Employee Financial Literacy Blog

Do you know Jack... about employee financial education?

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Sun, Aug 23, 2015

Watch Jack's story come alive right before your eyes. Watch and listen to the story about Jack's company and how they turned their productivity and profitability woes into wins through an employee financial education program.

Employee Financial Education White Paper

Tags: Employee wellness, Financial Literacy, employee financial education

Personal Finances Costing Canadian Businesses $51 BILLION a Year!

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Tue, Nov 12, 2013

Productivity Lost to financial distressThrough our Financial Education in the Workplace survey of Canadian employees, we learned that 25% are financially distressed and an additional 41% are stressed when it comes to their finances.

Through research we know that financially distressed employees spend an average of 13% of their day at work dealing with their finances and the others who are less stressed spend on average 4% of their day at work but not working (presenteeism).

This alone adds up to lost productivity of Canadian workers totaling more than $51 BILLION!

Working Population 17,500,000  
Average Income $47,868  
Employee Cost $11,967  
Financially Distressed (25%) 4,375,000 13%
Financially Stressed (41%) 7,175,000 4%
     
Lost Productivity cost $51,203,801,250  

Although this may be an over simplification of the calculation a deeper in-depth analysis will only lead to an even larger value. Financial stress doesn’t only impact employees’ productivity; it also impacts their overall wellness. More than 60% of employees cite personal finances as their number one stress.

Financial stress impacts mental health: Those with high debt stress are six times more likely to suffer from depression and seven times more likely to suffer from high anxiety. Their physical health is impacted as well: employees are twice as likely to suffer a heart attack, three and half times more likely to suffer from ulcers and digestive track problems, and three times as likely to suffer from migraines or headaches.

Debt Stress

Financial illiteracy is becoming a pandemic in this country and it is time for Canadian businesses to recognize the impact it is having on their bottom line.

Take a few minutes to learn more about how financial education can increase productivity and profitability in your organization by downloading the whitepaper: http://info.employeefinancialeducation.ca/Employee-Financial-Literacy-White-Paper

Employee Financial Education White Paper

 

 

 

Tags: Employee wellness, workplace wellness, financially distressed, Financial Literacy, presenteeism, financial wellness, absenteeism, corporate financial education, employee financial education, employee education, wellness

Are your finances keeping you awake at night?

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Thu, Sep 05, 2013
“If you want to live a happy life, tie it to a goal, not to people or things.”

― Albert Einstein

Employee Financial EducationIf your personal finances are keeping you awake at night, you are not alone. The biggest cause of insomnia for many has been their stress and anxiety around their personal finances. In fact more than 60% of Canadians cite personal finances as their number one stress.  Surveys and studies since 1985 have found that the two greatest stresses in people’s lives are work and personal finances. 

For the last 14 years I have been working with people to help them sleep better at night. When I help them get their basic finances in order, from managing debt, to organizing cash flow, to protecting their family and planning their retirement, the same result comes from it - Relief.

What has been the biggest change? Are they wealthier? No. Are they poorer? No. Do they have more debt? No. Do they have better investments? No. Are they making more money? No. So what changed that provided the relief?... Understanding. They have a clear understanding of their financial situation and what they need to do to be financially successful.

The majority of people I work with and many of those I encounter share the same common trait when it comes to their finances – they don’t have their basic financial affairs in order and don’t know where to start.

This isn’t surprising to me as we are bombarded with many confusing messages from the media, the financial services industry, the Bank of Canada, and even our parents, uncle or best friend. Who can you trust? And the bigger question… where do you START?

Over the years, I developed a process to help people achieve the understanding necessary about their finances and the priorities for their life. It is important to understand that this process only works if you truly are ready to deal with your finances.

The critical first step, that is often overlooked, is to set clear realistic goals. Many struggle to define what they truly want to achieve and spend much of their life going day-to-day in hopes that one day it will all work out. This step is so critical to your success because you need to change your focus to what is really important to you. Keeping those things that are most important to you top-of-mind is instrumental in achieving real financial success.

One Frank Thought – To help you be successful with your goals, share them with many people. They may be able to help you achieve them and they can help hold you accountable to them.

Another critical component is to be able to differentiate between wants and needs. Take a good look at everything around you and be honest with yourself – Are these things around you wants or needs? To truly help you do this, ask yourself this – Do I want this more than I want that trip to Hawaii? Or whatever your goals are.

This was a big thing for my wife and I when we first got together. We would be out at a store and she would come across a nice blouse or pair of shoes and I would ask her. “Is that a want or a need?” I got some very interesting looks. Eventually she started catching on and found some clever ways to explain why it was a need.

