Carrie Oman
Director, Benefits
  • Plan(s)
    401(k)
  • Total Plan Assets
    $5.4B
  • Number of Participants
    45,488
  • Participation Rate
    92%
  • Average Deferral Rate
    9%
  • Default Deferral Rate
    6%
  • Default Investment
    BlackRock LifePath Funds
  • Automatic Enrollment
  • Automatic Escalation
  • Employer Contribution
    100% of 6%
  • Provider(s)
    Recordkeeper, Voya Financial; Adviser: Rocaton Investment Advisors
  • Financial Wellness Educator(s)
    Voya Financial, Fidelity Investments


About 500 of the 1,400 participants who met with Voya last year followed up by enrolling in the plan’s managed account option.

Booz Allen Hamilton Inc. is a global consulting firm headquartered in McLean, Virginia. With 27,000 employees in 80 offices worldwide, it competes intensely for top talent. “With that drive for talent, we like to look at creative ways to increase the value of our offering to employees,” Director, Benefits, Carrie Oman says of the company.

That includes its PTO Sell program, which the company first launched in 2016 to enable employees to sell back paid time off (PTO) for cash. “Employees who do not fully take advantage of their PTO have the opportunity to ‘sell’ up to 80 hours a year of it back to us,” Oman explains. This year, the program was expanded and renamed PTO Flex, with additional options. “During annual enrollment every year, they can tell us how much they want to sell back,” she says. “Rather than just offering a cash-out option, they also have several other flexible options to meet their financial goals.”

As of this year, Booz Allen employees can sell back PTO and use the dollar amount they receive for an additional 401(k) contribution or put it into their health savings account (HSA). Their other options include putting the money into a 529 college savings plan or the company’s student loan repayment program, which allows employees to refinance their student debt at lower rates, then use payroll deductions to make their payments.

The company says 9% of employees took advantage of the PTO Flex Program in 2018, and 13% did last year. Employees also can “buy” up to one additional week of PTO annually, and the applicable salary amount gets taken out of their paycheck.

Employees do have the option to take cash when they sell back PTO, but Booz Allen encourages them to use the money more productively. “We really have tried to say, ‘If you take the funds in cash, you’re going to pay a pretty hefty tax bill on that. It‘s better to put that money into pre-tax savings options, to maximize the value of that cash-out,” Oman says.

The PTO program joins other Booz Allen financial wellness efforts. In 2018, the company launched an annual “Wellness Challenge” for employees that included a financial wellness pillar. Senior Benefits Specialist Frances Pascual explains that, for the first year, employees were challenged to take one, or more, of three online classes that ran about an hour each: one on buying a home, one on debt management and one on saving for retirement. Employees received an incentive to complete a session: an extra $100 company payment into their HSA or paycheck and another $100 if their spouse or eligible partner participated.

Booz Allen followed that up last year with another financial Wellness Challenge. “We challenged our employees to schedule a one-on-one meeting with Voya Financial Advisors or their personal financial adviser, by phone or in person, and they could bring their spouse or eligible domestic partner,” Pascual says. Employees who attended a meeting got a $100 HSA contribution and another $100 if their spouse or partner attended.

“We were hoping to help our employees take advantage of the tools and resources they already had available through Voya,” Pascual says. “The goal was to encourage our employees, and their spouse or partner, to take a first step toward reaching their financial goals.”

Last year, about 48% of U.S. Booz Allen employees participated in a financial Wellness Challenge, Oman says. “That’s a big number, and, out of that, we saw some significant changes,” she says. “About 950 participants increased their deferral rate, and by an average of 5%. So we saw some really good movement in retirement savings because of this challenge.”

Judy Ward

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