How to Create a Culture of Learning at Your Workplace

How to Create a Culture of Learning at Your Workplace

More than ever, today’s employees crave professional growth. In fact, the members of the graduating class of 2019 rank it as a top priority in deciding whether they will accept a job. Creating a culture of learning can help keep employees satisfied even once they’re hired. An O.C. Tanner Report revealed that when millennials jump ship, it’s most often because they feel underutilized and stagnant at work. While professional development is of great benefit to your employees, it might be the perk that offers you the biggest bang for your buck. This is because it also benefits your organization through the new skills team members acquire. The great news is that it doesn’t have to cost a fortune.

Below we provide some tips to help you add low-cost but effective training to your benefits menu:

  • Help Create Individual Plans
    The best way to show employees that their professional growth is important to your company is to talk to them about what they need or want. Someone aiming to do more client-focused work might need pointers on how to lead effective sales presentations. An accounting professional might want to learn more about new technological advances that can streamline their workflow. Finding out what’s important to each of your team members and communicating ways to access that training ensures that the subsequent professional development you offer aligns with their needs and interests.
  • Look Into Online Training
    Taking a class is great, but taking one online on your employee’s own time can be even more appealing (and more realistic) for many. There are a number of free or cost-effective courses available through services like Lynda/LinkedIn Learning and Udemy, as well as “massive open online courses” (MOOCs), that you can encourage employees to check out. To expand the knowledge to the entire team, implement a “lunch and learn” where attendees share with others.
  • Pay for Membership in Professional Associations
    Check out this link of professional associations to find something that will apply to your business. Whether it’s a national agency or local group, there are often a wide variety of development opportunities available with membership fees. There are networking events, speaker forums, and conferences. As a member, your employees get special access to proprietary events and educational materials.
  • Offer Cross-Training
    Don’t let your employees become bored on the job. Find out what skills they might want to hone and search for opportunities to let them practice them. Whether it’s on a company-wide task force or by doing an inter-departmental rotation, it will keep your employees engaged with a new challenge. Ultimately, it allows your company to operate more smoothly as your team better understands various roles.
  • Try a Reverse Mentoring Program
    Most companies are familiar with traditional mentoring programs. Arranging a “reverse” mentoring program creates a new and useful spin on the relationship between a new or younger hire with one that is seasoned. The win-win really happens! Newer employees will increase their institutional knowledge and proficiencies. Older generations can keep their skills current in a rapidly changing work world, as “digital natives” help them navigate project management software or various apps that can streamline their workflow.

  • Promote Individual Learning
    Every employee should value keeping their skills and industry knowledge relevant. In fact, you could encourage or incentivize team members to choose pertinent podcast series or books. You could then have them share what they’ve learned with the team. To underscore your support of these activities, consider offering a few hours a month that employees can devote to professional development on company time.

  • Follow Through
    Finally, ensure that employees are making the most of any learning opportunities by following up to find out what they learned that can be valuable for others. For example, a conference they might attend could be beneficial to another employee the following year. Perhaps they found an online training course that was especially helpful. Finding out what individual employees learned from various opportunities allows you to build a library of resources that can benefit future employees, not just the current ones.

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Seven Ways Employers Can Create Flexible Work Options

Competition for Talent Informs Trend in Flexibility as Benefit Option

HR departments know all too well the fierce competition for top talent being waged today. And as you develop appealing compensation offers and benefits packages, there is one peak benefit that employees are clamoring for—and that’s flexibility. If you are still clinging to a fixed work schedule, you may soon be left behind; in fact one survey finds this is the top work benefit employers are expecting to add in 2019, and many workers won’t hesitate to move to another company with a more attractive benefit offering.

However, even if you want to add flexibility, there is the issue that not every workplace seems cut out for it. After all, you still have clients to deal with, and work that must be completed. The good news is that it’s possible to offer flexibility without throwing schedules out the window. Here are seven ways that you could consider adding a modicum of flexibility to almost any workplace.

