Unrealistic Expectations Muddy Employee Retirement Planning

Many younger employees have unrealistic dreams when it comes to planning their retirement. Here is a great article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit Adviser on what you can do to help your millennial employees plan for their future retirement.

Three generations of U.S. investors accept that they are largely responsible for funding their own retirements. But many of them harbor unrealistic hopes of receiving a sizable inheritance as part of their funding plan.

These were among the conclusions drawn by a recent survey of 750 individual investors with a minimum of $100,000 in investable assets—including 223 millennials, 251 Gen Xers and 236 baby boomers.

The 2017 study was conducted by the U.S. research arm of Natixis Global Asset Management, a French company that is one of the 20 largest asset managers in the world. It found that 78% of investors recognize that more of the retirement funding burden is falling on their shoulders, since their employers have begun offering defined contribution retirement plans in lieu of defined benefit pension plans. And many also believe that Social Security won’t be available to them by the time they retire. But a significant percentage (43%) hope to receive an inheritance that will help them compensate for any savings shortfall.

This is especially true of millennials, who are twice as likely as baby boomers to expect that a financial windfall from their parents or grandparents will play an important role in meeting their retirement needs. Per the survey, 62% of millennials, compared to only 31% of boomers, anticipate receiving an inheritance that will help fund their retirement.

That’s a major disconnect, says Dave Goodsell, executive director of the Natixis Durable Portfolio Construction Research Center, which carried out the research. He points to findings that 40% of baby boomers don’t plan to leave an inheritance and 57% don’t think they will have anything left to pass down to their children or grandchildren. Only 56% even have a will in place.

Further exacerbating the situation, many of the investors surveyed underestimate the amount of savings they will need for retirement. They assume that they will only need replace 63% of their pre-retirement income, according to Goodsell, which is at odds with the retirement industry’s more conservative target of 75% to 85%.

Looking to the kids

Apart from an inheritance, many of the investors surveyed also believe they can count on their children for some sort of support when they retire, either through shared living arrangements or some type of stipend or allowance. “Retirement has become a multigenerational question,” Goodsell observes.

On the other hand, only 37% of the respondents say they expect Social Security to be an important source of income for their retirement. “There’s a great deal of skepticism,” notes Goodsell, “which should serve as a motivation to plan ahead for retirement and set realistic savings and spending goals.” Unfortunately, he adds, many investors’ decision making is clouded by unrealistic expectations.

Workplace 401(k) plans encourage savings discipline, since they make it easy for employees to save automatically. But in and of themselves they are insufficient, says the Natixis researcher, and employers need to help their employees make better financial determinations by providing them with retirement planning tools, including access to a financial adviser.

“Access is critically important,” he says. “Because responsibility is being shifted off to individuals, we need to make sure they have access to the right resources and understand how to use them.”

Key topics that need to be addressed, according to the survey, include financial planning basics, such as budgeting; how to manage and plan for required minimum distributions; tax, estate and long-term care planning, as well as managing debt and credit cards and understanding investment risk.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 June 25). Unrealistic expectations muddy employee retirement planning [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/unrealistic-expectations-muddy-employee-retirement-planning?brief=00000152-1443-d1cc-a5fa-7cfba3c60000


Rising Healthcare Costs Hurting Retirement Contributions

The rising costs of healthcare are starting to have a negative impact on employees. Find out how employees are having trouble saving for their retirement thanks to the rise of healthcare costs in the interesting article by Paula Aven Gladych from Employee Benefit News.

Rising healthcare costs have had a dramatic impact on the ability of workers to save for retirement and other financial goals.

The latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report finds that of the workers who have experienced rising healthcare costs, more than half say they are contributing less to their financial goals as a result, including more than six in 10 who say they are saving less for retirement.

What’s more, financial stress also is playing a big role in employee physical health with nearly six in 10 employees saying it has had a negative impact on their physical well-being. This stress weighs most heavily on millennials at 68%, compared with baby boomers at 51%, according to the research.

Because of these dire statistics, more and more employees are looking to their employer to help them through financial challenges.

“We spend a lot of our waking time working and a lot of our finances are made up of the compensation and benefits our employer provides,” says Sylvie Feast, director of financial guidance services for Bank of America Merrill Lynch. “[Employer’s] healthcare and 401(k) plans are really valued by employees. I don’t think it’s surprising that they are looking to their employer that provides essential benefits to help provide access to ways to better manage their finances.”

