The benefits of financial wellness counseling

Are your employees being properly educated on the benefits on their financial well-being? If not take a look at this article from Benefits Pro about the value of educating your employees in financial wellness by Jack Craver

Money Management International, a nonprofit credit counseling organization, is touting the results of a recent survey it conducted as evidence that employers can significantly reduce stress among their employees by offering them financial counseling resources.

MMI announced recently 86 percent of the 150 employees it provided financial counseling to at an Oregon-based nonprofit health agency say they have less stress related to money as a result of the counseling.

In addition, most of the employees at Samaritan Health Services say the counseling led to them achieving certain financial goals, such as reducing debt (60 percent), setting aside more money for retirement (38 percent), boosting their credit score (30 percent) or buying a home (8 percent).

“At MMI, we know that financial coaching, counseling, and education work, but seeing the incredible, positive impact this program has made on the financial outlook of these clients is simply amazing,” says Julie Griffith, Mapping Your Future account manager, in a statement accompanying the study’s release.

Other research has shown employers are increasingly viewing financial counseling as a key component of wellness initiatives due to the significant psychological and emotional toll money-related anxiety takes on employees.

In addition to causing depression, sleep deprivation and all sorts of health problems that reduce an employee’s productivity, financial stress often distracts employees from their work. A survey last year showed that 37 percent of U.S. employees report spending time on the job thinking about or dealing with personal finances.

The awakening to the importance of financial wellness coincides with a number of studies which shed light on young Americans’ lack of savings. One study found a solid majority of Americans have less than $500 in savings. Another found that the U.S. personal savings rate was just 5.7 percent, roughly half of what it was 50 years ago.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Craver J. (2017 March 08). The benefits of financial wellness counseling [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/08/the-benefits-of-financial-wellness-counseling


Why employers should rethink their benefits strategies

Has your employee benefits program grown old and stale? Take a look at the great article from Employee Benefits Advisors about the benefits of upgrading your employee benefits to match your employees needs by Chris Bruce

Historically, employee benefits have been viewed as a routine piece of the HR process. However, the mentality of employees today has shifted, especially among the growing population of millennial employees. Today’s workforce expects more from their employers than the traditional healthcare and retirement options, in terms of both specific benefit offerings and communications about those offerings.

For companies, it’s critical they address the evolving needs of their workforce. With unemployment rates plunging to their lowest levels since before the financial crisis, the search for talent is heating up, and organizations need to work harder than ever to retain top talent in a competitive job market. To do this, I see three steps that organizations need to take when rethinking their benefits strategy and engaging with employees: embrace a proactive rather than reactive benefits strategy, think digital when it comes to employee communications and consider the next generation of employee benefits as a way to differentiate from the competition.

1. Reconsider your benefits evaluation process

The benefits process at most companies is reactive — executives and HR only look to evaluate current offerings when insurance contracts expire or a problem emerges. When the evaluation does happen, the two factors that often concern employers the most are product and price. Employers often gravitate toward well-known insurers that offer the schemes that appear familiar. However, this can often lead companies to choose providers who fall short on innovation and overall customer experience for employees.

This approach needs to be flipped on its head. Companies should be proactive in determining which benefit schemes best meet the needs of their workforce. The first step is going straight to the source: talk to employees. Employers can’t know what benefits would be most appealing to their employee base unless they ask. By turning the evaluation process to employees first, companies can better tailor new benefits to meet the needs of their workers, and also identify existing benefits that might be outdated or irrelevant, therefore saving resources on wasted offerings.

Data and analytics also are playing an increasing role across the HR function, and benefits is no exception. By leveraging technology solutions that allow HR to track benefits usage and engagement, teams can better determine what is resonating with employees and where benefits can be cut back or where they should be ramped up.

2. Put down the brochure and think digital engagement

Employee education is another area of benefits that can often perplex companies. According to a recent survey from Aflac, half of employees only spend 30 minutes or less making benefit selections during the open enrollment period each year. This means employers have a short window of time to educate employees and make sure they are armed with the right information to feel confident in their benefits selection.

