Financial education may not be advice, but it should not be passive either and, for the most part, must help staff find the right direction.
Financial education aims to provide generic information to employees about a broad range of personal finance issues. It can help employees to begin to understand and make choices and decisions about their own personal circumstances and the benefits available from their employers.
It is distinguished from financial advice by its generic nature. Stuart Royston, chief executive of educational charity Life Academy, says: “Advice is a recommendation to do something, purchase something or take up some kind of policy. It implies the use of a fact find to establish an individual’s personal circumstances. Education is more generic. It will equip people more broadly to make decisions.”
Jonathan Watts-Lay, a director of JPMorgan Invest, agrees: “Financial education isn’t advice, but it’s not passive information either. It can help to send people in the right direction. It has to be a teaching exercise, so employees understand something they didn’t understand before they went to the seminar.”
Only bodies or individuals regulated by the Financial Services Authority are able to give financial advice.
Employers are beginning to realise the importance of providing financial education to staff that explains the benefits offered and how employees can make the most of them. The aim is for employees to appreciate the value of the perks on offer and to make informed decisions about them. Often, employers will use consultants to help them with this task.
According to research carried out by Employee Benefits in 2006, 62% of employers provide access to financial education in one form or another and a further 15% were planning to do so.
Financial education can be delivered through a range of formats, from newsletters, brochures and booklets, to intranet information, web presentations and DVDs, seminars, workshops and even individual clinics. As well as factual information about the benefits and services on offer in the work place, it can cover issues such as pre-retirement planning, mortgages and debt management.
As Derek Witherspoon, senior presenter at Close Wealth Management, points out, financial education empowers people enabling them to spot good or bad advice.