And because employers offer healthcare and retirement benefits, it isn’t a stretch for workers to expect their employers to offer financial wellness as a benefit as well, Feast says.

“There’s no silver bullet, but a continuing evolution of trying new things to see what works and has an impact with the workforce,” Feast says. “Culture has something to do with it.”

Online tools, educational content, professional seminars in the workplace and personal consultations can be especially effective offerings, Feast says, adding that those options can help employees get more comfortable talking about their finances at work and at home with their family.

“People are pretty private about their finances,” Feast says. “I think there’s this access the employer needs to provide, but there also needs to be an arms-length distance so it is not the employer delivering it.”

Retirement savings is the area most workers want help with, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s survey. More than half of baby boomers (54% ), 53% of Generation X and 43% of millennials say they need help saving for retirement, with 50% of all respondents ranking it as their No. 1 financial issue.

For millennials, good general savings habits and paying down debt were their next most important financial priorities. For Generation X, paying down debt, good general savings habits and budgeting all tied for second, and for baby boomers, planning for healthcare costs and paying down debt were their next biggest financial priorities.

Eighty-six percent of employees surveyed say they would participate in a financial education program provided by their employer, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch.

Financial education is a slow, but worthy process, Feast says.

“People don’t just automatically start to show an immediate impact to their behavior,” she says. But, “if [employees] take steps, [they] will start to gain control and get more confidence.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Gladych P. (2017 June 7). Rising healthcare costs hurting retirement contributions [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/rising-healthcare-costs-hurting-retirement-contributions


401(k) Borrowing Isn’t Free

Have your employees been dipping into their 401(k)s to support their financial needs? Then take a look at this article by David Sherman from Employee Benefit Adviser on why employees shouldn't dip into their 401(k)s and what employers can do to help employees support themselves financially without having to use the money saved in their 401(k)s.

When dire financial need strikes, employees often tap their retirement accounts. While there are cases in which a 401(k) withdrawal makes sense, these loans should be viewed as an absolute last resort.

There are significant downsides related to 401(k) loans such as including penalties, administration and maintenance fees as well as “leakage” from retirement accounts. This occurs when an employee takes a loan on their 401(k), cashes out entirely or leaves their job and rolls over their account to their new employer.

Borrowing from retirement plans presents hazards to the employer, as well. More employers are minimizing the ability of employees to dip into their 401(k) savings by limiting the number of loans from 66% in 2012 to 45% in 2016, according to SHRM. Despite this, the bottom line is that employees need access to low cost credit.

More than 1-in-4 participants use their 401(k) savings for non-retirement needs, according to financial education provider HelloWallet. That amounts to a startling $70 billion of retirement savings that employees are siphoning away from their future.

There are hidden costs to 401(k) loans. One of the perceived benefits of a 401(k) loan is that the borrower isn’t charged any interest. That’s a fallacy: 401(k) loans typically include interest rates that are 1 to 2 points higher than the current Prime Rate plus administrative fees. While the borrower pays this money to him or herself rather than to a bank, these “repayments” don’t take into account penalty of taking money out of a 401(k) for months or years when it might have enjoyed market gains.

The downside of the interest rate is that it makes paying back the loan more difficult and this will likely lead to 401(k) leakage. In some cases, loopholes that allow employees to raid their 401(k)s before retirement reduce the aggregate wealth in those accounts by 25%. Simply put, this translates into having the most senior and highest paid employees stay on the job because they do not have enough funds in their account to retire. From an HR administrator’s standpoint, that can increase overall costs, since employees who cannot afford to retire are drawing higher-than-average salaries. And thanks to their advanced age, they also run-up costs on the employer’s medical plan.

The financial wellness alternative

Employers should offer socially responsible alternatives to borrowing from their 401k. Not only to ensure that older workers can afford to retire and make room for younger, less-expensive hires, but to ease the financial burden for employees when emergencies do happen. This should be offered as a voluntary benefit with no risk to employers. In a recent Wall Street Journal article, “The Rising Retirement Perils of 401(k) ‘Leakage’” Redner’s Markets made that leap offering a low-cost Kashable loan to its employees. It stopped leakage and offered employees of the online grocer much needed relief from financial stress.