To do this effectively, HR needs to move past flat communication like brochures, handouts and lengthy employee packets and look for ways to meet employees where they live — online. By testing out innovations that create a rich experience, while still being simple and intuitive, employers can grab the attention of their workforce and make sure key information is communicated. For example, exploring opportunities to create cross-device experiences for employees so they can interact on-the-go, including augmented reality applications or digital interactive magazines. Additionally, for large corporations, hosting a virtual benefits fair can provide a forum for employees to ask questions in a dynamic setting.

3. Embrace the next-generation of benefits

As organizations become more savvy and nimble, personalization will have a huge impact in encouraging employee engagement and driving satisfaction among today’s increasingly diverse workforce. We have already started to see some companies embrace this new approach to benefits, adding out-of-the-box items to normal offerings — from debt consolidation services and wearable health tracking technology to genome testing and wedding concierge services.

The fact is, the days of “status-quo” benefits are gone, and employees today want benefit options that match their current life circumstances. To best engage employees, organizations need to be proactive in evaluating benefits regularly and using analytics to track usage, identify opportunities to implement digital communication elements and look for ways to introduce new benefits to meet the needs of their employee base. By following these steps, organizations can gain a competitive edge when it comes to attracting and retaining top talent.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bruce C. (2017 March 10). Why employers should rethink their benefits strategies [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/3-steps-employers-can-take-to-rethink-benefits-strategy?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000


Compliance Overview: FLSA – Minimum Wage Laws

Most employers and employees in the United States are subject to the minimum wage provisions set out by the Fair Labor Standards Act (FLSA).

However, the FLSA also provides various minimum wage exceptions under specific circumstances to workers with disabilities, full-time students, workers under 20 years of age (during their first 90 days of employment), tipped employees and student learners.

In addition, special rules apply to state and local government agencies in fire protection and law enforcement activities, volunteer services, and compensatory time off (instead of cash overtime pay). Employers are required to keep records on wages, hours and other items which are generally maintained as an ordinary business practice.

The Wage and Hour Division of the U. S. Department of Labor (DOL) enforces minimum wage provisions and investigates violation claims.

Minimum Wage rate

The current federal minimum wage rate is $7.25 per hour. To calculate an employee’s wage rate, an employer must include all forms of compensation given to, or paid on behalf of, the employee, except for:

  • Additional compensation for overtime hours, holiday hours or work that falls outside of a schedule set by an employment contract or collective bargaining agreement;
  • Compensation for paid time off (such as vacation, illness, holidays and production downtimes);
  • Gifts and monetary awards that are not measured by hours worked, productivity or efficiency;
  • Irrevocable employee benefit contributions (such as life insurance, health benefits and retirement accounts);
  • Value or income derived from an employer-provided grant; and
  • Value or income from stock option rights or stock appreciation and bona fide stock purchase programs.

Subminimum Wage Rates

The FLSA allows employers to hire students, student-learners, apprentices, messengers and disabled individuals at rates below the minimum wage rate. The FLSA also includes a special provision for tipped employee wages.

Learners, Apprentices and Messengers

Employers can pay learners, apprentices and messengers a wage rate below the minimum wage rate when they obtain a special certificate from the DOL. When issuing the certificates, the DOL will consider the number of workers an employer wants to cover under the special certificate, the number of hours worked by these employees and the employees’ length of service with the employer.

Learners are individuals receiving training for the occupation for which they were hired. Individuals qualify as learners until they acquire the necessary skills and attain the judgment level they need to perform their job responsibilities efficiently (generally up to 240 hours of vocational training with the same employer in a three-year period). Individuals may be learners in only two qualifying occupations. Learners can receive wages as low as 95 percent (75 percent for student-learners) of the minimum wage rate.

Apprentices are individuals (at least 16 years old) employed to learn a skilled trade through a registered apprenticeship program. The DOL establishes the wage rate for apprentices, along with other employment terms and conditions, in accordance with apprenticeship program guidelines.

Messengers are individuals employed primarily in delivering letters and messages. They may receive wages as low as 95 percent of the minimum rate.

Students

Employers can pay students a wage rate of as low as 85 percent of the current minimum rate after obtaining a special certificate from the DOL. These certificates are available to agricultural employers, retailers, service sector employers and institutions of higher learning. To obtain a special certificate from the DOL, employers must show that the student employee:

  • Does not work more than 20 hours in any workweek while school is in session;
  • Is a full-time student at an institution of learning; and
  • Does not violate any child labor laws (if applicable).