  1. Determine the Hours that People MUST Be There, and Work Around That
    Maybe you are in the Eastern time zone and primarily deal with West coast clients that could necessitate a longer day. Consider letting your staff come in a bit later on at least some mornings.  Another option would be to rotate the team member who stays late to cover the West coast hours. The goal? To be available to successfully manage client issues without requiring the entire team to work all the hours.
  2. Identify Work That Can Be Done from Home
    Even in a call center where employees are literally working the phones, see if there is some element of their work that they could do on their own time or at the location of choice, such as typing up reports or doing other paperwork. Employees who feel that you are keeping these types of opportunities in mind will be grateful when they are presented, even if they understand that the majority of their work must be completed on site.
  3. Let Employees Take Care of Personal Needs
    Don’t make employees feel they have to hide the fact that they’re making a doctor’s appointment or shopping for a birthday present online during a lull. Just remember chances are they are answering work-related emails on their own time, too. The lines of work and leisure time continue to blend, and your team needs to know that you understand and respect that reality.
  4. Allow Employees to Trade Shifts With Each Other
    If you work in an industry like retail or food service where employees work varying schedules, don’t make it onerous for them to trade shifts. Find an app that lets them do it themselves or create another system that allows them to trade or give away shifts. While you’re at it, talk to your employees about how they feel about the shifts they have. If you always give a Friday night shift to the same person, make sure that they are ok with it or set up a rotation. While seniority should count for something, you still want to make sure that all your employees believe the system is fair.
  5. Ask Employees What They Need
    Often employees will be reluctant to speak up because they don’t want to seem as though they are complaining. Yet there might be some aspect of their hours that are challenging and could easily be changed. For example, a team meeting first thing in the morning can be hard for a parent. If it’s all the same to you, you could move the meeting to 10 a.m., or let them dial in from home. If it would accomplish the same goal, you could also cancel the meeting altogether and have people share their updates via email or a project management software.

    You might also find that a devoted employee would work an extra hour or two after he has put his kids to bed if it allows him to leave early to see a soccer game or oversee homework time. Someone else who is a caregiver might happily cover early shifts that no one else wants in exchange for one afternoon a week off. The key is to ask your team what they need or want; let them know that you can’t always accommodate them, but you’re willing to try.

  6. Set Up Processes to Track Remote Work
    Even if your staff is trustworthy, it can be a big leap to just let employees work from home on the honor system. It’s perfectly reasonable to set up expectations that a telecommuter has to be available at a certain time, or that employees must log into the work system so that you can track their hours. Keeping the controls a little tighter when you start offers the chance to eventually loosen them if things go well. Remember, it feels much more punitive to go the other way so err on the side of caution as you explore these new freedoms.

  7. Focus on Output Rather Than “Face Time”
    The key to making it all work: Does it really matter where your team is doing their work as long as they are doing it? In some types of organizations, of course it does. But in others, the focus could shift from when and where the goals were accomplished to just the fact that they were.


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How to Reduce Employee Financial Stress for a Healthier Workforce… and Bottom Line


This content was provided by the Council for Disability Awareness Member Lincoln Financial Group®


Employee financial wellness is a hot topic today, and for good reason. A recent survey shows that employees spend five to 13 hours per month worrying about their personal finances while at work.  Without the necessary support, employees are more stressed, and thus more distracted. For employers, this translates into a nearly $250 billion loss in healthcare, productivity, and lost wages every year.1

Some studies show that financial stress, especially in the workplace, is at its highest level in five years.2 And, while every employee’s situation is different, many face the same financial stresses – the most common monetary challenges facing employees typically include:

  • Heavy debt
  • Vanishing pensions
  • Retirement savings
  • High student loan debt
  • Increasing healthcare premiums
  • Out-of-pocket health expenses such as deductibles, copays, and coinsurance

How Employers Can Help Employees Reduce Financial Stress

With employees spending the majority of their day at their designated places of work, employers have an opportunity to incentivize change and offer solutions to this population.  Employers can help employees better manage their concerns with a mix of financial wellness programs and quality voluntary benefits.  Click here for tips to help employees learn about how to build financial literacy.

Financial Wellness Programs

Employee financial wellness programs can help employees find balance and control over their finances, now and throughout their lifetime. Gaining in popularity, these programs have become a key workplace trend in 2017.3 because they can meet the needs of employees by educating them on how to manage and overcome personal finance issues. Some of the more popular financial wellness programs include:

  • Debt management and reduction
  • Budgeting tools and resources
  • Investing and financial market basics
  • Asset management and saving for home purchase, college, retirement, and other goals.

Employers can approach financial wellness by engaging employees throughout their lives, with a focus on guiding employees towards action. One important objective is to help employees reach their goals for every stage of their financial lives, whether it’s saving for a house, a car, college, or retirement. The key takeaway for these types of programs is to select the right financial wellness program that addresses the specific needs of employees in your business and offer them the resources they find valuable.

Organizations have every reason to want their employees to be financially sound. An effectively designed employee financial wellness program can help employers:

  • Bolster productivity, because employees aren’t distracted by financial worries.
  • Drive more predictable workforce flow throughout the organization.
  • Result in improved physical health (people with high levels of financial stress are more prone to sickness).
  • Increase employee engagement and retention.
  • Create more affordable retirement opportunities for all employees and enable career advancement opportunities for younger employees.

Having a clear understanding of the business benefits of financial wellness, integrated within the overall wellness and HR talent/acquisition strategy ensures corporate commitment and is key to a successful financial wellness program.

