Financial education will help avoid stress and ill-health

The extent to which financial education in the workplace can change employees’ behaviour and affect their wealth and health is being put to the test in an experiment launched by Axa.

The project will see half the employees of a company given tools and assistance to improve their financial capability, while the other half will receive no support at all. Those in the group benefiting from support will receive three distinct methods of financial guidance – one-to-one support with an IFA, a dedicated adviser telephone support service and some self-help guides, including online resources.

Group sessions on generic financial needs will also be given throughout the six month project.

Regular comparisons will be made on how each group are coping, both from a wealth and health perspective.

Research from Axa published last year found almost 25 million Britons are suffering from financial anxiety, and 1.4 million taking time off as a result.
The research concluded that money worries continue to be the biggest cause of stress and depression in the UK with stress-related illness costing £3.7 billion a year in lost productivity and healthcare costs. Axa is undertaking the six-month study with Story Worldwide – an international content marketing agency with offices in London, New York and Hong Kong. The results of the experiment will be published in November 2010.

Paul McMahon, managing director, Axa Corporate Benefits, who is due to join Friends Provident later this summer when the Axa life business moves across says:”There can be no doubt that the UK consumer faces a complex range of financial issues from high levels of personal debt to lack of planning for retirement. We know that the national annual savings gap now exceeds £27bn with 13m people at work having little, if any retirement provision. But while we know issues like this exist, there’s no agreement on what the solutions should be.

“We have previously asked the Government to take the lead in creating a more financially capable public by offering a set of incentives to both individuals and companies. We hope that this experiment will go some way to proving the benefits of allowing individuals to engage with money matters in a working environment which in turn will lead, we believe, to improved productivity, reduced sickness absence, greater employee engagement and enhanced loyalty to the employer.”