PSNC 2017: Financial Wellness – Holistic Education Programs

The panel compared utilizing different financial wellness tactics with general financial education, ROI and more.

By Amanda Umpierrez | June 12, 2017
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Homing in on the term “financial wellness,” a Day Two panel at the PLANSPONSOR National Conference, in Washington, D.C., discussed well-rounded programs and how plan sponsors can offer holistic materials and value to participants—beyond education.

 Live polling from the audience revealed that most plan sponsors, at 53%, do not offer specific financial wellness programs outside of education, while 20% said they do, and 27% disclosed they were considering implementing one.

Bryan Burton, director of human resources (HR) for the North America region of Norican Group, and a panelist for the session, said his company focused on financial concerns based on employee demographics. Because this region of Norican Group is mainly composed of blue-collar employees, Burton said, for many of them, retirement planning came last on their list of priorities.

“We would focus more on overarching financial issues, instead of just on their retirement plan,” he said.

Instead of providing general educational information, Burton said, his team introduced education on specific matters critical to a worker’s daily life, including debt management, paying for childcare, and how to establish a checking account, among others. At one point, Burton revealed how he had reached out to a community specializing in financial wellness for Spanish-speaking employees, while also seeking help from advisers, Employee Assistance Program (EAP) plans and recordkeepers.

“It was important to us to really customize, and to target each group with what they wanted to know,” he said. “Once they had information, then they were open to see what the next step was. To build on that.”

Additionally, Burton’s team would invite spouses of workers to join financial wellness meetings, and on their own time. This, in turn, allowed Burton and his team to gather more data and feedback concerning a worker’s participation rate and behavioral changes.

Currently, the North American region of Norican Group has a 93% participation rate, with a 9% average deferral rate.

Melissa Trimani, assistant vice president of product management at MassMutual Retirement Services, cited a recent study conducted by the company, in which 1,000 workers were surveyed on their main concerns. The study reported debt as the largest, and retirement as the least, with only 7% of workers citing it as a major worry.

Because of this, Michael Kane, managing director of Plan Sponsor Consultants, emphasized the importance of incorporating more financial wellness tactics in a work force, instead of just educational materials.

“A lot of people mistake financial education for addressing financial wellness,” he said. “If I’m a person who has debt, you can educate me all you want, but I still don’t have the money.”

More specifically, Nathan Voris, managing director of strategy for Schwab Retirement Plan Services Inc., encouraged plan sponsors to focus on the quality of financial wellness programs, rather than quantity.

“The engagement strategies need to be action-oriented; reading a three-page article isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “Not new stuff, just a better way to engage with what we’ve been doing.”

He mentioned incorporating in-plan optimization, while Trimani followed up by telling employers, especially those sponsoring small plans, to match up with a provider that can suit workers’ needs. “If you marry up with the right provider, sometimes that’s really all your employees are looking for,” she said.

Aimed at employees who refuse to admit financial troubles, Burton suggested adding individual, independent, consultation appointments with third-party providers. For an extra confidential approach, sponsors can direct employees to EAPs, Burton said.

Or, as Kane suggested, a one-on-one phone call with a Certified Financial Planner (CFP) can encourage employees to open up.

Voris also mentioned that his company implemented online chat rooms to avoid the risk of anyone overhearing a private phone conversation discussing finances.

 NEXT: Utilizing ROI Can Add to Financial Wellness