Walmart Adds Financial Literacy Education Benefit

Kathryn Mayer By Kathryn Mayer July 25, 2023

In recent months, Walmart has beefed up mental health benefits, doubling the number of therapy and mental health coaching sessions it provides to all workers and their dependents.

Now it's focusing on another wellness component for employees: financial health.

The retail giant announced July 18 it is adding a new financial wellness benefit, offering free financial literacy education for all employees through online provider Khan Academy. The virtual course contains articles, videos and exercises in an effort to improve people's personal finance skills and covers topics including budgeting and saving; consumer credit; financial goals; loans and debt; insurance; investments and retirement; and taxes. Walmart is also opening the course to customers.

"We believe offering these unique financial offerings will empower people to live their best lives—in and out of the workplace," Kim Lupo, senior vice president of global total rewards at Walmart, wrote in a blog post announcing the benefit.

Lupo said financial stress is on the rise for most workers, including Walmart employees, and noted the correlation between financial, mental and physical health.

"We know if someone is experiencing financial stress, it can lead to significant physical and emotional health issues, like heart disease, depression and more—it's all connected," she wrote. "That's why we have been and continue to be focused on providing access to tools and resources to support total well-being."

The move by one of the nation's largest private employers comes as employee financial health has taken a big hit in recent months buoyed by the high cost of living and other economic pressures. MetLife's annual benefits survey, released in March, found that just 55 percent of employees said they are financially well, down from 64 percent who said so in 2022. A report from financial wellness firms Salary Finance and FinFit, released in April, found that workers at all income levels are feeling financial stress: Nearly 60 percent of those making under $55,000 per year feel financial stress, but roughly 40 percent of those making over $200,000 feel it too.

Benefits to help combat these concerns are increasingly popular among employees and employers. A May report from Morgan Stanley at Work found that roughly 69 percent of employees said they are paying more attention to reviewing their financial benefits in 2023, up 9 percentage points from last year, while recent PwC research noted that financial counseling, particularly financial education, is a desired perk among employees.

In general, workplace financial wellness offerings have increased in the past few years, Morgan Stanley found: The vast majority of HR leaders (89 percent) say their company now offers financial wellness programs, a 10 percentage-point gain from 2021. However, 1 in 4 HR leaders in that survey also said they are cutting back on employee financial benefits to prepare for a possible recession.

Brian McDonald, head of Morgan Stanley at Work, recently told SHRM Online that smart employers will instead keep investing in financial benefits as evidence that employees need them continues to grow.

"HR leaders … found that benefits that reduce financial stress are the most influential in employee job satisfaction, which speaks for itself," he said. "[R]etention and attrition will remain a risk for employers that are not offering crucial financial benefits that employees are now seeing not only as a standard, but also as a necessity."



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