How to set up ESA benefits

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Devin Miller
January 5, 2022

Helping your employees reduce their stress and save money

Key takeaways:

  • Setting up an Emergency Savings Account (ESA) program for your employees is easy.
  • Decide if you want to work with a benefits broker or an ESA vendor. 
  • Consider offering an ESA as a standalone benefit or with other benefits. 
  • Do a cost analysis before adding any benefits to your plan. 
  • Manage your ESA with an easy-to-use application. 
  • Set up employer matches and sign-up incentives. 
  • Invite employees through email. 
  • Use the ESA portal to manage the program and onboard new employees. 

Emergency Savings Accounts (ESAs) reduce employees’ stress and improve their focus by addressing the number one financial priority for Americans – savings in the short and long term. When your employees are worried about financial emergencies, they are distracted and less productive at work. Depending on the financial issue, they may even miss work or need to take a leave of absence. 

A large number of Americans don't have enough money in savings to address a $400 emergency and 70% of workers say they would participate in an employer-sponsored plan to help them save; 90% if there was an employer match. An ESA is a low-cost, easy way to help your employees prepare for financial emergencies, but because it is a relatively new type of benefit, most employers aren't sure how to get started. 

To point you in the right direction, this guide explains how to set up an ESA program for your employees. We touch on who will manage the funds and if you should hire a benefits broker, among other considerations. We also discuss SecureSave’s purpose-built savings app and how easy it is to use compared to other benefits programs. 

1. Choose between in-house or third-party vendor management

You can manage an ESA program in-house, or you can reach out to a third-party vendor such as a benefits broker to help you. A benefits broker can set up and manage your ESA as well as any other benefits you want to offer your employees. Or, you can take a piecemeal approach where a benefits broker manages health insurance, 401(k) plans, and other benefits, and you manage the ESA. 

If you opt to work with a benefits broker, make sure to select them carefully. Benefits offer significant value for employees, but on the flip side, they cost employers a lot of money. Your benefits broker will be managing benefits that are worth 25% to 40% of your payroll costs on average, and you need to ensure they are up to the task. 

A high-quality benefits broker will help you set up a package that gives you as much value as possible while keeping your costs low. Make sure you understand the fee structure when selecting a broker. They may charge a commission on the benefits they sell or a flat fee. Also, some may offer you benefits from a variety of companies or just from the company they represent. 

2. Talk directly with an ESA vendor

In addition to or instead of working with a benefits broker, you can talk directly with an ESA vendor. They can set up your ESA and answer all of your questions about the process. By working directly with a vendor, you save money on commissions and fees and you only pay for what you need. 

However, you will need to manage the program on your own, which isn’t a problem with programs that are simple to manage. In contrast, a benefits broker may be willing to manage the program for you. Ultimately, you’ll decide what works best for your situation. 

3. Do a cost analysis

Whether you work with a benefits broker or an ESA vendor, do a cost analysis of the benefit you have chosen. Consider how much it costs to run the benefits program and the value it offers to your employees. 

Crunch the numbers, but also think about the intangible value the benefit brings to your organization. Will your employees be more productive? Will you be able to attract new employees more easily? Will your organization enjoy other intangible benefits? 

These are the types of questions to consider when adding any benefits program to your business, whether it's a traditional benefit such as healthcare or a contemporary benefit like an ESA plan or pet health insurance. You can use this easy ROI calculator to calculate the impact an ESA will have on your business. 

4. Set up your ESA plan

If you have a benefits broker handling everything, they may be able to set up your plan for you. However, if you decide to manage your plan, an ESA, like SecureSave’s, can be very simple to set up and deploy. 

Your ESA vendor will walk you through the process, which our app makes easy and intuitive. To set up your plan, you need to create a company profile with basic information about your organization. Then, you connect your bank account. 

5. Determine matching rules

To encourage your employees to save, you may want to match their savings per paycheck. The ESA allows you to do this. You can easily set up matching contributions in the employer portal, and you can vary the amount based on your budget. 

For example, you may want to do a dollar per dollar match, or you may want to contribute $5 for every $100 saved by your employees. The choice is up to you. Employees will be happy with any match you provide. 

6. Set up incentives

To encourage your employees to take advantage of the ESA, you may want to add incentives. For example, you can offer a $50 sign-up bonus. Keep in mind that an ESA prepares your employees for emergencies, but it also benefits your organization by reducing employee stress and improving retention. 

7. Send an email to your employees

Through the ESA app, you can invite employees to the program. They will receive an email showing them how to sign up. To start saving, they simply need to follow the instructions on their screen. 

8. Sync with your payroll software 

Finally, you sync your ESA plan with your payroll software. Once you have synced the software, employees' savings will be directly withdrawn from each paycheck. The employer match will be automated as well. 

Once you've worked through the above steps, you can start reaping the benefits of offering an ESA. Your employees will have the funds they need to handle short-term emergencies such as car repairs, broken appliances, daycare cancellations, or healthcare concerns, and they will have reduced stress levels. 

You will be able to manage the benefit easily through the ESA's portal, and when you bring on new employees, you can add them on easily as well. 

SecureSave’s emergency savings app at your disposal

At SecureSave, we offer an ESA that is easy to implement and manage. Our low-cost, high-engagement benefit syncs with most major payroll applications including ADP, Gusto, Paylocity, TriNet, PAYCHEX, and others, and the employer portal makes managing this benefit simple, whether you do it on your own or with the help of a third-party vendor or benefits broker. 

To learn more about the value of ESAs and how they can help your organization, contact us at Secure today. 

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Devin Miller

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