Adding a financial wellness solution to the employee voluntary benefits package that provides access to responsible credit is a first step in untangling employees’ financials. For employees struggling with college loans and credit card debt, this financial-wellness benefit allows them to borrow when needed at a low rate. For the 35% of employees surveyed by PWC in 2016 that said they had trouble meeting their monthly household expenses and the 29% that said they had trouble meeting their minimum credit card charges each month, this voluntary program provides multiple benefits. For the employee, it is an opportunity to build or improve their credit score, and provide relief from financial stress. To the employer, it’s a risk-free solution to stop the leakage from retirement accounts.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Sherman D. (2017 June 5). 401(k) borrowing isn't free [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/401-k-borrowing-isnt-free?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


Rising Health Care Costs Threatening Employees’ Financial Goals

Did you know that the rising costs of healthcare could be having a negative effect on your employees' financial goals? Check out this great read by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on how your employees' finances are being impacted by the costs of healthcare.

Employees are under financial stress — big time. In fact, 56 percent of them are stressed about their financial situation, and more than half of them say it’s taking a toll on both their ability to focus and their productivity on the job.

That’s according to the latest Bank of America Merrill Lynch Workplace Benefits Report, which finds that not only are 53 percent of stressed employees having trouble concentrating on their work, the cost of health care is a big shadow cast over workers’ financial situations. And that’s already an issue, with 43 percent of employees owning up to spending 3 or more hours a week while at the office dealing with personal financial matters.

As more employees find themselves shelling out more from their own pockets to pay health care bills — 69 percent of workers said so in 2015, but 79 percent said so in 2016 — it’s no surprise to hear that health care costs are up 10 percent since 2015. No wonder they’re stressed; salaries certainly haven’t risen to match.

Those rising health care costs are taking a bite out of most employees’ other financial goals — among workers who have experienced increasing health care costs, 56 percent are having to save less toward other objectives.

Women in particular are abandoning more discretionary spending and debt management to cover health care costs than men, with 72 percent chucking spending on recreation or entertainment, compared with 59 percent of men; 63 percent saving less for retirement, compared with 62 percent of men; and 50 percent paying down less debt, compared with 46 percent of men.

And the more expensive health care becomes, the more employees appear to appreciate employer-provided health coverage — with workers ranking health benefits as their top employer benefit (40 percent), followed by their 401(k) plan (31 percent).

Even among employees who class themselves as optimists about their financial futures, worries about health care and its cost are weighing them down. And as might be expected, money woes weigh more on women than men, even — or perhaps especially — when it comes to health care. While 52 percent of men say that becoming seriously ill and unable to work is a major concern (even larger for men than having to work longer than they planned), 58 percent of women fear illness and subsequent absence from the workplace.

And more than half of employees say that financial stress is negatively affecting their physical health. Different generations feel the effects more, with 51 percent of boomers, 56 percent of Gen Xers and 68 percent of millennials saying money worries are literally making them sick. Employers need to be aware of this and take steps to deal with it, particularly since it translates into a toll not just on workers but on the employer’s bottom line — via higher absenteeism rates and higher health care costs.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 June 1). Rising health care costs threatening employees' financial goals [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/06/01/rising-health-care-costs-threatening-employees-fin


Retirement Calculator Seen as Critical Tool

Did you know that the most impactful tool for employee financial wellness is a retirement calculator? Find out more in this article by Bruce Shutan from Employee Benefit News on why you should have a retirement calculator included in your employee benefits program.

In analyzing the financial behaviors of 67,089 U.S. employee financial wellness assessments, Financial Finesse concluded that the most impactful action was for employers to offer a retirement calculator. The 2016 Year in Review Report also suggested that they promote it to the hilt with the help of their brokers and advisers.

“Running that projection is driving other behavior,” such as changes in cash flow or higher retirement plan contributions over time, explains Cynthia Meyer, a financial planner with Financial Finesse and author of the report.

She says advisers can help spotlight the use of a retirement calculator in an educational workshop or enrollment meeting where they can detail examples or case studies involving the potential effect of this handy tool.

