St. Joseph’s Healthcare Hamilton went back to the basics of budgeting and planning when it hosted a recent series of financial education sessions for employees.

The idea to run the sessions this fall came from reports on the hospital’s employee assistance program, according to Marlene Hall, director of human resources. “Of the work-life services, the second or third highest always seems to be financial consultations,” she says.

“We heard of other places offering these types of series to staff, so we brought in the credit union that our employees use here and we asked them if this was something they’d be comfortable to do with our employees and suggested some of the topics that would be helpful. It was really basic things we were trying to focus on.”

Read: How to bring financial literacy into the workplace

The six sessions covered budgeting basics, debts and loans, learning to save, buying a home, planning ahead and pensions. The first session was “really basic,” says Hall, noting it included information on how to create a budget and how employees can live within their means. The planning ahead session included information about investing, while the pension primer covered the hospital’s defined benefit pension plan.

After inviting employees to sign up for the sessions, 56 people attended in person. The hospital also recorded each session and made the videos available on its wellness website. “Given the nature of the hospital business, it’s not easy for clinical staff to take time away from their units, so this provides them with the opportunity to view these sessions at a later date when it’s more convenient for them,” says Hall.

Read: 71% of employers to focus on employees’ financial well-being: survey

The hospital also invited employees to share their feedback in order to plan future sessions. “If we do something again, we would focus more on giving them a tool to do budgeting and go a bit more in-depth where they wanted more depth,” says Hall.

Overall, those who attended said the financial sessions had given them greater confidence to apply what they learned to their day-to-day lives, while some said it helped them to become more financially aware. “The feedback, basically, was that they did enjoy the simple strategies that they could easily implement and they loved that we covered the basics, the keys of what they need to know around finances,” says Hall.

She does note, however, that the organization has to be careful about not representing itself as its employees’ financial advisor. “We can’t cross a boundary there, giving financial advice to people, so we have to be careful how we present that information,” she says.

Read: Beware the legal risks of providing financial advice to staff

While it was the first time the hospital has offered a series of financial education sessions, it has offered a retirement planning seminar to employees once a year for the past two years. Staff can bring their spouse or partner, and representatives from the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan come in for the presentation. “We ask the staff to bring in their pension statements, so as they walk them through a sample, they can go through their own pension statements and understand what all the pieces are in it,” says Hall.

The hospital has also offered employees access to one-on-one pension sessions that Hall says have been very popular. “They are just short sessions, but if they’ve got specific questions about their own situation, they’ve got maybe a 15-minute appointment,” she says. “People fly in there to do that. They just really love it. They come in for about four days and they book them solid.”

The hospital spreads the word about all of the sessions through its weekly email bulletin and posters in its elevators and each unit.

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