Many people ask me, “If you gave just one piece of financial advice, what would it be?” I tell them the secret to understanding your finances and being able to achieve financial success comes down to just one thing. All other financial areas and issue stem from this one thing. It is the tipping point of financial understanding and the linchpin to financial success. It is what separates those that can save and those that can’t. Those who can manage their debts and those who drown in debt.  If you want to start sleeping better at night do this: Know exactly how much money you spend and what you spend it on each month!

Once you have this understanding, you will be empowered to make better decisions with your money. Remember, money is finite; if you spend it over here, you don’t have it to spend over there.

By combining your knowledge of your goals with refocused prioritization of wants and needs and an understanding of how much money you spend and where you spend it – you will be well on your way to financial success and a better quality of life!

To help you START on this journey to financial understanding, I have written a book called How to Eat an Elephant: Achieving Financial Success One Bite at a Time. The book takes you by the hand and leads you step-by-step through the process of getting your financial affairs in order. It includes simple, almost fill-in-the-blank online tools to help you set your goals, figure out where you spend all your money and so much more. Available at all Chapters Indigo stores and online at amazon.ca.

 

Tags: financially distressed, financial wellness, employee financial education

Pension Providers’ Obligations to Provide Financial Education

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Thu, Jul 18, 2013

By Andrew Harrison, Partner, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

Study after study has shown that there’s a desperate need for financial education for employees. But does an employer need or want to be the teacher? What exactly does a pension plan provider have to do?

A company that offers a retirement plan to its employees takes on a variety of duties. It will generally be a “fiduciary” in respect of the plan members. A fiduciary is subject to the highest legal standards. A fiduciary must behave as a person of ordinary prudence would in dealing with the property of another person. So what does that mean in practice in terms of financial education?

Pension and benefit laws and guidelines don’t use the term “financial education”. Rather, they impose obligations to provide “information” and “tools” about pension and savings plans. I refer to these broadly as “financial education” in this discussion.

Not surprisingly, different types of plans have different requirements. In a plan that provides defined benefits, the legal obligation to provide financial education is minimal. It arises when members leave the plan or retire, or undergo a significant life event, such as divorce or separation. As the member has very few decisions to make, there’s less need for financial education relating to the plan itself.

The picture is quite different for plans in which members make investment decisions. Plan members really can’t make effective decisions unless they have the ability to do so. That’s where financial education comes in.

Employee Financial education, Cap GuidelinesFor these types of plans, there is quite extensive guidance relating to financial education. The main source of this guidance is the Guidelines for Capital Accumulation Plans (known as the “CAP Guidelines”). The CAP Guidelines are voluntary, but pension regulators expect that pension plan administrators will comply with them. They are also seen as best practices.

Interestingly, the CAP Guidelines are silent about “financial education”. In fact, the CAP Guidelines say that the plan provider need not address the entire financial circumstances of the plan member. Having said that, the CAP Guidelines set out expectations regarding the things a plan member needs in respect of the plan. 

  • Investment Information.  The plan provider should provide investment information that will assist plan members in making investment decisions within the plan. This could include information about how investment funds work, information about different types of securities, and investment product guides. Information should be in plain language and in a form that is easy to read and understand.

  • Decision-making Tools.  The plan provider should provide tools that will assist plan members in making investment decisions within the plan. These could include calculators and projection tools, asset allocation models and investor profile questionnaires.

  • Ongoing Communication.  It’s not enough to provide information when the member joins the plan. Plan providers must keep the information current and provide additional information from time to time.

The CAP Guidelines also address investment advice. Plan providers are not required to provide investment advice. They may enter into an arrangement with a service provider to provide investment advice. They can also refer members to a service provider. There is no expectation that they will do so. Plan providers are generally reluctant to provide investment advice for fear of liability.

What happens if the plan provider doesn’t have the necessary expertise to provide financial education? It’s not an excuse to plead ignorance. If the plan provider lacks knowledge or expertise, it must educate itself or hire someone with the necessary skills. This issue is specifically addressed in the CAP Guidelines.

Plan providers also need to provide financial education when there’s a significant change to a plan. An example is when a defined benefit plan is converted to a defined contribution plan. Members need to understand their options and the implications of their decisions. This is an area that has caused concerns for plan providers.

Plan providers often create internal committees to oversee the operation of the plan. There are several benefits to having a committee or other governance structure to help with the administration of the plan.

  • There’s a clear focus on who is responsible for the administration of the plan and the provision of the financial education.

  • Qualified people can be put on the committee, and committee members can get training in their roles.