Institutions of higher learning have an additional requirement to show that each student-employee working under a certificate of subminimum wage rate is also enrolled as a full-time student at the institution where he or she works.

Employers wanting to hire more than six student-employees must show the DOL that employing the students does not reduce employment opportunities for non-student employees.

Disabled Workers

The DOL can also issue special certificates authorizing employers to pay subminimum wage rates to individuals whose earning capacity or productivity is impaired because of age, physical or mental deficiency or injury. Subminimum wage rates under these special certificates must be commensurate to the wages earned by nondisabled employees in similar jobs.

To receive a subminimum wage rate certificate for a disabled worker, an employer must provide the DOL with written assurances that it will review the disabled worker’s wages every six months and that it will adjust a disabled worker’s wages at least once per year to reflect prevailing rates for nondisabled workers in similar jobs.

Employers may not reduce a disabled individual’s wages below the wage rate indicated on the certificate, unless they receive prior authorization from the DOL to make the change.

Tipped Employees

The minimum hourly wage for tipped employees—also known as a cash wage—is $2.13 per hour. The FLSA defines a tipped employee as an individual who is engaged in an occupation in which he or she customarily and regularly receives at least $30 per month in tips.

The FLSA allows employers to use a tip credit of $5.12 per hour and reduce a tipped employee’s wage rate requirements because it assumes that the employee’s tips will offset the difference between the cash wage and the minimum wage rate, enabling the employee to receive wages at, or above, the minimum wage rate.

However, federal law requires employers to notify employees at the beginning of their employment that their wages are calculated using tips, a tip credit and a cash wage. The tip credit does not vary for a tipped employee who works overtime hours.

In addition, employers must subsidize a tipped employee’s wages to the extent that the employee’s cash wage and tips are less than the minimum wage rate.

Minimum Wage Rate Exemptions

FLSA exceptions are narrowly defined. Employers should check the exact terms and conditions for each exception carefully. The following examples are an illustrative but not all-inclusive list of employees exempt from the federal minimum wage:

  • Agricultural employees that are immediately related to their employers, are hand harvest laborers, work for employers that use more than 500 man-days of labor in any quarter of the previous calendar year or work in the range production of livestock;
  • Bona fide executive, administrative and professional employees (including teachers and academic administrative personnel in elementary and secondary schools);
  • Babysitters and companions for the elderly whose employment is casual and who provide services for individuals who are unable (because of age or infirmity) to care for themselves;
  • Computer system analysts, programmers, engineers and similarly skilled workers with wages of at least $27.63 per hour and whose primary duty is to apply system analysis techniques and procedures, consult with users or determine, design, develop, document, analyze, create, test or modify hardware, software or system functional specifications;
  • Domestic service employees whose compensation is not classified as wages under the Social Security Act or who work for less than eight hours in a workweek;
  • Newly hired employees under 20 years of age during the first 90 consecutive calendar days following their hiring date (as long as the employer does not displace, fully or partially, other employees’ work hours or benefits to accommodate new hires);
  • Newspaper delivery and publication employees when the newspaper has a circulation of less than 4,000 and its major circulation is within the county (or contiguous counties) where the paper is published;
  • Crew members and seamen working on foreign vessels;
  • Amusement park and recreational establishment employees working for a park that operates for up to seven months in a year or earns at least two-thirds of its total annual income in a six-month period (including individuals working for organized camps and religious and nonprofit educational conference centers);
  • Criminal investigators receiving availability pay (compensation provided for unscheduled services beyond the investigator’s 40-hour workweek in activities that require irregular or unscheduled work hours);
  • Seafood processing employees (individuals employed in the canning, catching, cultivating, farming, harvesting, packing, processing, propagating or taking of any kind of fish, shellfish, crustaceans, sponges, seaweeds and other aquatic forms of animal and vegetable life); and
  • Switchboard operators working for an independently owned public telephone company having no more than 750 stations.

Notice and Postings

Unless an exemption applies, federal law requires employers to post a notice explaining the FLSA to employees. The notice must be posted in every work establishment in a conspicuous place where employees regularly pass by and can easily read it. If an exception applies, employers may modify the model poster provided by the DOL to show the provisions that do not apply.