Voluntary Benefits

As an employer, you understand how employee well-being impacts the workplace on many levels,  and will want to ensure it is not affected by financial stress. Not every employee understands the many benefit options that are available to them. Therefore, it is worth investigating ways to help them really understand the benefits your company can offer to ensure they are equipped with the financial knowledge they need.

A thoughtful mix of voluntary benefits can help employees better manage unexpected medical costs associated with a critical illness or accident. That is to say, voluntary benefits plans are easy to implement and cost-effective for employers as the employee typically selects the plan, and pays the premium. Three of the most popular voluntary benefit product offerings are:

  • Accident
    Provides a lump-sum for a wide range of covered accidental injuries from simple fractures to third-degree burns
  • Critical Illness
    Provides a lump-sum benefit if an employee is diagnosed with a covered critical illness
  • Hospital Indemnity
    Provides a lump-sum when a covered illness or injury results in hospitalization

Voluntary benefits offer key advantages:

  • Most policies are portable
  • No copays, deductible, or coinsurance
  • Benefits paid directly to the employee
  • Employer group rates are generally lower than an employee can purchase separately.

Employers can provide employees with special financing vehicles that may have tax advantages, including: health flexible spending accounts (FSAs) using pre-tax dollars to pay eligible healthcare expenses, dependent care FSAs for eligible dependent care services, and a health savings account to help employees pay expenses in a high-deductible health plan.  Your voluntary benefit options send the message to your employees that you’re listening to their concerns and priorities. Get it right, and your benefits dollars will be well spent and will pay off in terms of employee satisfaction and retention. In fact, Sixty-two percent of Millennial and 50 percent of Gen X employees say that their loyalty to their company is influenced by how much the company cares about their financial well-being.2 Employers that implement an employee financial wellness strategy and clearly communicate available benefits resources can make a positive impact in the workplace: for employees, and for the company… a win/win.


[1] Mercer Survey. “Inside Employees’ Minds – Financial Wellness, Volume 2.” 2017. Retrieved from

[2] PwC. Employee Financial Wellness Survey. 2017. Retrieved from private-company-services/publications/financial- well-being-retirement-survey.html

[3] S Miller. Is 2017 the Year of Employee Financial Wellness Programs? Society for Human Resource Management. Jan. 17, 2017. Retrieved from:


The Value of Disability Insurance as Income Security

By Gene Lanzoni, Marketing, Thought Leadership, Customer Insights 
The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America

The ability to earn an income is essential to modern living, yet more Americans often prioritize protecting their home, car, health, and teeth over helping protect their income with insurance. When a life event that causes a disability occurs, even in the short-term, it can disrupt an employee’s financial security, especially if they are unprepared for a work absence.  In fact, according to the American Council on Life Insurers, over 50 million Americans are without disability insurance.  Here’s why it matters:

Even a short unemployed break can cause financial instability. Given that more than half of working Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck, most cannot go without one for a single pay period, let alone three or more months. Let’s put this in perspective – working adults have about $5,000 in emergency savings, which disappears quickly considering the U.S. median monthly cost for housing, food, and transportation is roughly $3,000.[1] Those who’ve had a disability leave report emergency savings of just $2,500.[2]

We recently released our latest set of findings from Guardian’s 6th Annual Workplace Benefits Study for a financial wellness report titled Income Protection: The Role of Disability Insurance in Financial Wellness,” which finds only 54% of working Americans have disability insurance. The report validates that there are still a lot of misconceptions around the value of disability insurance. For example, many adults believe the product is for people who suffer from disabilities that are catastrophic or that it’s for disabilities which happen at work and covered by workers compensation. This is where education plays a critical role in helping employees understand that disability insurance serves as income replacement should you be out of work for an extended period of time.

While a competitive salary is important, especially in today’s low unemployment job market,  candidates will also be pushing for the best options in benefits. For employers, including disability insurance as part of your overall employee benefits offering can demonstrate that you care about your workforce’s financial security and wellness. Disability insurance has benefits everyone, regardless of age, gender or profession, should consider:

  • Income Protection
    While living paycheck-to-paycheck, workers don’t save for emergencies, such as an unexpected, unpaid leave of absence or disability. Emergency savings go fast when they have to cover pay regular monthly expenses on top of medical bills. Guardians’ study found 49% of those surveyed that did not have disability insurance withdrew from savings, investments or retirement plans to pay for their injury. Disability insurance provides an extra layer of income protection, which can make it easier to take care of financial responsibilities and not have to leverage other financial sources

  • Understanding Disability Insurance

    Guardian found only one in 25 consumers exhibit a high level of disability insurance knowledge. Today’s disability insurance programs now offer a variety of features to help employees navigate and understand their benefits. Some of those features include online enrollment payroll deduction and no medical exam to enroll. Even if certain employers can’t offer employer-sponsored disability insurance, they can provide access via an employee-funded disability insurance product. That shows flexibility and commitment to employees’ long-term financial health and well-being.