  • The committee can document its processes and decisions.

  • The committee can also be responsible for interacting with and supervising service providers.

  • Plan members know whom to approach with questions.

  • Overall, this structure helps satisfy fiduciary obligations.

Andrew Harrison, BLGAndrew Harrison is a partner in the Toronto office of Borden Ladner Gervais LLP. He is the National Leader of the Firm's Pension and Benefits Group. Andrew has a broad financial services and commercial practice, with a focus on pension and benefits law, investments and funding and financial institutions law. Andrew has advised many different participants in pension and benefit arrangements, including plan administrators, employers, boards of directors, trustees, insurance companies, investment managers and plan beneficiaries. He also advises financial institutions on regulatory matters, and businesses on corporate and commercial matters affecting them.

Financial Education White Paper Series

Tags: Capital Accumulation Plan Requirements, Employee Litigation, employee financial education

Providing Employee Financial Education - A Litigator's Perspective

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Mon, Jul 15, 2013

A LitigEmployee Financial Educationation Lawyer’s Perspective on the Benefits and Risks Associated with Providing Financial Education to Employees

by Markus F. Kremer, Borden Ladner Gervais LLP

As a litigator, I often meet employers for the first time when they are being sued by their employees. This gives me a unique perspective on employee financial education.  My focus is on how employers can conduct their business in order to try to avoid or win lawsuits.  Coming from this perspective, I see both risks and benefits in educating employees on financial issues.

What are the risks?

Words matter.  Employers need to remember that they may be legally responsible if they provide incorrect facts or bad advice to their employees.  As a result, you should always exercise caution when discussing financial issues with your employees.

Employers who want to minimize the risk of being sued should remember the following:

Know the statutory requirements.  Legislation requires the administrators of registered pension plans to provide certain information to members (e.g.: notices of plan amendments).  For registered pension plans, there are also prescribed forms that must be used when interacting with plan members.  Everyone who deals with employees needs to be aware of these statutory requirements.

Know the industry standards.  Best practices, industry standards and guidelines are not laws, but they can affect judges’ decisions.  They are like the instruction manual for a snow blower.  You are not breaking any law by disregarding the operating instructions.  If you injure someone, a judge must decide whether you acted reasonably.  That judge will consider the fact that you did not follow the instructions.

Whenever possible, give facts, not advice.  When you provide facts to your employees, you will only be liable for damages if the facts were wrong.  If you provide advice to employees, you will have to prove that the advice was reasonable if you are sued.  A court is not supposed to evaluate the reasonableness of the advice by using hindsight.  However, it can be hard to prove that advice that produced a bad result was reasonable. Suppose, for example, that you are discussing with your employees a particular investment option under a group RRSP.  When you tell your employees the historical rates of return for the option, you are providing facts.  This is unlikely to result in liability.  When you tell individual members to choose that particular option, you are giving them advice.  This is more risky.

Call in the experts.  When you hire an outside consulting firm to provide financial education, you benefit from their expertise.  This is particularly important if your company does not have that expertise itself.  If you select the right consultant and put the right agreement in place, this may also protect you from liability.

Keep records.  It will be easier to prove that you acted reasonably if you have detailed records of the information you provided to your employees.

What are the benefits?

There are two major benefits that flow from providing financial education to employees:

Happy employees don’t sue their employers.  Anyone can start a lawsuit by drafting a Statement of Claim and paying a filing fee.  There is no way to prevent someone from suing you.  The best insurance against employee claims is a happy workforce (and happy retirees).  Helping employees achieve their financial goals is the best way to make sure they will have no reason to sue you.

Education can be a way to manage expectations.  Whether your employees are happy or unhappy depends largely on whether their financial situation ends up being better or worse than they expected.  Keeping employees informed about risks and ensuring that their expectations are reasonable can prevent future problems.

What they don’t know could hurt you.  Employees have to prove that they relied on incorrect facts or bad advice that their employers provided to them.  It will be harder for your employees to prove blind reliance if they are well-educated.  An unsophisticated workforce is more likely to follow advice without using their own judgment.  If this results in financial losses, they will look to you for compensation.

The last word …

Providing financial education to employees is not without its risks.  However, if it is done properly, it may decrease the likelihood that your employees can sue you successfully.