In addition, the FLSA requires employers that have been authorized to use subminimum wage rate certificates to display and make available to employees a poster explaining the general terms and conditions under which subminimum wage rates may be paid. A subminimum wage certificate notice for impaired workers must be displayed in a conspicuous place where impaired workers, their parents or guardians and other workers may read it. If the employer finds it inappropriate to post a subminimum wage rate notice for impaired workers, the employer may satisfy FLSA notice requirements by providing the notice directly only to all affected employees.

Prohibited discrimination and retaliation

Employers may not discharge or discriminate in any manner against an employee who files a complaint or cooperates with the DOL in an investigation or proceeding.

Penalties

Minimum wage violations under the FLSA are punishable by a fine up to $10,000, imprisonment for up to six months or both. In addition, these violations are subject to civil liability and employers may be required to compensate employees for unpaid wages, liquidated damages and any other penalties a court sees fit to impose. Fee amounts may increase for repeat and willful offenders.

To download the full compliance alert click Here.


How are your retirement health care savings stacking up?

Are you properly investing in your health saving account? Take a look at the this article from Benefits Pro about the importance of saving money for your healthcare by Reese Feuerman.

For all ages, it’s imperative to balance near-term and long-term savings goals, but the makeup of those savings goals has changed dramatically over the past 10 years.

With the continued rise in health care costs, and increased cost sharing between employers and employees, more employees and employers have been migrating to consumer-driven health care (CDH) to provide lower-cost alternatives.

With the increased adoption in these plans for employee cost savings purposes, employers have likewise realized similar cost savings to their bottom line. But what role does CDH play in the long term?

Republicans trying to find a way to repeal the ACA are turning to health savings accounts — new ones, called…

The Greatest Generation was able to rely on their pensions, Social Security, Medicaid, and the like as a means to support them in retirement for both medical and living expenses. However, as the Baby Boomers continue their journey towards retirement, reliance upon future proof retirement funds are fading into the sunset for coming generations. According to a 2015 study from the Government Accountability Office (GAO), 29% of American’s 55 and older do not have money set aside in a pension plan or alternative retirement plan.

To make matters worse, some experts are forecasting Social Security funding will be depleted by 2034, leaving even more retirees potentially without a plan. As such, Generation X and beyond must look for more creatives measures for savings to make up the difference.

In 1978, 401(k) plans were introduced to provide the workforce with a secondary means for retirement savings while also providing significant tax benefits. However, even when actively funded, with rising health care costs and a depleted Social Security system—the solution this workforce has paid into for their entire career—will not be enough.

According to Healthview Services, the average retiree couple will spend $288,000 for just health care expenses during retirement. This sum could easily consume one-third of total retiree savings. This is a contributing factor to the rise and rapid adoption of tax-advantage health accounts to supplement retirement savings. Introduced to the market in 2003, Health Savings Accounts (HSA) have provided employees with an option to set aside pre-tax funds to either cover current year health care expenses, like the familiar Flexible Spending Account (FSA), or carry over the funds year-over-year to pay for medical expenses later or during retirement. The pretax money employees are able to set aside in these accounts to cover health care expenses, will over time, be on par with retirement savings contributions, such as a 401(k) and 403(b), because of increasing costs and triple-tax savings.

It is important for consumers to understand these retirement options and how they could be leveraged for greater financial wealth. As a result, the Health Care Stack, an analysis authored by ConnectYourCare, acts as a life savings model and illustrates the amount of pretax money consumers can contribute for both their lifestyle and health expenses in retirement.

For illustrative purposes, according to current IRS guidelines, the average American under the age of 50 could set aside up to $24,750 each year pre-tax for retirement to cover their health care and living expenses. In this example, if a worker in his or her 30s starts to set aside the maximum contributions (based on IRS guidelines) for HSA contributions, assuming a rate of return of 3%, they would have $330,000 saved in their HSA to cover health care expenses once they reach the retirement age of 65. This number could be even greater if President Trump’s administration passes any number of proposed bills to increase the HSA contribution limits to match the maximum out-of-pocket expenses included in high deductible health plans. This allocation would not only cover average medical expenses, but also provide a triple-tax advantage for consumers from now through retirement.