  • Improved Worker Satisfaction

    Guardian’s study indicates offering disability insurance can enhance overall work satisfaction (71% vs. 54%), as employees feel their company truly cares about them. Companies that offer return-to-work programs see an extra boost in satisfaction, as 70% feel their employer cares for them after completing a program.

  • Integrated Absence Management

    Absences can be hard on both an employee and an employer. Integrating an absence management program with disability insurance can help employers navigate the ever-changing paid leave laws that vary by state. Consultants and benefits carriers can work together to deliver a holistic, integrated plan that will keep employers covered and deliver a seamless employee experience.  With all these benefits available, employers and employees should re-evaluate the way they think about disability insurance plans. Signing up for disability insurance is really a way for individuals to help protect their incomes.

Disability insurance offers protection and satisfaction to both employers and employees, making it one of the most valuable products in a benefits portfolio. Nobody can predict the future, but it’s always wise to prepare for the unexpected. For more details on the financial wellness paper,click here.

The Guardian Life Insurance Company of America, New York, NY. Unless otherwise noted, the source of all information is Guardian’s 6th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, report titled: “Income Protection: The Role of Disability Insurance in Financial Wellness (2019).

2019-79673 (5/21)

[1] 20 Something Finance, (2019) “The Shocking Percentage of Americans that Live Paycheck-to-Paycheck.”

[2] Guardian’s 6th Annual Workplace Benefits Study, Financial Wellness Series, Part 2,“Income Protection: The Role of Disability Insurance in Financial Wellness,” (2019) p. 10.

Three Ways Employers Can Foster Engagement for Caregivers

Employers need to understand the growing number of caregivers in their workforce and provide appropriate benefits to support them.

By Phil Bruen, Vice President
Group Life and Disability Products, MetLife


As work and life continue to blend, employees are seeking additional support from their employers for handling personal needs. Many employed workers also serve as caregivers – for children as well as ill or aging loved ones. Because of its prevalence in the modern workplace, employers will need to understand its impact.

While they give so much support to others, we tend not to talk about what caregivers can and should be doing to protect themselves. Because caregivers spend so much time focusing on others, as employers, it is critical to take time to focus on them. Because, if caregivers continuously ignore their own health and wellness, it could cause the caregiver themselves to face medical issues down the road.

As employers continue the need to attract and retain talent in this low unemployment environment, a focus on providing and communicating tools and policies for caregivers that also work a full-time job is increasingly important.

According to recent data from a MetLife survey of 1,000 Americans, 41 percent of full-time workers are caregivers. This includes those who provide support for a dependent child, senior or both. The survey also revealed that on top of those that are already caregivers, an additional 14 percent say they expect to take on caregiving responsibilities in the next five years. Following are insights into how to foster a greater working environment for this growing cohort of workers.

1. Consider a Caregiving Paid Time Off Policy

While employers have obligations to provide job protection for caregiving leaves, employers can differentiate themselves and help support their workers by extending the minimum benefit and offering paid caregiving leave in states that do not mandate paid leave or to supplement state paid leave benefits. According to the recent caregiving survey, nearly three-quarters (72 percent) of employed caregivers have had to miss at least one day of work in the last 12 months because of needing to care for dependents. In fact, the median number of days employees have missed work in the last 12 months due to caregiving is four, or nearly one full work week. A dedicated caregiving leave program sends a signal to an organization that not only is flexibility and time off imperative to recharge and reset, so is having the appropriate time to take care of family caregiving needs.

With so many employees having these important responsibilities, it should be on the minds of employers how to best support workers in order to foster better engagement and productivity, as well as loyalty. Thriving, happy employees are better employees — they are more engaged in their work, are more loyal to their employers, and more meaningfully contribute to their organizations’ goals. Ninety percent of happy employees say they are loyal to their employer, according to additional research found in MetLife’s 2019 U.S. Employee Benefit Trends Study (EBTS).

2. Promote Organization’s Flexibility Solutions – But Set Appropriate Boundaries

Workplaces have become increasingly flexible over the last several decades. With employers offering remote work options, flexible work schedules, and even unlimited paid time off, employees have sought to make work work for them as best as possible. In fact, more than two-thirds (68 percent) of employees say that their employer provides the flexibility they need to manage both work and life.

However, while there are many benefits to having more flexibility around work, it can present challenging realities as well. It can make it difficult to determine when to turn work off.

The ability to be “always on” can lead to blurred boundaries and burnout. According to the EBTS research, burnout is the number one concern for employers, while productivity is their top challenge.

