Understanding-The-Link-Between-Financial-Wellbeing-and-Mental-Health - woman with hands on head feeling stressed at desk

Understanding The Link Between Financial Wellbeing and Mental Health

David Malmborg
February 1, 2023
October 9, 2022

Most employees agree that the new benefits they want most are financial wellness and mental health support. While many companies know they need these benefits, most aren't sure how to implement them or how they are connected.

74% of employees say that financial wellness benefits are important to them from an employer.

76% say that mental health benefits are critical when looking for a new employer.

In this article, I'll cover:

  • The challenges employees are currently facing regarding financial wellbeing and mental health, and how they are connected
  • Why financial wellness and mental health benefits are so important
  • How employers can start supporting employees in these areas

This article is a recap of our webinar with Spencer Barclay, CEO and Founder of Savology. You can watch the entire webinar from 2022 on Understanding The Link Between Financial Wellbeing and Mental Health below.  

Challenges Regarding Mental Health and Financial Wellbeing

You wake up, and you are immediately in a rush. Get yourself ready. Get the kids off to school. Handle some personal to-dos. Then, you sit at your desk and try to work, but that argument with your spouse yesterday keeps popping into your mind. When the workday is finally over, you go to the grocery store and balk at the total price, worried to check your bank account later. By the end of the day, you are exhausted and aren't sure how to recharge your batteries.

If you're a human being, you've likely had days like this. Being rushed, stressed, under pressure, busy, and living paycheck to paycheck is normal and even the expectation.

Nearly all of us have been stressed about our finances, and anyone that has ever been stressed has experienced a mental health challenge.

Mental health and financial wellness challenges are universal, no matter your background, salary, or upbringing. Nearly all of us deal with these stressors at some point.

And now, since COVID and a wave of other tough worldwide events, people are more stressed than they've been in a long time.

We've reached an era where 401ks and health insurance plans aren't enough. Employees are demanding more support in more areas of their lives, especially their financial wellness and mental health.

Related: How HR Leaders Can Help Employees With Self-Care

Financial Wellbeing Challenges

71% of employees are in debt, and 38% do not contribute to a retirement plan. Most Americans live paycheck to paycheck—even people with high-paying jobs.

Financial stress can feel especially challenging to tackle. It can be hard to ask for help.

A common misconception I've heard is that financial planners are for people that are already rich. In fact, I believed this myself for a while!

Most people do not work with a financial planner and don't have clear money goals.

Put those stressors on top of everything else, and it's no wonder that financial stress—from savings to debt to retirement—is one of the top stressors in America.

"If you're living paycheck to paycheck, what you're worried about is the next two weeks, you're not worried about what happens six months from now, a year from now, let alone 20 or 30 years from now. And so they can't make an impact on their debt or their retirement savings, because if you don't feel like you have enough money to live the next two weeks, you definitely don't have enough money to pay off your debt,"—Spencer Barclay of Savology

About 60% of employees say their productivity at work is lessened due to financial stress, leading to even more financial wellness and mental health challenges.

Related: Why Financial Wellbeing is Critical for Employees

Mental Health Challenges

Mental health is similar to physical health. It needs nurturing and self-care. Otherwise, it suffers.

When people neglect self-care, it is common to experience employee burnout, which negatively affects productivity and overall wellbeing. When someone is stressed about their finances, their mental health suffers, and vice versa.

About 26% of adult Americans are suffering from a diagnosable mental health issue today. Odds are, someone in your company is struggling.

The silver lining here is that your company is in a great position to help people in both of these areas.

Related: Mental Health vs Mental Illness: What’s the Difference?

What Companies Can Do to Support Employee Financial Wellness and Mental Health

Here are four steps to support employees with financial wellbeing and mental health benefits:

  1. Provide a mental health and financial wellness program
  3. Designate "Wellness Champions" at your company
  5. Train managers on wellness
  7. Hold wellness workshops

1. Provide a mental health and financial wellness program

About 42% of the workforce is made up of Millennials and Gen Z. It is important to adapt your benefits package and recruiting strategy now so that your company is prepared to attract talent down the road.

