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Asset Development: An Effective Retention Tool

Smart employers understand the connection between well-being and work performance. And given the current economic climate, finances are increasingly likely to be a source of employee stress. Such concerns may impact productivity due to decreased morale or increased illness. They may require an employee to work more than one job to help ends meet. Or they may cause a skilled employee to seek a higher-paying job — with a different company altogether.

One way small businesses can keep employees focused at work is to help them improve their finances using existing income. This concept is known as asset development. Asset development can help employees meet competing financial demands — such as paying down debt, establishing an emergency fund, saving for a child's education, or investing in career training — and may be especially important for people who are new to the workforce and/or have health issues or disabilities.

Ways to help include:

  • Tell employees about the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and how to apply. The EITC is a refundable tax credit for certain low-income workers. However, many eligible individuals are not aware of it. For information, visit the IRS 2010 EITC webpage.
  • Offer retirement plans and flexible spending accounts. Retirement plans can now be set up so that new employees are automatically enrolled, making them more likely to participate by as much as 40 percent. For information, visit the Employee Benefits Security Administration website.
  • Participate in a local credit union and/or offer consumer credit counseling. Community development credit unions offer a source of unbiased investment information and may offer credit and accounts with reduced fees. For information, visit the National Federation of Community Development Credit Union website.
  • Support employees in implementing their own asset development initiatives. Examples include sharing "couponing" websites, offering interest-free security deposit loans or sponsoring scholarships for employees interested in furthering their education and training.
  • Educate employees about available assistance. For example, inform them about the Voluntary Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which offers tax help to low-income workers. In addition, low-income individuals can get free help with legal issues, including how to apply for benefits, from the Legal Services Corporation.

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