Markus KremerMarkus Kremer is a partner in Borden Ladner Gervais LLP’s commercial litigation group, specializing in pension litigation.  Markus has appeared as counsel on pension matters before all levels of Court in Ontario, before the Federal Court and the Supreme Court of Canada, and before Ontario's Financial Services Tribunal.  He is a former member of the Ontario Bar Association's Pension & Benefits Section Executive and has published articles on a wide range of pension topics.  He has litigated pension cases involving issues as diverse as: the ownership and distribution of surplus in a pension plan; payment of administrative expenses from pension funds; negligent administration of pension plans and negligent investment of pension funds; and employee misrepresentation claims.  He has represented both plaintiffs and defendants in pension class actions.  Markus was selected for inclusion in the 2010, 2011 and 2012 editions of The Best Lawyers in Canada in the area of Employee Benefits Law.

Employee Financial Education White Paper

Tags: Capital Accumulation Plan Requirements, Employee Litigation, employee financial education

The Tipping Point to a Successful Wellness Program

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Wed, May 08, 2013

{This post was originally written for the HRIA newsletter}

Financial WellnessSTRESS has the biggest impact on  workplace wellness. Many wellness programs have a strong focus on stress management that addresses the symptoms of stress but not the cause.

For decades now this has been a focus of many surveys and studies. The results of these studies have consistently identified the two principle causes of stress to be work and personal finances.

The impact of this stress has led to a myriad of health issues and behaviours that negatively affect the employee’s productivity and ability to conduct themself appropriately. Most companies already provide programs to help employees with their work stress but what about the bigger contributor to employee stress - personal finances?

Employee financial education must be a critical component of any wellness program because if the largest contributor to employee stress is not addressed, the effectiveness of any wellness program will be limited.

In 2009, Desjardin Financial did a survey and found that 61% of people cited personal finances as their #1 source of stress. In 2012, the Employee Financial Education Division found that 48% of employees felt their level of financial stress was high-to-overwhelming and that more than half (52%) indicated distress over financial matters contributed to irritability, anger, fatigue and sleeplessness. In fact, research from the Consumer Credit Council Services in the US found that employees who are financially distressed spend on average an hour a day at work dealing with their personal finances.

To quickly understand if your organization’s employees may be struggling with personal finances, take a look at drug benefits usage and EAP service requests. Since 2008, Shepell fgi has reported that the number of EAP requests for help with personal finances has exceeded all other EAP requests combined.

A comprehensive financial education program for employees that addresses much more than just pensions and retirement will have a significant impact on reducing the financial stress of employees. Employee financial education isn’t the only solution to substantially reducing employee stress, but it needs to be part of the solution.

A short story to illustrate the point:

Barbara woke up early as usual to start her day and to enjoy a few minutes of quiet before her husband Mike and two children got up. Sitting in the kitchen, lingering over a cup of coffee, her mind started racing through the many things she needed to do. Once again she had awoken with a headache, which she strongly felt as she looked around the kitchen and saw the mail sitting in a neat pile. Barb slowly stood up to get some Tylenol and as she fussed with the protective cap she glanced down at the mail pile noting, for the hundredth time, that these bills needed to be handled. Then, her household began waking and it took her mind away from the stress of bills and finances and back to getting on with the day.

Barbara arrived at work, head still pounding, and reviewed the tasks ahead. A reminder popped up, saying that she needed to get her son Brandon some new skates for this weekend’s hockey tournament.

After work, Barb and Brandon went out to get his new skates and she couldn’t believe how expensive they were, especially since they were only going to last him one year. At the cash register, the cashier looked at Barb and said “I’m sorry ma’am but your card has been declined. Do you have another one or would like to pay with cash or debit?” Embarrassed and slightly angry, Barb dug out her debit card and bought the skates.On the way home she called Mike and began to berate him about the credit card, asking why it had not been paid.

That evening and the next morning no one in the house was happy. Barb was STRESSED and didn’t feel like talking to anyone at the office. She sat quietly through the morning meeting and could only think about the night before. Barb’s boss, Sarah, called her into her office just before lunch to ask what was going on. They talked and Sarah told her to take the afternoon off and go to the gym to attend two of the new wellness workshops.

Barb really got into the yoga class and the teacher welcomed anyone who wished to stay for a session on mindfulness meditation. Barb enjoyed the meditation and found that she was much calmer, relaxed, and de-stressed at the end of it.

Barb was feeling much better as she arrived home earlier than usual and was pleasantly surprised to find the house was empty and quiet, noting that Mike had uncharacteristically cleaned up the kitchen before leaving in the morning. She was thinking how great it was to feel relaxed for a change when she saw the pile of bills. Instantly, she was angry. She could feel the stress and anxiety come flooding back as the heat in her shoulders built, her blood pressure mounted and another one of her headaches started. Barb grabbed the pile of bills and threw it across the kitchen as she started cry. A moment later her daughter walked in with a frightened look on her face. Barb quickly tried to compose herself and reassure her daughter that she was just stressed out and there was nothing for her to worry about. She gave her a big hug as tears began coming back, and she vowed to get their finances in order once and for all.