Caregivers rarely have an opportunity between their work and care responsibilities to take a moment for themselves to reset, so employers should ensure there are established and communicated boundaries for work. Examples some employers use are instating email blackout hours during nights and weekends, or encouraging a minimum time-off policy so employees have an opportunity to utilize paid vacation time.

3. Leverage Existing Benefit Options … and Consider New Ones

Flexibility is not the only thing employers can or should do for the caregiving population in their workforces. Benefits also play a key role in providing the necessary financial support to caregivers, and the right combination of benefits and experiences can help employees feel more engaged and more cared for — and build the trust that enables them to thrive.

According to the EBTS research, five in 10 employees say better benefits are key to thriving. Should a caregiver get sick or injured, and unable to work, they could be strained financially to support their dependents and might utilize savings otherwise allocated to cover medical or other associated costs.

Caregivers who are full-time workers can feel like they are truly always working between their professional and personal responsibilities. Employers have an opportunity to differentiate themselves, as well as drive engagement and loyalty among employees by acknowledging the many roles their workers play in and out of the office and ensuring they foster a supportive environment.

Related blog articles:

Mothers or Caregivers – Ways Employers Can Support Them

Employers are good resources of support for caregiver employee population

A Nation
Of Caregivers: Five Ways To Support Your Employees

We are an aging nation, and that means the caregiving population is
growing exponentially; in fact, many professionals are part of the “sandwich
generation,” caring for both elderly parents and younger children.

A Pew
Research study estimated
that almost half of adults in their 40s and 50s have a living parent who is
65 years or older while simultaneously raising a young child or financially
supporting a child age 18 or older. Of those, 30 percent say their parent needs
help managing some aspect of their life.

And that can take a toll on the caregivers at your workplace—and make
no mistake, your workplace is likely full of caregivers. One study conducted by the National Alliance for Caregiving and
AARP found that  more
than 34 million Americans had provided unpaid care to an adult
50 or older in the prior 12 months. And that number is sure to increase, given
the aging of our population: The
U.S. Census Bureau
says that by 2030, 20 percent of U.S. residents will be
of retirement age.

Human resource executives have a unique position in helping support employees who face the responsibility and pressure of caregiving. Here are some strategies you can provide to help them:

1. Awareness — Think How It Impacts Your Workplace

As the numbers above show, caregiving is not an isolated issue. But what
you might not realize is the effect it can have on your workplace. A study on “The Many Faces of Caregiving” found = that 14 percent
of employee caregivers reduce their work hours or take a demotion, and another
5 percent give up working entirely, which can have a chilling effect
on retention in today’s tight labor market.

Further, the
AARP and the Family Caregiver Alliance
that employee caregiving costs employers costs up to $33 billion annually from
lost productivity; $6.6 billion in costs to replace employees who retire early
or quit to focus on caregiving; and $5.1 billion in absenteeism.

2. Connection – Think How You Can Offer Resources

Helping connect caregivers to resources can help them manage some of
the “mental” workload associated with caregiving. Unfortunately, that important
benefit seems to be on the wane—just when we are needing it most. In fact, in a
puzzling development, the Society
of Human Resource Management’s 2018 Benefits Survey
found that the
percentage of employers offering eldercare had dropped 10 percentage
points—from 13 percent in 2017 down to 10 percent, with an equal drop in those
offering referral service benefits.

There are many ways you can help
support these team members. If there are a number
of caregivers
at your business, consider hosting support groups or inviting
guest speakers to brown bag lunch meetings to share insight and best practices.
You also could consider starting a repository of local or online resources that
might be available. A few to consider are:

3. Work Time – Consider a Flex Work Hour Structure

Does “face time” really matter? In some workplaces of course, it’s
pivotal that employees be at work for the hours they are supposed to,
particularly if they handle customer-facing functions. For others, a modicum of
flexibility could allow a valued worker to handle both their full-time job and
their caregiving duties. While they might need to attend doctor’s appointment
with their loved ones during the day, they could take care of writing reports
or doing research in the evening hours.

The great news is that offering flexibility can help promote satisfaction
and reduce turnover—a study found
that 87 percent of
workers whose
employers enable them to manage life in and outside of work are more loyal and

4. Wellbeing – Encourage Healthy Habits for All

While caregivers in particular can benefit from stress-relieving
activities like yoga classes or meditation, cultivating healthy habits and an
overall workplace culture focused on wellness can be important for all
employees. Many caregivers tend to neglect their own health, so prioritizing workplace
wellness ideas
, such as offering ideas for healthy cooking and incorporating
exercise into the day, can benefit your entire team—but certainly caregivers

5. Transparency – Help Caregivers Understand Benefits

You want to make sure that caregivers are using all the
benefits available to them
, such as short-term disability leave options or
the Family Medical Leave Act. Make sure they know who is covered and how they
can access these benefits. You also can provide information on access to any
mental health services they might need. After all, it’s in everyone’s best
interest to keep your employees able to do their job while still managing the
important caregiving duties that have befallen them.