In addition to the long-term retirement goals, the yearly pre-tax savings may be even greater if notional accounts are factored in, with approved IRS limits of a $2,600 per year maximum for Flexible Spending Accounts, $5,000 per year maximum for Dependent Care FSA, and $6,120 per year maximum for commuter plans. This equals $38,470 (or $44,820 if HSA contributions increase) of pre-tax contributions that consumers could save by offsetting the tax burden and could invest towards retirement.

For those consumers over the age of 50, the savings potential is even greater as they can contribute to a post retirement catch-up for their 401K plans equaling a total of $24,000, plus they may take advantage of the $6,750 HSA savings, as well as the additional $1,000 catch up. If certain proposed bills are passed, the increase could be $38,100 a year that they could set aside, in pre-tax assets, for retirement.

Not only will an individual’s expenses be covered, but there are other benefits brought forth by proper planning, including the potential to reach ones retirement savings goals early. Let’s say that after meeting with a licensed financial investor it was determined that an individual needed $1.8 million in order to retire, and according to national averages, close to $288,000 to cover health care costs.

Given the proper investment strategy around contributions to both retirement and  HSA plans, an individual could – theoretically -save enough to meet their retirement investment needs by the age of 60 for both lifestyle and health care expense coverage, if they started making careful investments in their 20s (assuming the worker is making $50,000 per year with a 3% annual increase).

In comparison, under current proposals, which include the increased HSA limits, retirement savings could be achieved even earlier with the coverage threshold being at 57 for the average worker. This is a tremendous opportunity to transform retirement investment programs for all American workers who would otherwise be left on their own. Talk about the American dream!

While there is not a one-size fits all strategy, it is important for everyone to understand their options and see how these pretax accounts outlined in the Health Care Stack play an important consideration in ones future retirement planning.

Taking the time now to fully understand tax-favored benefit accounts will provide him or her with the appropriate coverage to enjoy life well into their golden years. Retirement is just around the corner, are you ready?

See the original article Here.

Source:

Feuerman (2017 March 02). How are your retirement health care savings stacking up?[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/03/02/how-are-your-retirement-health-care-savings-stacki?ref=hp-in-depth


Employers adding financial well-being tools for preretirees

Take a peek at this interesting article from Benefits Pro, about the man tools and services employers are starting to offer to pre-retirees by Marlene Y. Satter,

As their employee base ages closer to retirement, employers are adding tools to help those older employees better prepare for the big day.

That’s according to Aon Hewitt’s “2017 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing” survey, which found that employers are taking action to improve employee benefits and help workers plan for a secure financial footing, not just now but when they retire.

Not only are employers focusing on enhancing both accumulation and decumulation phases for defined contribution plan participants, they’re taking a range of steps to do so—from improved education to encouraging higher savings rates.

Just 15 percent of respondents are comfortable with the average savings rate in their plan; among the rest, 62 percent are very likely to act on increasing that savings level during 2017, whether by increasing defaults, changing contribution escalation provisions, or sending targeted communications to participants.

And only 10 percent of employers are satisfied with employees’ knowledge about how much constitutes an adequate amount of retirement savings, and nearly all dissatisfied employers (87 percent) are likely to take some action this year to help workers plan to reach retirement goals.

In addition, more employers are providing options for participants to convert their balances into retirement income. Currently just over half of employers (51 percent) allow individuals to receive automatic payments from the plan over an extended period of time.

They’re also derisking through various means, whether by adopting asset portfolios that match the characteristics of the plan’s liabilities (currently 40 percent of employers use this strategy, but the prevalence is expected to grow to more than 50 percent by year end), considering the purchase of annuities for at least some participants (28 percent are considering this action) or planning to offer a lump-sum window to terminated vested participants (32 percent are in this camp).

Why are employers suddenly so interested in how well employees are financially prepared for retirement?

According to Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt, not only do employees not really understand how to convert a lump sum retirement plan balance into retirement income that they can live on, and employers are also worried that employees will mishandle that lump sum when the time comes and end up broke.

So some employers are tackling the issue by folding in more information about 401(k) plans with the annual enrollment process, in an effort to get employees to think more holistically about their benefits packages.