The report uncovered a few bright spots. More employees ran a retirement projection, which jumped to 49% in 2016 from 35% in 2015. In addition, about 60% of these employees discovered they were on track to retire comfortably while about 40% discovered they were underfunded and needed to make changes.

Another positive development was that repeat usage of workplace financial wellness programs appears to be gaining momentum. The number of employees who have done annual workplace assessments of their finances multiple times has climbed steadily since 2013 when it was just 6% to 15% in 2014, 16% in 2015 and 29% in 2016.

However, problems persist. Virtually all demographic groups were still found to have insufficient savings for a comfortable retirement. For example, while 92% of the employees studied participate in an employer-sponsored retirement plan, just 77% contribute enough to earn the full employer match.

Still, Meyer notes that packaging financial wellness content with a good retirement plan is becoming a standard practice as the movement toward a more holistic view of employee finances gains traction.

Aon Hewitt’s 2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing survey found that 59% of employers are very likely and another 33% are moderately likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in ways that extend beyond retirement decisions. Moreover, 86% of employers are very or moderately likely to communicate to their workforces the link between health and wealth.

Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, says this is an indication of “just how much I think employers still care about their employees.” It certainly bodes well for brokers and advisers who can expect to be busy in the coming years helping their clients create a strategy and build out a plan that appeals to each workforce, he believes.

Aon Hewitt’s survey, whose 238 respondents represent nearly 9 million employees, noted several other key trends. They include employers enhancing both the accumulation and decumulation phases for their defined contribution plan participants, and defined benefit plan sponsors revisiting ways they’re removing risk from their plan.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Shutan Bruce (2017 May 29). Retirement calculator seen as critical tool [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/retirement-calculator-seen-as-critical-tool?brief=00000152-14a7-d1cc-a5fa-7cffccf00000


HSAs on the Rise, but Employees Need to Know More About Them

Are your employees aware of the many benefits and features associated with HSAs? Check out this great article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on why it is important employees are knowledgeable about HSAs, so they can prepare for their health care expenses while planning for retirement.

According to Fidelity Investments, health savings accounts — and the assets within them — are rising quickly, as both employers and employees try to find ways to pay for health care. Still, a number of the features of HSAs are still underutilized.

While Fidelity says that assets in its HSAs rose 50 percent in the past year, now topping $2 billion, and the number of individual account holders rose 46 percent during the same period to 657,000, it points out more work still needs to be done on showing employees the advantages of such accounts.

Since it’s estimated that couples retiring today could need $260,000 — perhaps even more — to cover their health care costs during retirement, the need for a way to save just for health care expenses, aside from other retirement expenses, is becoming more urgent.

HSAs offer a tax-advantaged way to set aside more money than a retirement account alone provides — and people who have both tend to save more overall, with 2016 statistics indicating that people who had both defined contribution and HSA accounts saved on average 10.7 percent of their annual income in the retirement account. Those with just a DC account saved on average 8.2 percent in it.

People are mostly satisfied with HSAs — 80 percent say they are, while 76 percent are satisfied with the ease of using it HSA for medical expenses, 77 percent with the quality of their health care coverage and 77 percent with how the plan helps them manage their health care costs.

But that doesn’t mean they’ve got all the ins and outs figured out yet; 39 percent mistakenly believe that they’ll lose unspent HSA contributions at the end of the year. Yet unlike contributions to health flexible spending accounts (FSA), unspent contributions to HSAs roll over from year to year.

Still, employees are learning that HSAs can provide them a means of saving that’s not restricted to cash. While it’s still not common, more people are putting HSA money into investments that can then grow toward covering longer-term health expenses, but employers, says Fidelity, can do more to educate workers on such an option. Nationally, only 15 percent of all HSA assets are invested outside of cash.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 May 26). HSAs on the rise, but employees need to know more about them [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/05/26/hsas-on-the-rise-but-employees-need-to-know-more-a?ref=hp-news


Employees Look to Employers for Financial Stability

Do your employees depend on their pay and benefits for their financial security? Find out in this great article by Nick Otto from Employee Benefit News on what employees depend on from their employers to support their financial well-being.

As the American dream of financial security continues to slip out of reach for many U.S. workers, employers — seen as trusted partners by employees — will need to step up to restore faith in retirement readiness.