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The Path to Financial Literacy

path to financial literacy

Financial literacy is not something that just happens to you.  In fact, it is a skill that involves education and practice.  And while you might believe you are financially literate because you make and stick to a budget, in reality, it is so much more than that. On the path to financial literacy, having a budget is but one of the many steps in the right direction toward being financially responsible. But being financially literate involves practicing and building on the skills you need to make sound decisions with your finances over a long period of time.

If you are a young or newly independent adult just starting out in the world, you will likely feel daunted by the trend in today’s high cost of living, especially if you are entering the workforce and learning what it means to balance new income with your new expenses. In fact, a recent survey from Merrill Lynch/Age Wave finds that 70 percent of adults aged 18 to 34 depend on their parents financially—whether for everyday expenses, like cell phones and groceries, or even rent or mortgage.  Despite this help, the survey found three-quarters of millennials define adulthood as being on their own financially.  So if this is the case for you, certainly you’re not alone.  

How Can You Build Financial Literacy? 

The topic of financial literacy is a timely one – April is National Financial Literacy Month – and here we provide some concepts for you to think about on your journey to a more financially literate future.

Create a Budget Consider Disability + Life Insurance
Start an Emergency Fund Plan for a Home Purchase
Check Your Credit Protect Your Apartment or Home
Maximize Retirement Options

Understand Your Health Insurance

Learn to Invest

Create a Budget

A personal monthly budget allows you to plan for how you’ll spend and/or save your money each month and also keep track of your spending patterns. Creating a budget may not sound exciting, it’s an important exercise in keeping your finances in order.

With a budget, you can begin to prioritize your spending and better manage your money and financial future.

Start an Emergency Fund

Charging an unexpected expense on a credit card can be financially devastating as high interest charges accrue. And yet, only 40 percent of Americans say they could cover an unexpected $1,000 bill with savings. While that sounds high, you could easily be hit with a staggering bill in one visit to the emergency room, the vet or the car repair shop. Building an emergency fund cushions the blow so you don’t have to rely on your credit card—or your parents.

Check Your Credit

What you don’t know can hurt you…and your financial future. We’re talking about your credit score…and if you’re like half of Americans, you haven’t checked your credit score recently.

A credit score ranges from 300 to 850, and anything over 700 is considered pretty good. A high credit score is a great advantage when you want to take out any kind of loan, including a mortgage. On the path to financial literacy, you’ll have lower interest rates, which saves you money in the long run.

It takes time and effort to build good credit by consistently paying your bills, but you can decimate your credit fairly quickly by defaulting on loans or filing for bankruptcy.

A study by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) found that about 20 percent of consumers discovered an error when checking their reports, and that number could be even higher considering the recent spate of data breaches. A strong credit score ensures you are offered the best possible rates for credit cards and mortgage and auto loans. Not sure how you measure up? See if your credit card offers a free credit report as one of its perks, or visit to take a look at yours.

Maximize Retirement Options

Even if you don’t plan on retiring for decades, it’s important to start saving now. If your employer offers a retirement plan, don’t wait to sign up.  Many companies even offer a match up to a certain percentage, and if you don’t contribute at least that much, you are literally leaving money on the table.

If your employer doesn’t have a 401k plan, you can look into a Roth IRA. Whatever route you take, make sure you’re putting away enough money so you’ll be comfortable in your retirement years.

While saving for retirement can seem futile when you have so many needs now, we promise that your future self will thank you—a lot—for saving early when you have the longest potential time to take advantage of compounding interest. Need some saving inspiration on your journey to financial literacy? Check out this chart that shows what happens to your money if you start saving early, compared to later. 

Learn to Invest

Once you have your emergency savings set aside and you’ve signed up for a 401k or Roth IRA, it’s time to start thinking about investments. Investments include mutual funds, stocks, bonds, and real estate—but be sure you don’t put all your eggs in one basket. This means you should diversify your investments. That way if some parts of your portfolio aren’t very profitable for a few years, your other investments will help make up the difference.

Consider Disability and Life Insurance

Think you’re invincible? Think again—the scary truth is that more than one-quarter of today’s 20-year-olds can expect to be out of work for at least a year due to a disabling condition before they reach retirement age. While on your path to financial literacy, consider getting disability insurance; it can help you pay your bills until you are back to work.