They’re also encouraging them to consider increasing contributions to their retirement plan while they’re already enmeshed in other enrollments.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Satter M. (2017 February 13). Employers adding financial well-being tools for preretirees [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/02/13/employers-adding-financial-well-being-tools-for-pr?ref=hp-top-stories


10 tips for next generation benefits

Great article from Benefits Pro about ten tips to help improve your benefits for the next generation by Erin Moriarty-Siler,

If brokers and their clients want to continue to attract and, more importantly, retain millennials and other generations entering the workforce, they’ll need to start rethinking benefits packages.

As part of our marketing and sales tips series, we asked our audience for their thoughts on the next generation and their benefits needs.

Here are the 10 tips we liked best.

1. Show appreciation

“Even if you don’t have the time and resources to roll out the red carpet each time an employee joins your team, they should feel as if you do. Even something as simple as a team lunch to welcome them and a functioning computer can go a long way toward making a new employee feel valued and at home.” Sanjay Sathe, president & CEO, RiseSmart.

2. Real world benefits

“It’s important for benefits professionals and brokers to transform their organizations’ benefits offerings to align better with what both the individual and the generational millennials value — benefits that reflect the real world in which all generations in today’s workforce think about the interconnection between their careers, employers, and personal lives.” Amy Christofis, client account executive, Connecture, Inc.

3. A millennial world

“One can no longer think of millennials as the ‘kids in the office.’ They are the office.” Eric Gulko, vice president, Summit Financial Corporation

4. New normal

Millennials are no longer just data and descriptors in a PowerPoint slideshow about job recruitment. They are now the majority, and how they do things will soon be the norm. It’s important to consider these implications.

5. Innovation

“If we want to build organization that can innovate time and again, we must recast our understanding of what leadership is about. Leading innovation is about creating the space where people are willing and able to do the hard work of innovative problem solving.” Linda Hill, professor of business administration, Harvard Business School

6. Don’t make assumptions

“Just because millennials are comfortable using the internet for research doesn’t mean they don’t also like a personal touch. Employers need to be wary of relying on only one communication vehicle to reach millennials. Sixty percent of millennials say they would be willing to discuss their benefits options with someone face to face or over the phone.” Ken Meier, vice president, Aflac Northeast Territory

7. The power of praise

“The prevailing joke is that millennials are ‘the participation trophy generation,’ having always been praised just for showing up, not necessarily winning. Turn that negative perception into a positive by realizing that providing constructive, encouraging feedback when it’s earned motivates this generation to strive for even more successes.” Kristen Beckman, senior editor, LifeHealthPro.com

8. Embrace diversity

“For the first time, employers are likely to have up to five generations working together — matures, baby boomers, Generation X, millennials (Generation Y) and now Generation Z. From their workstyles to their lifestyles, each generation is unique.” Bruce Hentschel, leads strategy development, specialty benefits division, Principal Financial Group

9. Non-traditional needs

“Millennials have moved the needle in terms of work-life balance. They don’t expect to sit in their cubicles from 9-5. They want flexibility in their work location and hours. However, on the flip side of that, they are more connected to their work than generations before, often logging ‘non-traditional’ work hours that better fit into their lives.” Amy Christofis, client account executive at Connecture, Inc.

10. Listen in

“If there’s one thing the Trump victory teaches us, it’s to listen to the silence in others. Millennials may be giving the financial industry the silent treatment, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want to talk.” Christopher Carosa, CTFA, chief contributing editor,FiduciaryNews.com

See the original article Here.

Source:

Moriarty-Siler E. (2017 February 03). 10 tips for next generation benefits [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.benefitspro.com/2017/02/03/10-tips-for-next-generation-benefits?page_all=1


Target employee financial needs by finding the right technology

Are you looking for new ways to help improve your employees’ financial needs? Take a look at this interesting article from Employee Benefits Advisors about how the use of technology can improve your employees’ financial needs by Mark Singer

We have seen how a large percentage of the American workforce has an inadequate degree of financial literacy, and how the lack of basic financial knowledge causes personal problems and workplace stress. We have also seen the importance of financial education and how raising employee literacy directly benefits the bottom lines of companies.

