Financial Wellness is one of the most pervasive topics in the retirement industry today. The reality is that many employees may not be able take full advantage of their retirement plan due to other demands on the paycheck. More broadly, financially stressed workers are not good for business. Recordkeepers and third party service providers have stepped up their game offering financial wellness solutions from snap-on simplicity to the highly involved. How-to guides and white papers on the topic abound. Our friends and colleagues at AFS 401(k) Retirement Services have put together one of the more compelling discussions entitled Beyond Retirement; An Examination of Financial Wellness for Employers. Here are some key takeaways from AFS’s paper:
- Automatic features and a generous employer match make a significant impact on retirement readiness yet do not ensure success in other areas of employees’ financial lives.
- Debt management, budgeting, and savings encompass the three main areas where employees struggle or seek out additional support. The data support that most employees need and want direction in their personal financial lives.
- Despite innovations in technology, employees prefer a one-on-one session with a qualified financial advisor as their primary education modality.
- Objective setting, senior management buy-in, and “gamification” are critical components to the success of any financial wellness program.
- Don’t expect quick results. It takes considerable time for the true effects of a financial wellness program to be measured. However, there are mileposts that can provide immediate feedback as to the effectiveness of the program.
Financial Wellness programs are not new, but they have been gaining extraordinary momentum in the last few years. If you are a plan sponsor or a financial advisor working with retirement plans, you need to familiarize yourself with the underpinnings of these programs. The research and case studies offered by AFS provide a sound starting point.