And while you especially need life insurance if anyone depends on you financially, it’s a smart benefit for anyone to have, since the policy can cover funeral and burial expenses. The next step on the path to financial literacy is to make sure to check with your HR department to see what your company offers in terms of disability and life insurance—and make sure you take advantage of this important benefit.

Plan for a Home Purchase

Along the path to financial literacy, you might find yourself considering the purchase of your first home. And while it is easy these days to be priced out of homeownership in many markets, in other places, a monthly mortgage payment can be close to the same amount as rent. (This calculator will help you determine the viability of buying vs. renting.) And if the common down payment of 20 percent sounds daunting, there are a wide array of programs that can get you into a home for substantially less. If you are relatively settled in your locale, it’s worth talking to a real estate agent and mortgage broker to find out the true cost of home ownership, as it’s still a tried-and-true avenue to long-term wealth.

Protect Your Apartment or Home

If you are not ready to buy, and you plan to rent, you might not think you need insurance, but you’ll regret skimping on it if your apartment gets broken into or your dog bites a visitor. Renter’s insurance will cover your belongings in the case of theft, fire, water damage, etc., and also can cover liability for a variety of scenarios—and it’s typically surprisingly affordable, averaging less than $200 a year.

If you own a home, chances are good that you probably have homeowners insurance as a requirement from your mortgage provider, but double-check your policy to ensure it covers as much as you think it should—such as the actual “replacement value” of your items, rather than just cash value, and short-term lodging in the even you are displaced.

Understand Your Health Insurance

PPOs, HMOs, HSAs…the alphabet soup of health insurance is enough to give anyone a headache. But if you don’t know what your insurance covers, you could be on the hook for an unexpected high bill…or you might be delaying services that would be covered. Some plans even offer free telemedicine services or other perks that you could take advantage of if you only knew.  Log in to your health insurance portal and click around a little to find out what’s covered and where…certain insurance only works at specific hospitals, for example. If you have any questions, don’t hesitate to seek out your HR department. They are there to help make sure you understand your coverage and limits inside and out.

As life changes occur,  you naturally grow, learn, and build upon your experiences. In this way, it is important to understand that getting on the path to financial literacy is an ever-evolving journey; it takes time and perseverance. And while you may find one concept relevant now, you might find another one more relevant to your life situation later.  Each part of the process is not wasted, only propelling you to a more secure financial future.

Related articles:

How Employer-Provided Disability Insurance Can Help When SSDI Falls Short

Important details about employer paid insurance to help fill the gap when social security income is delayed or falls short

Half of American workers have some sort of disability coverage: either employer-paid long term disability insurance, one they pay for through an agent, and/ or one funded by the federal government called Social Security Disability Insurance (or SSDI). Below are facts regarding SSDI and LTD. It is important for employers to know that SSDI is designed to work with long term disability to provide the best policies for employees.

The following content has been provided to the CDA by Ted Norwood, the General Counsel and Director of Representation, at Integrated Benefits, Inc.

The Relationship Between SSDI and Private Group Insurance

  • According to the Council for Disability Awareness, half of those who don’t work for the government have some form of employer-paid disability insurance. This could be short-term disability only, long-term disability only, or both STD and LTD. These benefits are important because 25 percent of today’s 20-year-olds will at some point miss a year or more of work due to medical problems.
  • As companies become leaner, employees become even more vital to the organization’s success and more difficult and expensive to replace. In the long term, losing employees is difficult. Certainly, an increasing number of employers recognize the value of employee well-being. In fact, many companies now recognize the value of caring for employees as people, not just assets.  Therefore, private disability insurance benefits in the workplace is an important way for employers to care for employee financial health.
  • About half of workers in the private sector do not have income-replacement benefits. If they’re unable to work for an extended period of time, they must rely on the Social Security Administration’s Disability Income (SSDI) program – if they qualify – to partially replace their salaries.

Facts About SSDI

  • You must have worked to qualify and made Social Security contributions. (Teachers often do not make Social Security contributions.)
  • You must qualify medically and vocationally.
  • SSA does not consider income in its evaluation of disability.
  • The SSA only evaluates whether an individual could perform the function of a job that exists.
  • SSDI Application Process – The wait is long (15 months or more). It can be challenging to get approved, and it lacks good recovery resources.

Group Long Term Disability Policies Protect Employees from the Disadvantages of SSDI

  • These LTD policies usually start with an own-occupation period of two years. As a result, the employee receive benefits immediately on completion of the elimination period (3 or 6 months).
  • Group LTD policies usually pay higher benefits than SSDI does. They typically treat SSDI benefits as an “offset” which means the additional coverage is available at an affordable price.
  • Group insurers typically require claimants to apply for SSDI benefits, but most of them will also provide a lawyer to assist with the applications.
  • Group LTD policies have better opportunities to provide vocational rehabilitation and return to work services.