The financial health of employees can vary greatly between companies, as can employee numbers. Work schedules and available facilities are other issues of variance. There is also the interest factor to address. Employees must find programs interesting and beneficial, or they will not attend or glean maximum results. Financial wellness programs that may be beneficial and successful for one company may be burdensome and unsuccessful for another. To meet pressing personal financial problems effectively, cutting-edge technologies need to be applied that both address immediate employee issues and limit company expense.

There are numerous new technologies that can be utilized in a mix-and-match fashion that successfully target employee financial needs. This age of the World Wide Web brings a host of financial education tools directly to the audience. Informational videos, virtual learning programs, webinars, training portals and other virtual solutions are easily accessible over the Internet and most are quite user-friendly. This mode of education is significant. For example, 84% of respondents to a survey conducted by Hewlett-Packard and the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship said that e-tools were valuable. The study went on to show that modalities containing some degree of online training were preferred by 56% of respondents.

Gaming and data
One form of online educational technology that is gaining momentum as well as results is known as game-based learning. This method of learning is particularly popular with the millennial generation that has grown up with an ever-increasing variety of online gaming. In 2008, roughly 170 million Americans engaged in video and computer games that compel players to acquire skills necessary to achieve specific tasks. It has been found that well-designed learning programs that utilize a gaming sequence improve target learning goals. Such games teach basic financial lessons in a fun and innovative way that requires sharpened financial skills to progress through the programs.

Technological tools not only benefit those that are utilizing them directly, but they also assist the entire community through the collection of key data. Many of the mentioned tools embed surveys within programs or collect other data such as age, income and location, which can be used to create even better educational materials or better target groups in need of specialized services.

Employers need to realize that they benefit when they utilize these new technologies in their financial wellness programs, since these tools assist workers in taking control of their financial lives. Thereby reducing their stress levels, which in turn leads to happier and more productive employees. Sometimes it is best to meet the employees where they are, with tools that are easy and fun to use.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Singer M. (2017 February 02). Target employee financial needs by finding the right technology [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/target-employee-financial-needs-by-finding-the-right-technology


Only 1 in 3 employees actually understands how their 401(k) works

Do all of your employees understand how their 401(k) works? If not check out this article from HR Morning on the statistics of about 1 in 3 employees that do not understand their 401 (k) by Jared Bilski,

When it comes to common financial vehicles like 401(k) plans, term life insurance, Roth IRAs and 529 college savings plans, most workers could use some education on the finer points.  

In fact, according to a recent study by The Guardian Life Insurance Company of American, one-third or  less of employees said they had a solid understanding of the most common financial products.

Problem areas

Here is the specific breakdown from the Guardian Life study on the percentage of worker that said they have a solid understanding of various financial products:

  • 401(k)s and other workplace retirement plans (just 32% of workers said they had a solid understanding)
  • IRAs apart from Roth IRAs (27%)
  • Individual stocks and bonds (26%)
  • Mutual funds (25%)
  • Pensions (25%)
  • Roth IRAs (24%)
  • Term life insurance (23%)
  • Separately managed accounts (23%)
  • Disability insurance (23%)
  • 529 college savings plans (23%)
  • Whole life insurance (22%)
  • Business insurance, such as key person insurance or buy/sell agreements (20%)
  • Annuities (19%)
  • Universal life insurance (19%), and
  • Variable universal life insurance (18%).

Education vs. no education

One of the best ways to help workers garner a better understanding of their finances — and the financial products available to them — is through one-on-one education.

Consider this example:

The Principal Group compared the saving habits and financial acumen of workers who attended a one-on-one session the organization offered one year to those who didn’t.

What it found: Contribution rates for those who attended the session were 9% higher than those who didn’t. Also, 19% of the workers who received education opted to automatically bump up their retirement plan increases with pay increases, compared to just 2% of other employees.

Also, 92% of the employees who were enrolled in Principal’s education program agreed to take a number of positive financial steps, and 80% of those workers followed through on those steps.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 January 27). Only 1 in 3 employees actually understands how their 401(k) works [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/only-1-in-3-employees-actually-understands-how-their-401k-works/


DOL and IRS want a closer look at your retirement plan

Are you worried that your company’s retirement plan is not up to government standards? If so take a look at this article from HR Morning about what the DOL and IRS are looking for in retirement plans by Jared Bilski

Two of the most-feared government agencies for employers — the DOL and IRS — have decided there’s a real problem with the way retirement plans are being run, and they’re ramping up their audits to find out why that is.

