A 2019 survey by the American Payroll Association found 74% of U.S. workers would undergo financial problems if their paychecks were delayed by just one week.

On top of that, student loan debt continues to soar, many Americans don’t have enough retirement savings, and research shows that employee financial stress can cause poor health, absenteeism, and loss of productivity.

Consequently, employee financial wellness has become a top priority for employers.

However, it’s one thing to offer a financial wellness program, and another to successfully run it.

Naturally, you don’t want your investment going to waste. But it can happen if the program isn’t thoughtfully managed.

Below are four pitfalls causing financial wellness programs to flop.

1. Not Offering Employees What They Need

Financial wellness initiatives fail when employees don’t buy what the program is selling. Often, employees aren’t interested because the program takes a one-size-fits-all approach, rather than catering to their individual needs.

Financial stressors come in many forms, so it’s important to look beyond traditional offerings like retirement savings and financial literacy.

Also worthy of consideration are:

  • Budgeting
  • Student loan debt assistance
  • Financial coaching
  • Helplines for employees
  • Emergency savings accounts
  • Debt evaluation and counseling
  • Higher education planning
  • Tuition reimbursement
  • Educational savings plans
  • On-demand pay


To avoid making the wrong choices, survey your employees to find out which financial wellness offerings matter to them the most.


In Bank of America’s 2019 Workplace Benefits Report, “Employees rank advice from a professional as their top priority for a financial wellness program.” Coming in second and third, respectively, are information on financial topics outside of 401(k) education, and access to financial solutions that can aid employees with their entire financial lives.

While that’s good to know, it’s vital that you conduct a needs assessment of your specific workforce, as this will allow you to develop a targeted financial wellness program.


To quell employees’ fear about privacy, consider making the surveys anonymous.

2. Not Measuring the Program’s Effectiveness

Measuring the success of your financial wellness efforts tells you how the program is impacting your employees and the organization. This step is instrumental to building on the program’s strengths and rooting out its weaknesses. Skip this process and you’re likely to have a stagnant program that does not address the changing needs of your workforce and business.

By gauging the program’s efficacy, you can:

  • Improve offerings that showed (and still have) promise, but aren’t performing as expected.
  • Eliminate unnecessary benefits — such as those that were, but are no longer, useful to employees.
  • Decide whether it’s time to change the way you communicate and deliver financial wellness benefits.

Utilizing the appropriate metrics is key to getting meaningful data. Though what’s “appropriate” can vary by employer, studies reveal that employers are measuring financial wellbeing success based on:

  • Employee satisfaction
  • Retirement benefits use
  • Reduced stress

Certain metrics can indicate whether the program is favorably impacting employees. For instance, the program might be having a positive effect if:

  • You’re receiving fewer wage garnishments.
  • The number of employees taking paycheck advances has decreased.
  • You’re seeing drops in 401(k) loans, hardship withdrawals, and loan defaults.
  • Your employees are paying less in healthcare costs due to making more informed decisions.

Other metrics can highlight singular areas that might require special attention. For example, you’ve included on-demand pay in your financial wellness program so employees can have early access to their wages as needed.

By analyzing usage patterns, you can determine whether the on-demand pay feature is being misused and whether to step up financial education for this particular benefit.

3. Not Vetting Financial Wellness Vendors

The aforementioned Bank of America report shows that the number of employers offering financial wellness programs has more than doubled from four years prior, jumping from 24% in 2015 to 53% in 2019.

Considering this vast surge in demand, it’s not surprising that more companies are selling financial wellness services. But not all financial wellness vendors are legitimate, qualified, or trustworthy. It’s therefore critical that you vet potential vendors.

Failure to carefully screen vendors can have far-reaching consequences, such as:

  • Employees’ short- and long-term financial wellness needs not being met.
  • Dismal engagement rates due to poor support or technological drawbacks.
  • Your employees being bombarded with ads or solicitations from the vendor.
  • Financial advisors who do not have your employees’ best interests at heart.
  • Employees losing trust in the program and your organization.

Before shopping for vendors, consider developing a comprehensive Employee Financial Wellness Request for Proposal (RFP).

4. Not Having Clear Goals or a Sound Plan

You implemented a financial wellness program because you want to improve your employees’ overall financial health. But without clear goals for achieving that outcome, the program is likely to collapse.

Before launching a financial wellness initiative, you should know what you want to accomplish out of the program and how you will attain the desired results. Further, make sure you have a plan for overcoming potential obstacles.

For example, how will you tie the financial wellness program into your recruiting efforts? And, how will you get managers to support the program?

If there’s no plan for tackling potential challenges, you won’t know how to capably respond when they occur.

Having a strong mission, vision, and strategy is crucial to the program’s survival.

Do your employees need financial relief?

 You can assist by displaying a list of helplines on your breakroom wall.

Grace Ferguson Bio Pic

Grace Ferguson

Business Writer

Grace Ferguson is a business writer and blogger covering payroll, employee benefits, and human resources. She has vast experience serving as a payroll and benefits administrator for large and small businesses.