Empower employees with financial wellness education

Published Sunday, October 17, 2021 12:35 p.m.

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Companies are looking for new ways to attract and retain employees in what some economists and human resource experts refer to as “The Great Resignation.” In search of better pay and a more flexible work-life balance, people are leaving their current jobs in record numbers.

One of the ways companies stand out is by offering their employees unique and meaningful benefits. One path to consider is a financial wellness program that will help reduce financial stress for employees while improving the company’s benefit package.

A well-rounded financial wellness program offers tips and tools for saving in education. When it comes to solving the student debt crisis, the pressure is on. Nearly 43 million Americans, or one in eight people, have state student loan debt, according to the Department of Education. Student loan debt can delay life milestones like buying a home or starting a family. The stress of debt can also affect productivity in the office. It’s a trillion dollar problem, but incorporating educational savings into a financial wellness program can provide part of the solution.

Select an education savings program

A 529 plan is a tax-privileged education savings tool that can use a variety of means to help families avoid or minimize future student debts. Many 529 plans provide employers and their employees with free education – in person or virtual – on the benefits of higher education savings.

The largest provider of 529 plans, Virginia529, offers its free Virginia529 @ work service to help organizations help their employees achieve and achieve their financial goals. The service has been accepted by organizations large and small alike and the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

“We believe in the importance of a well-rounded financial wellness program, and that is one of the reasons we offer employees the opportunity to learn about savings for higher education,” said Ana Agud, work / life program manager at Virginia Tech. “Our employees know that this is an important topic and very much appreciate that we are planning training courses for them.”

For organizations looking to add an education savings program to their employee benefit package, here are a few simple steps to follow:

Establish the goals of your organization

Document the goals you want to achieve along with the measurable ways you can measure effectiveness. Is savings awareness the primary goal? Do you help reduce employee stress?

“We want employers to understand why savings in education are important. We want to make sure they envision the long-term results for their employees, ”said Jackie Ferrado, Community Relations Manager at WA529.

“This is an advantage for the future, not for the moment – and it is an ongoing work. We work closely with HR departments to connect with HR teams. We’re trying to present the program as a package that helps families understand 529s – from new parents to grandparents – whatever time of year their family is in. “

Connect with the 529 Employer Contact Program

Around 529 programs have dedicated contacts who can serve as a resource for employers. Managing relationships with her HR contacts is critical to Tami Foster, Employer Programs Director at CollegeInvest in Colorado.

“The meaning of 529 is not talked about enough. We have over 900 employers that we work with across the country. Everyone is stressed out to save up for education, and we’re breaking the information down into bite-sized pieces. “

In Colorado, for every dollar an employer pays into an employee’s CollegeInvest529 account, an employer receives a 20 percent tax credit, up to a maximum of $ 500 per employee per year. An employer could give up to $ 2,500 per employee and receive a tax credit of $ 500 for each person.

“We have two options: offering training to employers to share with employees on where to start with education savings, or the next level on how employers can contribute to 529 employee accounts – either way can help improve the wellbeing of the Improve employees, ”said Foster.

Spread the word

Make it clear to current and potential employees that your organization cares about individual financial wellbeing by offering a 529 session, including details in your internal communications, or updating your benefit package. For Shontelle Rivers, who leads work-life / wellness programs at TSA, this was critical:

“Virginia529 college savings webinars and presentations have been exceptional. The information provided to us has inspired and enabled our employees to save on training regardless of their salary level. There is a savings plan for everyone at every level, no matter where you are in your training and career planning. “

Plan for the future

How do you envision your company’s future savings efforts in the education sector? Be creative and repetitive and find different ways to share the information with employees at different stages of life.

“We use brochures for our new hires and all expectant mothers get a savings brochure. During the pandemic, we accepted and hosted webinars for all employees, ”said Rita Jensen-Jaouhari, Director of Benefits & HRIS and Assistant Director of Human Resources at Virginia Hospital Center.

“Our contact at Virginia529 offers customized support for our program. We have promotional materials that we can post on our employee portal for all employees to access, and we’re planning a mix of communication, on-site training, performance measurements, and webinars. “

When employers get involved to support education savings, it helps the organization, employee, and community by reducing debt burdens and empowering individuals to meet their financial goals.

Merrill Milani joined Virginia529 in 2019 as a Relationship Marketing Strategist. In this role, she is responsible for partnering with employers who want to educate their employees about saving for higher education and offer Virginia529 as a financial benefit. Milani received her BA in Psychology from the University of California, Irvine, and her MBA in Marketing from San Francisco State University.

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