On a recent weekend away with a group of old university friends, the geography secondary schoolteacher among us was describing a ‘life skills’ module she’s required to teach on top of her core subject at the school she’s just started at. The lessons cover a whole range of areas, including cooking and mental health, but also crucially personal finances.
I was practically drooling. I vaguely remember doing some form of PSHE at secondary school and sixth form college, but am sure it never covered anything financial (or indeed generally that useful).
As a result, I am, I’ll freely admit, something of a finance dunce. Every time I see Dad he asks if I’m sure I’m getting the best interest rates on my current and savings accounts. Every time I resolve to do the research and potentially switch. And then never do.
And I’m sure I’m not much less savvy than the majority. Because no one really ever teaches you this stuff. Or at least they certainly didn’t used to – leaving you to muddle through picking up what you can from a baffling array of (often contradictory) advice from family and friends, and from that sometimes-helpful-sometimes-very-much-not, false friend: the internet.
So I’m heartened to hear personal finances are now a more solid part of the curriculum, even making it onto the maths curriculum. But what about those generations who like me missed out? What about those who missed that day at school? About those (I would argue the majority) who could do with regular touch points of info and advice as their life circumstances, and in line with this finances, evolve.
Survey after survey finds that employees would like this kind of support from their employers - that they would most trust this as a source of financial guidance. Yet survey after survey shows only a minority of organisations offer this including Neyber’s research, which finds that only three in ten employers feel they have a well-developed wellbeing strategy that encompasses personal finance, retirement planning and employee benefits.
Most shocking to me were those results relating to HR professionals. That four in ten said they don’t feel equipped to offer support if workers came to them with money troubles, doesn’t worry me too much. The point, I’d argue, is that HR professionals don’t have to be personal finance gurus themselves; they just have to know what kind of L&D and wellbeing interventions might best suit their workforce and help them tackle their money worries (boosting engagement and productivity in the process).
More concerning is that 45% of HR professionals don’t believe employees bring their money worries to work. This, as this research so clearly shows, just isn’t the case.
As an editor I sometimes worry financial wellbeing is one of those topics – though only hitting the mainstream HR lexicon a year or two ago – already done to death. This proves me – hearteningly from a journalistic standpoint, but otherwise disturbingly - very much wrong.
It shows that there is so much more to do, even to just get the message home that - in these uncertain and financially tough and complex times - a large percentage of your workforce will be sat there with some form of financial concern playing on their mind, sapping their mental and even physical health, and productivity. Because all eyes are, and should, be turning to you the employer - and HR department - to step up to the plate.