In response to the many mistakes the agencies are seeing from retirement plan sponsors, the IRS and DOL will be increasing the frequency of their audits.

What does that mean for you? According to experts, plan sponsors can expect the feds to dig deep into the minute operations of plans. That means the unfortunate employers who find themselves in the midst of an audit can expect to be asked for heaps of plan info.

Linda Canafax, a senior retirement consultant with Willis Towers Watson, put it like this:

“The DOL and IRS are truly diving deep into the operations of the plans. We have seen a deeper dive into the operations of plans, particularly with data. Plans may be asked for a full census file on the transactions for each participant. Expect the DOL and IRS to do a lot of data mining.”

What to watch for

Ultimately, it’s impossible to completely prevent an audit. But employers can — and should — do certain things to safeguard themselves in the event the feds come knocking.

First, a self-audit is always a good idea. It’s always better for you to discover any problems before the feds do. Next, you’ll want to be on the lookout for the types of errors that can lead the feds to your workplace in the first place.

The most common errors the IRS and the DOL are looking for:

  • Untimely remittance of employee deferrals (i.e., contributions)
  • Incorrect compensation definition (plan documents dictate which types of comp employees are eligible to contribute from)
  • Not following the plan’s own directives, and
  • Not having a good long-term system (20-30 years out) for tracking and paying benefits to vested participants.

See the original article Here.

Source:

Bilski J. (2017 January 6). DOL and IRS want a closer look at your retirement plan[Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.hrmorning.com/dol-and-irs-want-to-take-a-closer-look-at-your-retirement-plan/


How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing

Is financial wellness an important part of your company culture? By promoting financial wellness among your employees’, employers can reap the benefits as well. Check out this great article from Employee Benefits Advisor about the some of the effects that promoting financial wellness can have. By Cort Olsen

Financial wellness has come to the forefront of employers’ wellbeing priorities. Looking back on previous years of participation in retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s, employers are not satisfied with participation, an Aon study shows.

As few as 15% of employers say they are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rate, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt. In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will look to their advisers to help expand financial wellbeing programs.

Aon surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers plan to emphasize retirement readiness, focusing on financial wellbeing and refining automation as they aim to raise 401(k) savings rates for 2017.

Emphasizing retirement readiness
Nearly all employers, 90%, are concerned with their employees’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. Those employers who said they were not satisfied with investment levels in past years, 87%, say they plan to take action this year to help workers reach their retirement goals.

“Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just two percentage points, can impact their long-term savings outlook.”

Focusing on financial wellbeing
While financial wellness has been a growing trend among employers recently, 60% of employers say its importance has increased over the past two years. This year, 92% of employers are likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in a way that extends beyond retirement such as help with managing student loan debt, day-to-day budgeting and even physical and emotional wellbeing.

Currently, 58% of employers have a tool available that covers at least one aspect of financial wellness, but by the end of 2017, that percentage is expected to reach 84%, according to the Aon Hewitt report.

“Financial wellbeing programs have moved from being something that few leading-edge companies were offering to a more mainstream strategy,” Austin says. “Employers realize that offering programs that address the overall wellbeing of their workers can solve for myriad challenges that impact people’s work lives and productivity, including their physical and emotional health, financial stressors and long-term retirement savings.”

The lessons learned from automatic enrollment are being utilized to increase savings rates. In a separate Aon Hewitt report, more than half of all employees under plans with automatic enrollment default had at or above the company match threshold. Employers are also adding contribution escalation features and enrolling workers who may not have been previously enrolled in the 401(k) plan.

“Employers realize that automatic 401(k) features can be very effective when it comes to increasing participation in the plan,” Austin says. “Now they are taking an automation 2.0 approach to make it easier for workers to save more and invest better.”

See the original article Here.

Source:

Olsen C. (2017 January 16). How to encourage increased investment in financial wellbeing [Web blog post]. Retrieved from address http://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/news/how-to-encourage-increased-investment-in-financial-wellbeing?feed=00000152-1377-d1cc-a5fa-7fff0c920000