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A Publication of WTVP

What is the Post Holiday Debt Syndrome? It's a term I invented to define a condition that, just like the flu, can strike your workplace-especially at this time of year. Holiday aftermath can lead to increased absenteeism, tardiness, job stress, workers' comp claims, employee theft, and low employee morale. These are just a few of the outcomes of poor personal financial behaviors and the negative impact they can have-not only on employees, but on their employers as well.

According to a recent MSNBC report, nearly half of American families spend more than they earn. Virginia Tech Center for Organizational and Technological Advancement Fellow, and Professor E. Thomas Garman said, "Financial matters and financial stress affect not only an individual's personal and family life but also the person's work life. Poor financial behaviors result in extremely high costs that are incurred by employers including absenteeism tardiness, reduced worker productivity, and loss of customers who seek better service."

Central Illinois isn't immune to the effects of out-of-control debt. More employers report they have to deal with involuntary pay deductions and increased loan activity on 401(k) plans. These are the obvious symptoms of the debt syndrome. These administrative activities place additional burdens and associated costs of doing business that are counterproductive to the bottom line. The more time and legal fees spent on multiple involuntary pay deductions or administering loan repayments to a thrift plan, the fewer resources that positively impact the bottom line.

So how can an employer implement an effective course of treatment for the Post Holiday Debt Syndrome? Educate employees. In a study conducted by the Federal Reserve Board staff, they found consumers who knew more were more likely to engage in recommended financial practices. For example, if your organization has an employee assistance program (EAP), make sure it includes a personal financial management intervention. Employers find there's a five-to-one return for every dollar spent on an employee assistance program, with a substantial savings on health care benefits.

If you don't have an EAP, there are other educational resources for employees. If you have a Web site, it can provide tools for employees to tap into such as "American Saves," a nationwide campaign that encourages individuals and families to save and build wealth and assists them in their efforts. You can even offer a series of lunch and learn seminars that cover topics such as cash flow management, budgeting, investing, or saving for retirement. Once acquainted with financial education training at a worksite, 63 percent of participants are more inclined to pursue financial education on their own.

Now that you know a little more about the Post Holiday Debt Syndrome, is your organization suffering? If so, are you going to seek treatment for the cure? Providing the opportunity for employees to become educated about the importance of personal financial management is another positive step an employer can take on the road to becoming an employer of choice. IBI

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