Later that evening as Barb and Mike went through all their bills, Barb thought back to how relaxed she was after the afternoon of yoga and mindfulness and realized it was all for nothing. She was just as stressed now as she was before. As she and Mike talked while pouring over all the statements, they both realized that they needed help with their finances. If only their wellness program addressed personal finances. 

Financial Education White Paper Series

Tags: Employee wellness, workplace wellness, financial wellness, employee financial education

The Limitations Financial Institutions Face When Providing Financial Education

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Wed, May 01, 2013

Don Stewart, the former CEO of Sun Life Financial, speaks at the 2012 Financial Education in the Workplace Roundtable about the limitations organizations face when providing financial education to employees.

Transcript:

Donald: I think they face the same general limitations as every business, which is every business needs employees to be well placed to help that business thrive and prosper. And, financial education as I said earlier is one of many things that businesses have to worry about. The various financial providers you mentioned such as the banks, the insurance companies, the investment companies and even the pension funds obviously have an advantage in the stock and trade is financial matters, but it fully, they may not be quite as well placed as others because of course, they got to consider their own financial products in that and that might or might not lead to perceptions of non-neutrality.

To find out more about financial education in the workplace, read the recently published whitepaper,Financial Literacy for Employees: Understanding What Makes An Effective Financial Education Program.

Tags: financial wellness, employee financial education, corporate financial literacy

Providing Better Financial Education to Employees

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Fri, Apr 26, 2013

Don Stewart, former CEO of Sun Life Financial, speaks at the 2012 Financial Education in the Workplace Roundtable about what financial and benefit providers can do to improve their communication with employees.

Transcript:

Donald: Oh I’m very firm believer in that we can all do better in all of our businesses. And the work of the task force in financial literacy clearly demonstrated that the financial service providers can do better, need to do better, have opportunities to do better in financial communication. And we cite a quite dramatic example of information going to customers that was considerably too complex than it need to be to deliver its key message.

To find out more about financial education in the workplace, read the recently published whitepaper,Financial Literacy for Employees: Understanding What Makes An Effective Financial Education Program.

Tags: financial wellness, employee financial education, corporate financial literacy

The Economic Impact of Employee Financial Education

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Wed, Apr 24, 2013

Gary Rabbior, President of the Canadian Foundation for Economic Education (CFEE), speaks at the 2012 Financial Education in the Workplace Roundtable about how financial education improves relationships between employers and employees.

 

Transcription:

Gary: There’s two dimensions in being an economics, you have micro economics and macro economics. I don’t know macro basis within individual companies not only can it provide benefits to the employees. It can helps in a better relations between employer and employee. If you’re actually working together for the betterment of the lives of your employees, employees are going to be appreciative of that. It ultimately will manifest itself and gonna change in the workplace.

On the macro level, the more that we can do this across the society, individual households collectively can better attended their financial affairs to the collective activities that we would go on various workplaces across the country. If in fact, we get the benefit that we could foresee from employers in the sense of higher productivity, happier employers or creativity that comes from less anxiety, then we can collectively benefit as a society too from those kind of outcomes achieve in our companies. 

To find out more about financial education in the workplace, read the recently published whitepaper,Financial Literacy for Employees: Understanding What Makes An Effective Financial Education Program.

Tags: financial wellness, employee financial education, corporate financial literacy

The Importance of Financial Education in the Workplace

Posted by Frank Wiginton on Fri, Apr 19, 2013

Don Stewart, former CEO of Sun Life Financial, speaks at the 2012 Financial Education in the Workplace Roundtable about why financial education in the workplace is important.

Transcript:

Donald: Financial literacy’s is an important topic for many reasons including the fact that where is getting a more complicated place, so it’s more difficult to make decisions, because there is more choice, there is more complexity and in some cases there is significant economic challenge out there. So to get it right for your financial economic situation is becoming increasingly challenging and it’s therefore important to know more about the basics, about your choices and why you should do certain things and stay away from other choices. Personally, I feel very strongly that workplace is an appropriate venue for financial training. It’s a place that many of us spend a great deal of time at. We have the resources of technology available at the workplace for many of us and the employer is in a position to provide education center around wanting the number of cases, a very comprehensive range of benefit and savings programs for employees.

To find out more about financial education in the workplace, read the recently published whitepaper,Financial Literacy for Employees: Understanding What Makes An Effective Financial Education Program.

Tags: financial wellness, employee financial education, corporate financial literacy