There are many different ways of delivering financial wellness programming to retirement plan participants, and it’s a pretty easy matter to find proponents of each.
One recent theme being embraced by a wider number of advisory firms and clients is “financial wellness delivered on a turnkey, third-party basis.” The idea is to move financial wellness and general education initiatives around budgeting, benefits optimization, tax management, debt, etc., away from being tied to a specific set of products.
This is the approach taken by Merit Financial Group, an independent registered investment advisory (RIA) firm supporting approximately $900 million in client assets out of Alpharetta, Georgia. The firm is affiliated with Merit Financial Advisors, a multi-state independent Office of Supervisory Jurisdiction firm linking nearly 30 independent firms across the U.S.
Rick Kent, president and founder of Merit Financial Group, observes that more and more plan sponsors are coming to understand it as a serious part of their fiduciary duty to do all they can to ensure employees are financially well, both inside and outside the retirement plan. Not only that, employers increasingly understand that financially well employees are generally more productive and healthier—in an economically meaningful way. This is the driving force behind the recent push into financial wellness, Kent suggests.
To meet demand for new forms of financial wellness, the firm recently rolled out its “Worksite Financial Wellness Platform,” which it bills as “a comprehensive offering that provides customized, turnkey financial wellness education, coaching and training resources to company retirement plan participants.” The platform's services can be offered both directly to retirement plan sponsors, “or act as smoothly integrated, third-party resources that augment the offerings of retirement plan advisers, third-party employee benefits consultancies, retirement plan recordkeepers as well as other service providers that focus on the company retirement plan space.”
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