Employee financial literacy – the benefits to employers

Following on from my previous blog relating to the general need for a vastly improved level of financial literacy across the nation as a whole, it is reasonable to ask why any such initiative should be linked to the workplace rather than through some other mechanism, particularly for smaller businesses already drowning in “add-ons” to the basic notions of trying to trade and make a surplus at the end of the week.

One basic reason is that working provides structure to our lives and the workplace is the one environment which provides the necessary routine, discipline and camaraderie for us to focus in and confront our “gremlins”. Once out of this arena, confidence and motivation will dissipate whatever good intentions may have existed. “Tough” you may say.

So there has to be more to it than that. There have to be positive reasons why employers should take it on board. There are. But let us be clear – employers are only being asked to provide an enabling mechanism – possibly a speaker and a room that is available at lunchtime or after work.

However, more than that there are some very positive reasons why employers should see it is in their interests to support the idea.

Firstly, there is strong evidence to suggest that stress, lack of concentration and lack of productivity are all being impacted by individual financial worries so much so that these worries account for a significant amount of time off work and a much greater amount of time at work dwelling on financial concerns rather than working.

Secondly, in an era when pensions and pension provision are changing rapidly it has to be to everyone’s advantage for people to be able to take on board what is happening to their own pensions and how better they might participate in what their employer is putting forward, Or, if not, they should understand fully the implications of alternative courses of action. At present there is just a huge “reality gap” between what people are saving and what they need to save.

This leads us to the third point which is that clear retirement plans will lead to a smoother transition from work to non-work at the most appropriate time, in the most appropriate manner following open and meaningful discussion between employer and employee. Financial planning is only the monetary expression of life planning in general and this includes all manner of things at all stages of life; flexible working, sabbaticals, when is the need for advancement and when is the time to ease off, to name but a few.

Fourthly, when finding appropriately skilled workers is going to be increasingly difficult this will promote loyalty, improve morale and provide the space for them to focus on their jobs. And in a world of increasing corporate social responsibility it will signal an organisation which is good to work for and good to deal with.

Lastly, it cannot be overstated that the core of good personal financial discipline runs totally parallel to good financial discipline in any arena. Those who have the right attitudes and mindsets will also use them for the good of the organisation.

However, do beware of the dangers of ambiguity. One organisation I worked for had a well meaning code of conduct which included the exhortation “Treat the company’s assets as though they were your own”. Unfortunately, I had a colleague who did exactly that!

The need for personal financial education

There is now a growing amount of feeling and of evidence that the general level of financial literacy in the country must be improved substantially. This is the only way that individuals are going to be in a position to manage financially through their lives and into retirement and, more immediately, out of the situations which have been caused by the recession and, to put it mildly, by the extremely relaxed attitude people have taken towards saving and indeed basic financial housekeeping over the recent past.

We are, by no means, alone in this view. Just as the global financial re-adjustments have taken their toll across the board so the realisation that there exists an enormous lack of knowledge and confidence in anything pertaining to personal financial matters has also hit many countries, pretty much simultaneously. And they are beginning to do something about it.

The question is “Where do you start?”

In the long term the place has to be at school level, and individuals have to be kitted out from the very beginning to meet life’s various challenges.

But how do we address the problem as it stands right now? There are many adults who are having to think through the implications of their own life planning; with children, schooling, housing, retirement, elderly relatives, care costs and so on all needing to be brought into the mix. Superimposed on this is the emerging awareness that life is going to go on for longer than we had previously thought and that we’re all going to have to come to some kind of a view about the balance between the working and non-working portions that we are planning for. The notion of retirement, as such, will be increasingly seen as redundant.

For those older workers who are already quite a way through their working lives the potential to review and revise decisions previously made may be extremely limited. And we are now likely to be facing a period of acute and extended austerity if we are not to saddle future generations with an intolerable financial burden.

Gradually crystallising is the recognition that the most suitable place for this financial education to take place is within the work environment. Some far-sighted organisations are already putting schemes in place but, for those who are not yet, they should recognise that there exist enormous benefits, all ways round, in introducing some form of general financial education for their employees.

Pardon me boy – is this the day for silver surfers?

Silver Surfers’ Day – This Friday, May 21st

While going through my inbox a couple of days ago I came across a piece entitled “Chichester Design helps over-50s get online with Silver Surfers’ Day”.  This, of course, reminded me that this very worthwhile event is upon us again and this time has enlisted the help of such icons as Sir Terry Wogan and Dame Vera Lynn.

At in my prime we are very much a computer based organisation, know the potential and the benefits of being computer and internet literate, and very much support this initiative. So we are certainly going to give it a plug.

But before we do, just our usual little rant. We are in the business of convincing the world (or whoever wants to listen) that those over 50 are very much part of the mainstream; in the workplace, in the midst of the family, and in society at large. So I took a little tour of the Silver Surfers’ Day website and entered the door marked “Music Maestro”. I must admit I like free music as much as anybody. But imagine my horror at what I found.

I was brought up on Glenn Miller music (unless I could escape to my room). My parents played it all the time. They danced to it during the war, long before I was born. Anyone who was about twenty at that time is now in their mid to late eighties! Hardly music to appeal the vast majority of the over 5Os then. I rest my case.

However, back to the Day itself.

Check out these links and see where they take you.

http://www.chichesterdesign.co.uk/blog/chichester-design-helps-over-50s-get-online-with-silver-surfers%E2%80%99-day/

http://www.silversurfersday.org.uk/

http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/entertainment/8679999.stm

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b00sbdjn/Jeremy_Vine_14_05_2010/

Let’s separate older workers and pensions issues

News today of a survey of HR Directors* which shows that 75% are against having the Default Retirement Age increased or abolished.  Within this figure 85% give as a reason that it would result in fewer opportunities for younger staff, while 70% believe it would lead to problems associated with performance diminishing with age. 74% see problems with ongoing funding of pensions.

Overall this is depressing news. The arguments about younger worker opportunities and older worker performance are ill-founded and fatuous and can be ascribed only to lack of thought and/or ignorance on the part of those who responded in this way.

However, the funding of pensions is a different issue and should not be considered alongside the other arguments.  The pension an organization provides and on what basis is something that can be changed and obviously needs to be in light of our ageing workplace demographic.

Pensions aside, the other arguments are founded on a judgment made of people purely on a single criterion: chronological age.

What this means logically is that an employer has no worries about fewer opportunities for younger staff or an employee’s diminishing performance, and/or feels no compunction to address them, until the magical time a person turns 65 (or whatever their DRA) when suddenly it becomes so important that it is a basis for wanting to get rid of that person.

Surely this is discrimination of the highest order.

*Click on this link to read more: survey of 189 HR heads by IRS, published exclusively by XpertHR

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