Creating a Budget for Your Financial Wellness Program

Calculator and business paperwork.

Creating a budget for a financial wellness program at your organization can be one of the cornerstones of the program’s success.

Spend too little on rollout and education about the program and you’ll see less-than-desirable results.

Spend too much and you’ll find diminishing returns per-employee as you expand the program.

How do you find the right balance when creating a budget to maximize your results?

Define your goals

Before you create a budget for financial wellness, first define your goals. Set realistic expectations of how much you can spend per employee.

For example, your goal may be to reduce workplace stress. If so, your costs may be different than implementing loan repayment benefits.

Define both short and long term goals of enrollment and engagement rates. Then, continually look to revise these goal numbers as you learn more about how employees are using their financial wellness benefits.

Healthcare costs can be directly linked to stress. Therefore, your goals may include decreases to healthcare costs as a result of new financial wellness benefits.

Calculate ROI/VOI of rollouts

Traditional ROI metrics may not be the best measures of success.

While healthcare savings or adoption rates may be a good start, many employers are now turning to VOIs. Value on Investments focus on softer numbers. They use employee happiness and absenteeism rates to understand how well a wellness program is working.

By using VOIs in addition to ROIs, you can get a more complete picture. When creating a budget, take into account all of the benefits your employees are receiving.

Examples of VOIs

  • Employee Wellbeing: Use periodic surveys to get an idea of how your employees feel about their financial wellbeing. Surveys can help you understand a financial wellness platform’s effectiveness beyond their obvious ROIs.
  • Sick Days: Absenteeism rates are next. They represent how many employees are taking off work to address their stress or mental health.

Examples of ROIs

  • Lower Healthcare Costs: Financial stress causes higher medical costs. Measure your employees’ usage of healthcare benefits. Then, watch their out-of-pocket medical expenses for managing their stress as their financial situations change.
  • Turnover Rates: High turnover rates are often the result of employees not receiving the support they need. Supporting employees through strong wellness programs can reduce their stresses. Thus, lowering employee turnover rates.

Guidelines for costs

Obviously, the cost of financial wellness program varies greatly depending on the number of employees you’re enrolling and how many benefits you’re including.

Additionally, ambiguity around the term “financial wellness” has skewed some industry averages — some employers provide things like student loan repayment and 401(k) services as part of their financial wellness initiatives, while others provide educational content to boost employees’ financial health.

On average, most independent financial wellness education and resources platforms average between $10–20 per employee, per year. Depending on the size of your organization, which resources are available, and available integrations, these costs may vary.

When looking at the cost of a financial wellness provider, consider the ROIs and VOIs each employee is likely to yield. In some cases, employers can see an average return of $3 for every $1 they invest in a financial wellness program.

Planning Rollout — budget for additional costs/time

In addition to the costs of enrollment in a financial wellness program, employers should also take into account the cost of ongoing education for employees, as well as the costs of campaigns and programs to encourage engagement.

When crafting a budget, consider the costs of email providers, automated campaigns, design assets, and financial incentives to reward employees for their engagement in the program.

We recommend quarterly engagement campaigns that reward employees for re-engaging with their benefits or completing a specific action, like connecting their retirement plan to their financial wellness platform.

These campaigns can be as simple as an email series or may include in-person coaching. Plan out a full year of engagement campaigns to average the costs of the campaigns over the entire year.

Evaluating Results

After you roll out a new financial wellness program or revamp your existing budget, you should wait before evaluating results. See how well your benefits are performing over the course of a year, not just after a few months. The newness of a benefit may spike engagement rates close to rollout dates and around campaigns.

Evaluate how employees feel about their benefits through informal questionnaires, as well as through their changed behaviors. If more employees are using their 401k than before, or their out of pocket medical expenses go down over the course of a year after rolling out a new benefit, it’s safe to assume that there’s a positive correlation.

Depending on the size of your organization, savings and results should be averaged over both the entire company and at the persona level. Personas at your company are quick snapshots of the types of people working at your business. C-suite executives and middle management may have different results than entry level workers investing in their retirement for the first time.


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