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Basic financial knowledge can benefit your employees

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The stresses of everyday life — family, retirement planning, college costs, health care, and the challenge of getting from the first to the 31st of every month without falling further behind — affect the way many people work.

These concerns are not left at the front door of their homes in the morning; they sit on the shoulders of many people throughout the day. A lack of basic financial knowledge only compounds those worries.

According to a Pricewaterhouse-Coopers 2011 Financial Wellness Survey, among U.S. workers, 29 percent of respondents said personal financial issues have been a distraction at work. Forty-eight percent said they've handled their personal finances during work hours.

The survey also found that financial stress is not just an issue for young and low-income workers. The time spent by all employees on personal financial issues while at work can negatively impact an employer's bottom line. Financial stress can lead to an increase in work hours spent dealing with personal financial matters, days when employees are late, and days when employees are not able to work. Situations like these can cause a decrease in workplace productivity.

There's an opportunity here, however, for employers to help their employees address these issues in a positive manner. In-house financial literacy seminars have proven to be very effective. These sessions teach people the basics of financial literacy and give them the tools to begin effectively managing their family finances.

The Principal Financial Group of Des Moines, Iowa, reports that 92 percent of its employees who took advantage of employer-sponsored personal financial planning sessions agreed to begin taking positive family financing steps. Impressively, 80 percent actually followed through with those steps.

Other employers who participated in employee financial literacy programs have seen noticeable decreases in job turnover, work time lost and absenteeism while at the same time realizing increases in job performance.

The Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City conducted a survey that found that employees who participated in financial education make fewer requests for pay advances, are more likely to participate in and contribute to their retirement and savings plans and, most importantly, experience a decrease in financial stress and a boost in productivity.

In-house financial literacy programs work.

The Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accounts understands the potential of a good financial literacy program. Through its network of speakers bureau members, the PICPA has developed financial literacy programs that are offered to area employers free of charge.

Employers are only asked to provide meeting venues, advertise the programs to their employees and give them the time they need to attend these educational sessions. The PICPA has received positive feedback from the programs' participants and the employers involved, indicating they felt the time invested in these programs was well worth the effort.

PICPA programs highlight basic investment information, the effects of good and bad credit habits, family budgeting, retirement plans, tax planning and many other personal financial issues. Programs can be tailored to fit the needs of the employees.

The CPAs who volunteer to present these sessions have a great deal of experience speaking to large groups of people. Some have college teaching experience, and all have a passion for helping people learn the tools they need to navigate through the oft-times confusing rules and regulations of modern family finances.

The PICPA also offers a great deal of information online at Click on the "Resources" button and then choose "Consumers" from the drop-down menu to find a CPA, ask questions online, request a speaker, watch financial literacy videos or get the latest news on personal finance and trends.

For employers who want make an investment in reducing the tension and worry of today's hectic family life and help their employees reduce financial stresses, the PICPA stands ready, willing, and able to provide educational programs that can help.

The PICPA will assist you with developing the program content, finding a qualified CPA speaker, and scheduling a time for your in-house financial literacy session. Please contact the PICPA at 215-496-9272 or to begin the process.

John Steffee, CPA, is a partner at Pfister & Rompalo PC in Wormleysburg and chairs PICPA's CPA Image Enhancement committee.

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