challenge of balancing responsible living today with wise financial planning for tomorrow may seem like an attractive if ambitious, idea to some employers. As we head into the holiday season, this is the perfect time to talk about financial well-being.

We all agree that financial wellness is essential to the overall health of our employees, and financial education is key. But is it the employer's role to financially educate their employees? Shouldn't all education, especially financial education, supposed to start at home? With sometimes 4 generations of employees to manage on top of all the challenges that businesses face, is it the employer's role to take an interest in and invest in the personal finances of their employees? Because financial well-being means personal finances. Inform our employees absolutely, educate them financially why not, discipline them not sure. It's all a matter of opinion and to the dismay of the great defenders of this type of program, I do not adhere to this very fashionable concept of "financial well-being at work". The effectiveness of the programs put in place leaves much to be desired. There are many facets to financial health, including the amount of your savings, debt-to-income ratio, how much of your discretionary income you spend, to name a few. All its elements fall under the umbrella of privacy, as far as I'm concerned. Reducing financial stress results in happier and more productive employees, but all the elements must be in place for the plans to be most effective. The causes of financial stress are very varied, as are the examples to illustrate them.''People aren't stupid. The world is hard.'' This quote, from Nobel Prize-winning behavioral economist Richard Thaler, sums up the situation of many people experiencing financial stress. Managing money can be difficult. Managing your money when you don't have enough is even more challenging. Financial wellness is not just about money and financial literacy. it’s also a lifestyle issue. This means that employees not only need to be informed but also have the opportunity to put that information into practice. It's no wonder that one of the biggest obstacles to implementing this type of program is the willingness of senior management to do so. Establishing and cultivating financial health requires individual perseverance, as well as a supportive environment that offers accessible, quality financial services. Financial health is a continuous journey, an absolute discipline. Offering a financial wellness benefit in the workplace can be very interesting in certain sectors of activity, but for the most part, it will remain an ephemeral offer that does not add enough value to enable companies to build loyalty, foster a sense of belonging and improve employee retention. In Canada, unlike the United States, most employers' benefit plans already have incentives to encourage employee savings (RRSPs, CELI, DC pensions…). In my opinion, it is much more beneficial for both the employee and the employer to maximize the programs already in place. An employer may make contributions equivalent to certain plans up to a certain percentage, for example. As a leader, our goal is to think outside the box and offer innovative products to optimize employee benefits, and their overall well-being at work, but without entering what I call the ambient paternalism of Covid -19.


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