Most people in these generations are expecting financial wellness and mental health benefits.

Providing just a mental health benefit or just a financial wellness benefit won't usually suffice because every employee has different needs. Some may need to talk to a financial advisor to help lift them out of a tough financial situation, which will in turn help boost their mental health.

Others may need to talk to a counselor to get out of a negative cycle of thinking.

Regardless, everyone wants to work for an employer that really cares for them and their wellbeing. Providing both mental health and financial wellness benefits will help show that your company prioritizes your people first.

98% of companies already provide or plan to provide mental health resources to support employee wellbeing.

In 2019, about 53% of employers provided financial wellness benefits, according to SHRM. Since the pandemic, even more companies are considering financial wellness benefits a high priority.

If your leadership team isn't on board, here's an article on how to convince them.

Related: Your Guide to the EAP Implementation and Search Process

2. Designate "Wellness Champions" at your company

One of the most effective catalysts for change in a company is for leadership to lead the discussion.

When company leaders share their personal experiences with mental health—and even financial wellness—employees start to relax and feel like they can bring their whole selves to work. They realize that it is okay to have struggles, and they begin to open themselves up to receiving help.

We also recommend having an internal "champion" that is an expert on mental health and/or financial wellness at your company. Their job is to provide employees resources on mental health and personal finances. Wellness Champions can also:

  • Help employees sign up with your company EAP, mental health program, or financial wellness program
  • Help employees navigate 401ks and other financial benefits
  • Direct employees to hotlines and other mental health resources in case they are in a crisis
  • Act as a listening ear and helping hand when employees are struggling
  • Educate the team on mental health and financial wellness through workshops

Wellness Champions should be trained to support employees with their financial and mental wellness. The Mental Health First Aid course is a good place to start.

Having Mental Health Champions ensures that HR leaders and managers have an expert resource to direct employees to. Employees often come to HR professionals for mental health and financial advice; this helps take that responsibility off of HR's shoulders and onto another expert's.

If your company is large enough, it may be worth having a Financial Wellness Champion and a Mental Health Champion.

3. Train managers on wellness

Now that you have a Wellness Champion or two, you can start training your managers on how to navigate mental and financial wellness conversations. They can help you train managers on how to respond when someone is struggling. Managers should also be trained on which resources to direct employees to for specific struggles.

98% of managers feel like they need more training. Manager training helps support the health and wellbeing of your managers by:

  • Helping them be prepared for potentially uncomfortable situations
  • Enable them with tools to help themselves and others
  • Setting expectations for acceptable behavior in certain situations

Here are some more resources that can help guide your manager training efforts:

4. Hold wellness workshops

Finally, HR teams are tasked with keeping the financial wellness and mental health support for your workforce going. A great way to do that is to hold occasional workshops and company events that focus on supporting wellbeing.

Have your Wellness Champions lead these events. Here are some wellness workshop event ideas:

  • How to Access Your Financial and Mental Health Benefits
  • Why You Should Take Breaks Throughout the Workday
  • How to Break a Negative Cycle (1. Talk to someone 2. Create new goals/systems 3. Make small habits that compound to great results)

Related: Health & Wellness Lunch and Learn

Watch the webinar on Understanding The Link Between Financial Wellbeing and Mental Health with Spencer Barclay, CEO and Founder of Savology and Amelia Wilcox, CEO and Founder of Nivati below:  

Stop stacking benefits. Start being well. Set a Nivati demo


By participating in/reading the service/website/blog/email series on this website, you acknowledge that this is a personal website/blog and is for informational purposes and should not be seen as mental health care advice. You should consult with a licensed professional before you rely on this website/blog’s information. All things written on this website should not be seen as therapy treatment and should not take the place of therapy or any other health care or mental health advice. Always seek the advice of a mental health care professional or physician. The content on this blog is not meant to and does not substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.

David Malmborg
David Malmborg