Public Release: 

Conference To Explore Issues Of Financial Stress And Worker Productivity

Virginia Tech

BLACKSBURG, Oct. 28, 1997 -- Employer sponsored retirement plans, investments, credit and money management, consumer laws and regulations: in the 1990s, people are expected to know about these topics and to manage their personal finances effectively. But where can they learn what they need to know?

Increasingly, the responsibility of providing personal finance education and services is falling to employers--not only because they have access to the resources that can make such programs a valuable employee benefit, but also because it saves them money in the long run by increasing employee satisfaction and improving productivity. Like programs many corporations now offer employees in substance abuse counseling and health and fitness, programs in personal finance employee education (PFEE) are proving to be a valuable investment for employers and a sought-after benefit for employees.

In fact, personal finance employee education is emerging as one of the most critical issues facing employers today, due in large part to E. Thomas Garman's groundbreaking research on the subject. Garman, a professor of consumer affairs and family financial management in the College of Human Resources and Education at Virginia Tech, is heading a nationwide effort to increase awareness of the problems created by poor financial behavior by employees and the way in which employer-sponsored "financial wellness" programs can help.

Wednesday and Thursday, Nov. 5 and 6, a conference on "Personal Finance Employee Education: Best Practices" will be held at the Hotel Roanoke and Conference Center. Participants will have the opportunity to share research information, and resources that promote the best practices of personal finance and employee education in the private and non-profit sectors, with the twin goals of increasing employee productivity and the employer's bottom line. Speakers will include more than 30 experts from industry, academia, and government. Among them:

  • Don M. Blandin, President, American Savings Education Council
  • Ann Foster, Economist, Division of Compensation Levels and Trends, Bureau of Labor Statistics
  • Peter J. Darby, Bureau of Personnel Management, Department of theUS Navy
  • Kristen Bender, Associate Consultant, Watson Wyatt
  • Jane Schuchardt, National Program Leader, Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service, US Department of Agriculture
  • Judith Cohart, Vice President, National Foundation for Consumer Credit
  • Grady Cash, President, Center for Financial Well-Being
  • Madeleine d'Ambrosio, Vice President, TIAA-CREF
  • William Pomeroy, President, The EDSA Group
  • Ray DiPaula, Corporate Retiree Relations Manager, United Parcel Service
  • Edie S. Milligan, President, Keeping Track, Inc.
  • Marysue J. Wechsler, Vice President, the PFE Group, Inc.
  • J.B. Maxwell, First Vice President, Gruntal and Company

Topics will include employer sponsored retirement plans, employee benefits, credit and money management, consumer laws and regulations, and financial education and worker productivity. Model programs discussed will include the US Navy's personal financial management program.

Garman, who is hosting the PFEE conference, has done extensive research in the areas of personal finance and worker productivity. According his recently published study:

  • approximately 15 percent of workers in the United States are experiencing stress from financial problems to the extent that their productivity on the job is negatively impacted
  • 25 to 30 percent of workers report high work stress, and among the five major risk stressors (relationships, work, health, crime/violence, and personal finance), personal finance is rated by workers as the number one source of stress
  • over one-third of America's workforce report that money worries sometimes hamper job performance
  • half of workers who do not contribute to their pension plans fail to because they have credit and money management problems.

"A growing number of employers now realize that financial education is a key factor in both recruitment and retention," Garman says. "Workers who overuse credit and mismanage their personal finances are costly to their employers because they are overstressed, which results in absences, overuse of health care resources, more accidents, and poor workplace morale. They also are less likely to participate in an employer's retirement plan. In contrast, the best workers typically are people who are in control of their personal finances and who maximize their pension contributions. These employees are happier with their financial lives and it shows in their work. Personal financial wellness increases employee productivity, and our 'best practices' conferences will prove it beyond a doubt."

Garman estimates the return on employer investment in a personal finance employee education program is probably a 5 to 1 dollar ratio, as is the case in other employee assistance programming. "Offering financial wellness services for employees is a win-win situation for both employers and employees," says Garman.

The "Personal Finance Employee Education: Best Practices" conference is sponsored by the Commonwealth of Virginia and Virginia Tech's Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement (COTA), an outreach program established to foster economic development and continuing education initiatives with a special emphasis on connecting university research to the needs of Virginia's industrial, commercial, governmental, and professional organizations.

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For information, contact E. Thomas Garman, professor and COTA Fellow, at 540-231-6677; fax 540-231-3250; or e-mail pfee@vt.edu. The Personal Finance Employee Education Web site, located at www.chre.vt.edu/~/pfee, contains pertinent research papers and dozens of quotes from experts nationwide. The full "Personal Finance Employee Education: Best Practices" conference program, information on presentations, and registration materials are also available on the PFEE Web site.


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