Only 22% of individuals described themselves as feeling financially secure, Prudential says in its new research paper, and there is growing acceptance among employers that there is significant value in improving employees’ financial wellness.

Aspirations are modest, says Clint Key, a research officer in financial security and mobility at The Pew Charitable Trusts. Between economic mobility or financial stability, an overwhelming 92% of workers say they want stability.

“Four in 10 don’t have the resources to pay for a $2,000 expense,” he said Tuesday, at a joint financial wellness roundtable sponsored by Prudential Financial and the Aspen Institute in Washington, D.C. More alarmingly, employees don’t have the income to last a month if they were to lose their job.

Still, Key adds, it isn’t so much the number of dollars in the bank, but the peace of minds that savings buy them.

And employers are feeling the repercussions of the growing stressors in the workplace.

“People who are stressed about finances are five times more likely to take time off from work to deal with personal finances,” added Diane Winland, a manager with PricewaterhouseCoopers. “Three to four hours every week go to handling personal finances, and these employees are more likely to call out sick from work.”

The security levers once in place, such as home equity, are going away and it’s becoming much more difficult for workers to handle a financial emergency, she added.

The good news, however, is employers get it, she said. “They understand employee financial wellness is tied to the bottom line and it behooves them to invest in their employees,” said Winland. “The conundrum is how to deploy and what to deploy in their programs. Is it counseling? Coaching? Is it a new snazzy app that comes out. The key is there is no silver bullet.”

So, what is there to do?

Each employer has a unique business model and employee base, and, therefore, faces different challenges when implementing a financial wellness approach, Prudential’s paper notes. “Employers should design financial wellness programs that are informed by insights into the unique financial needs of their employees, successfully educate and engage employees, and help employees take concrete actions to improve their financial health. We encourage employers to discuss financial wellness with their benefit consultants or advisers.”

And, added Robert Levy, managing director at the Center for Financial Services Innovation, just talk to your employees. “They’re open to discussing their financial challenges,” he said, and employers can engage these conversations through numerous ways: surveys, one-on-one talks, focus groups.

Prudential stepping up

To try to change the current unease in financial security, Prudential Tuesday also announced its expansion of worksite tools for employers to enable them to analyze the financial needs of their workforce and offer the employees a personalized interactive experience that includes videos, tools, webinars and articles that empower them to manage their financial challenges.

In addition, Prudential has launched a $5 million, three-year program in partnership with the Aspen Institute — a Washington, D.C.-based, non-partisan educational and policy studies organization — to promote employees’ financial security.

“The investment highlights the need to increase the national discourse about greater economic access for employees as they bear increasing risk and responsibility for their short-term and long-term financial security,” said Prudential.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Otto N. (2017 May 18). employees look to employers for financial stability [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.benefitnews.com/news/employees-look-to-employers-for-financial-stability


Millennials are Saving for 'Financial Freedom,' not Retirement

Did you know that more millennials are skipping saving money for their retirement? Take a look at this interesting article by Marlene Y. Satter from Benefits Pro on how millennials are focusing on saving for their lifestyles instead of retirement.

Well, at least millennials are saving.

According to the Spring Merrill Edge Report from Bank of America Merrill Edge, 63 percent of millennials are socking it away in the name of financial freedom: the amount of savings or income they need to live the lifestyle they want.

GenXers and boomers, on the other hand, are saving up to get out of the workplace—with 55 percent of them working toward that goal.

Younger people are apparently being driven by FOMO—or fear of missing out, with their top goals a dream job ((42 percent, compared with 23 percent of older workers) and traveling the world (37 percent, compared with 21 percent of older workers).

Millennials have also relegated marriage and parenting lower down on the priority list, with just 43 percent looking forward to wedding bells, compared with 51 percent.

Those aren’t the only things they’re focusing on. That FOMO mindset is also driving millennials to spend now on traveling (81 percent), dining out (65 percent) and exercising (55 percent). Interestingly, however, they’re still managing to save more than older generations, with 36 percent stashing more than 20 percent of their annual salary.

Of course, that doesn’t mean that everyone is doing a bang-up job of saving money; overall, 42 percent of respondents are saving less than 10 percent of their salary, and 7 percent don’t save at all.

