How employers are supporting employees’ financial literacy

It’s no surprise that FreshBooks takes its employees’ financial literacy seriously.

The Toronto-based accounting software firm regularly holds lunch-and-learn workshops and hosts subject manner experts on a wide range of financial wellness topics, including investing basics and ethical investing, mortgages, building up savings and several aspects of tax preparation during tax season. It also offers access to advice on retirement and financial planning, bankruptcy and insolvency and debt consolidation through the company’s employee assistance program.

“We have about five generations [working] here and it’s about trying to make sure we’re including everyone and all their various challenges along the way,” says Sue DiPoce, FreshBooks’ chief people officer.

Read: How to bring financial literacy into the workplace

Alongside Financial Literacy Month in November, Benefits Canada spoke with several Canadian employers about how they’re supporting employees’ financial literacy.

While FreshBooks doesn’t have any month-specific initiatives, DiPoce says the company feels employees’ financial health is critical. “We think of each one of our FreshBookers as bringing their whole self to work, and our whole self is about what we do every day at work, it’s about our family situation at home, our financial situation [and more]. We want to make sure . . . that we’re as helpful as we can be to help educate them and foster more prudence around people taking good care of themselves and the people around them.”

The Arthritis Society also fosters learning by encouraging its staff to attend webinars hosted about eight times a year by the company’s pension provider on financial wellness topics such as building a financial plan, getting ready for retirement and preparing a will.

Read: Majority of Canadians want financial education in the workplace: survey

It also shares email communications from its EAP provider covering the “subjective” side of financial wellness: making sure employees feel well-equipped to manage their financial concerns and helping them become aware of their financial stressors, says Cheryl McClellan, the Arthritis Society’s chief operating officer. The EAP communications also cover topical issues such as making extra contributions to a registered retirement savings plan before the income tax deadline or, most recently, budgeting tips for the holiday season.

McClellan says the organization prefers to use resources from its providers to give its employees a sense of independence. “We want people to feel a level of confidentiality and assurance that they’re navigating their personal financial health and decisions with a degree of autonomy that’s not biased by the Arthritis Society in any way. What we try to do is make sure that we’re providing resources and opportunities for people to . . . [gain] financial skills and literacy and confidence, [and break] through the barriers they may have in their own understanding.”

Read: Western moves beyond pensions in week of workshops

Meanwhile, meal-kit company HelloFresh Canada brings in experts to discuss more generic financial planning topics with its employees. “A lot of millennials aren’t too familiar with financial planning, so this is a great first step,” says Denisha Gunathas, HelloFresh’s human resources business partner.

From there, employees can also use their benefits and EAP providers to develop an online mock-up of their financial situation or speak with a financial planner one-on-one to work on a financial or retirement plan that’s tailored to them.

Agnico Eagle Mines Ltd. distributes personal finance- and pension-related communications from its pension provider, as well as its own HR and finance departments and pension committee. For permanent employees, it also provides access to a consultation with a financial planner through their benefits plan and financial planning support through their EAP if they’re experiencing stress related to their finances.

Read: Allstate staff get 30-minute sessions with retirement consultant

In addition, the organization hosts group training and information sessions on its pension plans, in conjunction with its provider and organized by the pension committee, spokesperson Natalie Frackleton wrote in an email to Benefits Canada. Every year or two, it also provides mandatory training sessions on personal finance and benefits, covering topics such as credit management, personal investing, beneficiaries and more.

In 2020, Agnico is implementing a financial literacy pilot project at its office in Rouyn-Noranda, Quebec. Employees will have access to three modules, developed by the youth resource centre in the region and Desjardins Group, on how to develop a personal budget, personal credit management and striking the right balance between spending and saving.

“We will test the content with our employees . . . to see if it is relevant and of interest to offer the program to a larger group of employees in other locations,” said Frackleton.

Read: Mental and emotional health spilling over to financial stress: study