For more from Ted Norwood on SSDI check out the following articles:

Beyond Medical: How Supplemental Benefits Help Attract and Retain Talent

How Supplemental Benefits Can Help Attract and Retain Talent

In an increasingly competitive job market, employee benefits elevate companies in the minds of their current employees, as well as prospective workers. Below are some of the most important and sought after benefits for employees. Content here was provided to the Council for Disability Awareness blog by benefits expert Phil Bruen, VP, Group Life and Disability Products at MetLife.

1. Disability Insurance and Income Replacement
Just one in four of today’s 20 year-olds will become disabled before they retire.1 And yet less than half of Americans report they have enough savings to cover even three months of their living expenses.2 Providing an option for short- and long-term disability insurance offers employees a simple way to keep unexpected events from turning into financial disasters.

2. Supplemental Health Benefits
Today’s employees want and need a solid health insurance plan. But for most individuals and families, that’s only a component of their overall healthcare. For example, 53 percent of employees consider dental insurance a “must-have,” and 37 percent say the same about vision care. Other key offerings that employers can consider include hospital indemnity, critical illness, and accident insurance. All of these complement health plans, and provide employees with additional financial resources when they may need them most.

3. Retirement and Financial Wellness
Nearly three-quarters of employees report that saving for retirement is a priority. Nearly half of employees say they’re already concerned about outliving their savings, according to the 2018 MetLife research. Traditional employer-sponsored retirement plans certainly provide the financial security and savings that employees want. Additional benefits, like lifetime income solutions, life insurance products, financial planning, and education services work to strengthen overall benefit plans. They also give workers additional ways to prepare for retirement.

1 Disability Statistics, The Council for Disability Awareness accessed
September 2018:

2 Chances of a Disability, Ibid, The Council for Disability Awareness updated March 28, 2018:

Looking for more information on supplemental benefits? Join Phil Bruen and Carol Harnett as they discuss consumer strategies this open enrollment season on the CDA’s BlogTalkRadio.

Being Out of Work Doesn’t Mean Being Out of Money

Helping Employees Understand What’s at Stake
When a Health Event Keeps Them from Working

Employers in America offer health insurance benefits to attract and retain employees, and the open enrollment period is a chance for employees to review and/or change their coverage. However, health insurance does not cover income lost due to a health event that prevents an employee from working.  

Below, Fred Schott, Director of Operations for the Council for Disability Awareness, provides a list of considerations for income protection in the case of disability due to illness, injury, or pregnancy.

1. Know What is Protected Under FMLA

(FMLA), which requires up to 12 weeks unpaid, but job and benefits protected leave in any 12-month period for employees who are unable to work because of their own serious health condition and have worked for their employer for at least 1,250 hours in the 12 months before taking leave. State and local variations exist; click here for more information.

2. Paid Sick Leave is Helpful, But Limited

A growing number of states (and municipalities) have enacted laws requiring paid sick leave. One of those laws may apply to your workplace. If that’s the case, it’s possible your existing paid time off (PTO) program may satisfy the requirements. Click here for more information. But remember: paid sick leave rarely covers more than one or two weeks, and that usually is not enough time for full recovery from serious illness or injury.

3. Protections Under Short-Term Disability

If employees are out of work for more than a week or two because of a serious health condition (and this can include pregnancy complications or postpartum recovery), short-term disability insurance (STD) can provide income replacement, typically at 50% to 66⅔% of pre-disability earnings, for up to 3 – 6 months. Many employers provide the equivalent of STD coverage as part of their salary-continuation plan. Some states have mandated (statutory) STD coverage, but benefit levels are typically lower than under private plans, so in those states employers often provide supplemental coverage. Who pays for the coverage—employer or employee—is an important consideration: Benefits payable to employees are tax-free to the extent they’ve paid for the coverage and vice-versa.

4. Protections Under Long-Term Disability

Long-term disability (LTD) insurance is designed to kick in when STD coverage ends. As with STD, taxability of benefits depends on who pays for coverage. Most group LTD plans have two stages: For the first 2 – 3 years, people are covered if their disability prevents them from performing the duties of their own occupation. After that a more stringent definition of disability applies; it’s closer to what’s used by the Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) program. People who qualify for the second stage continue receiving benefits for a specific length of time or until normal retirement age, and payments are reduced by any SSDI benefits received. Individual LTD plans, on the other hand, usually provide “own occupation” coverage until normal retirement age and do not offset for SSDI benefits—but not all employees will qualify for individual coverage.

Click here for more information on paid family/medical leave programs.

Click here to read Fred’s full article, “What Happens When a Health Event Causes Your Income Stream to Run Dry?”

For more resources from The Council for Disability Awareness check out DisabilityCanHappen.Org.