And many lack confidence in being able to cope with “what-if” scenarios: 71 percent are not very confident they could hit financial goals in the event of a divorce (although just 5 percent are planning for the possibility), 64 percent don’t think raising a family goes hand in hand with financial success, and just 23 percent are saving for a family; and 48 percent are not very confident about achieving their goals if they outlived their significant other.

They’re apparently not all that sanguine about financial wisdom, either with 48 percent believing that financial education should be a requirement. Not a bad idea—particularly since 29 percent of respondents believe that, in the future, 401(k)s will not be the “gold standard” in retirement investing.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 May 19). Millennials are saving for " financial freedom" not retirement [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/05/19/millennials-are-saving-for-financial-freedom-not-r?ref=hp-top-stories


Helping Your Employees Protect Against Identity Theft

Are you doing enough to help your employees protect themselves from identity theft? Make sure to take a look at this article by Irene Saccoccio from SHRM on what employers can do to protect their employees from identity theft.

Social Security is committed to securing today and tomorrow for you and your employees. Protecting your identity and information is important to us. Security is part of our name and we take that seriously.

Identity theft is when someone steals your personally identifiable information (PII) and pretends to be you. It happens to millions of Americans every year. Once identity thieves have your personal information they can open bank or credit card accounts, file taxes, or make new purchases in your name. You can help prevent identity theft by:

  • Securing your Social Security card and not carrying it in your wallet;
  • Not responding to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online;
  • Shredding mail containing PII instead of throwing it in the trash; and
  • Reviewing your receipts. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.

It is important that your employees take the necessary steps to protect their Social Security number. Usually, just knowing the number is enough, so it is important not to carry your Social Security card or other documents unless they are needed for a specific purpose. If someone asks for your employees’ number, they should ask why, how it will be used, and what will happen if they refuse. When hired, your employees should provide you with the correct Social Security number to ensure their records and tax information are accurate.

If your employees suspect someone else is using their Social Security number, they should visit IdentityTheft.gov to report identity theft and get a recovery plan. IdentityTheft.gov guides them through every step of the recovery process. It’s a one-stop resource managed by the Federal Trade Commission, the nation’s consumer protection agency. You can also call 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338); TTY 1-866-653-4261.

Your employee should also contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and file an online complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Don’t let your employees fall victim to identity theft. Advise them to read our publication Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number or read our Frequently Asked Questions for more information. If you or an employee suspects that they’re a victim of identity theft, don’t wait, report it right away!

See the original article Here.

Source:

Saccoccio I. (2017 May ). Helping your employees protect against identity theft [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://blog.shrm.org/blog/helping-your-employees-protect-against-identity-theft


Advisers Seek a Tech Solution to Financial Wellness

Have you been looking for a new solution to increase your client's investment into their financial well-being? Check out this great article by Cort Olsen from Employee Benefits Advisors on how advisers are using technology to help their clients invest in their financial wellness.

With many employers taking advantage of wearable wellness devices such as Fitbits and Apple Watches, advisers and consultants say they would like to see a similar platform that will efficiently monitor a person’s financial wellbeing.

“For physical wellness there are health assessments like biometric screenings to gather information and then there is the wearable data that tells people where they need to be to stay on track with their health goals,” says Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant for EPIC Insurance Brokers & Consultants. “The difference with the financial piece is that there isn’t a way to track users’ spending habits or monitoring their retirement funding to make their financial status more budget friendly.”

While Schmidt says he has not been able to find a platform that monitors financial status at such a personal level, John Tabb, chief product officer of Questis, has put together a platform that manages to gather data and make suggestions on what employees should be focusing their investments on such as paying off student loan debt or investing in their Roth IRA.

Tabb estimates that there are roughly 30 companies that call themselves financial wellness firms but adds that none of them are “holisitic.” “Not to say that they are not good, but there are only a handful of companies that can allow advisers at financial institutions to utilize their platform as a tool,” he says.

Saving for retirement vs. paying off student debt
Shane Bartling, retirement consultant for Willis Towers Watson, says they have developed a program with their clients that addresses gaps in the market and increases the value of the overall lineup of financial well-being services offered by employers generally around retirement readiness.

“As a result of requests from clients and the needs we have identified with our consulting work, we have built out a technology solution to compliment the line-up of other resources that clients have available,” Bartling says. “We wanted to find the indicators of poor financial wellbeing in the workforce, how to measure it and then how do we engage the parts of our workforce that are going to see the highest value from the resources we are providing.”

The WTW program offers clients an initial assessment from an adviser to determine where employees are struggling the most with their finances. “There is a way to look at behaviors employees are signaling when they are in a poor financial situation,” Bartling says. “They begin to do things like using loans, taking hardship withdrawals and then ultimately you see issues like wage garnishment tend to pop up on the radar and are opting out of the 401(k).”

SoFi has expanded its business focus from student loan refinancing firms into the workspace by helping employers offer a student loan repayment benefit.

“Looking at the employee benefits space today, student loans are generally a pretty big hole in most employers benefit offerings,” says Catesby Perrin, vice president of business development at SoFi. “The main stays of employee benefit offerings are healthcare and 401(k), which we all know are essential, but in many respects don’t address the most pressing financial concerns of the largest demographic in the workforce, which are millennials.”

Perrin adds that 401(k) and other forms retirement saving is imperative for everyone in the workforce, however retirement is not a top priority for millennials due to other financial stressors that are taking place in their day-to-day lives.

“As great as a 401(k) is and how important it is intrinsically, if you have $500 or $800 a month due in student loan payments, which is totally plausible for somebody coming out of undergrad today, the 401(k) is a total luxury,” Perrin says. “Most employers are not doing much about student loan problem, so we are offering two primary benefits today for employers… a student loan refinancing benefit and a benefit set for employers to help pay down the principle balance of their employee’s loan.”

Alternative tech gaining traction
One option is the increasing popularity of mobile push notifications. Ayana Collins, wellness consultant out of EPIC’s Atlanta office, says she is seeing a greater response from users who utilize these alerts on their smartphones to view wellness tips and strategies that they may not read if they are delivered in the form of an e-mail.

“Employees receive thousands upon thousands of e-mails and one more e-mail coming from HR or from a wellness company may not be opened,” Collins says. “If they receive a push notification from their mobile phone they are more likely to check out what financial wellness tips we are sending to them.”

Privacy invasion?
Meanwhile, new legislation determining how wellness plans are regulated has sparked a renewed interest in finding a streamlined financial wellbeing platform.

Shan Fowler, senior director of employer portfolio and product strategy at Benefitfocus, says legislation such as the Employer Participation in Repayment Act and the Preserving Employee Wellness Programs Act, will help fuel the creation of a financial wellbeing platform.

“Financial regulation is very similar to healthcare regulation,” Fowler says, “due to so many branches that are contingent with legislative support. Seeing bipartisan support for this national epidemic [has me feeling] very optimistic.”

However, employees may not be as enthusiastic. Many workers are concerned about the level of data employers could have access to, seeing it as an invasion of privacy, Fowler adds.

“I think you need to put yourself into the shoes of the employee and ask if I want my company to have access to my personal information,” he says. “That speaks to that very fine line employers have to walk of having their employees’ best interests in mind, but not going too far into a ‘big brother’ mentality.”

Tabb says that while the Questis platform does offer individual advice on financial direction based off an initial assessment, the data collected is stored in an aggregate form that protects employees’ personal information from being viewed by their superiors or colleagues.

“If the employer wants some data, they are going to pay for it to help them make decisions, but it is all on an aggregate level,” Tabb says. “There is certainly a perception that needs to be addressed to ensure employees that their data is safe and that nothing is being shared with their employer that does not need to be shared.”

Both Bartling and Perrin also say their platforms offer data to employers only in an aggregate form to give them an idea of how many employees are utilizing the benefit and also the projected success rates, but when it comes to the personal finances of each individual employee, security is in place to ensure private financial information is protected.

EPIC’s Collins says no matter what branch of wellness an employer invests in, whether it be financial, physical or mental, there needs to be a reason behind the technology that they are using. If there is no payout for the employee, there will be no demand to carry the program.

“There has to be a ‘so what’ behind it,” Collins says. “If the employer is just doing a simple challenge with nothing behind it, people are not going to gravitate toward it, because it doesn’t create a moment where the users discover an improvement to themselves. That is the whole point behind wellness.”

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Source:

Olsen C. (2017 May 11). Advisers seek a tech solution to financial wellness [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/advisers-seek-a-tech-solution-to-financial-wellness