Financial Wellness Helps with Retirement Plan Goals

September 17, 2014 ( – The 2013 Bank of America Merrill Lynch Employer Workplace Benefits Report showed employers realize employees need a holistic financial wellness background to succeed in retirement saving, according to Jason Boultbee.

Boultbee, Global Wealth and Investment Management, director of Institutional Client Relationship Management at the firm, told attendees of the Plan Sponsor Council of America (PSCA) 2014 Annual Conference that the survey found 85% of employees say they are not saving enough for retirement, 75% do not feel in control of their personal finances, and 90% of all employees feel some degree of stress. “These are all things that hinder employees from hearing your messages about retirement,” he said.

The survey also found those who are financially well feel that reaching their retirement savings goal is likely. “So, financial wellness helps plan sponsors with retirement plan goals,” he noted.

According to Boultbee, success in financial wellness and retirement depends on each person’s goals and ideas, so employers should provide tools to help them reach these goals or their idea of what retirement should be like.

He suggested that within their financial wellness program, plan sponsors should minimize industry jargon, recognize financial wellness is unique to each person, and make wellness opportunities frequent and accessible. “Wellness is a journey, not a point-in-time event,” he said.

He warned that plan sponsors should make their financial wellness program about employees, not the employer. For example, a car parts manufacturer should avoid using constant analogies about cars. “Use pictures of the beach or of people with their grandchildren,” Boultbee suggested.

He also noted that most people are afraid to ask questions, so plan sponsors have to make financial wellness information easy for them to consume—use recurring, repeatable themes employees can relate to. In addition, plan sponsors should not only make financial wellness easily and frequently accessible to meet employees timing needs, but should create an environment in which employees turn to the plan sponsor for help. They should also provide resources that people can use outside of work.

“Assessing what you currently do is a good first step in determining whether employees are using your efforts and whether there are gaps in education,” Boultbee told attendees. He said it is always good to decide a measure of return on investment for financial wellness programs. “What improvement do you expect? More productivity, more confidence, savings plan actions?" He encouraged plan sponsors to do an employee survey with specific questions about financial education and benefits. Findings can identify gaps or areas of concern to employees and aid in enhancing the program.

Boultbee suggested plan sponsors work with benefits providers to integrate wellness topics into management training materials and enrollment materials, use incentives and rewards to get employees to participate in wellness programs, and allow employees time to access tools and online support in the workplace. It is also a good idea to encourage managers to help employees use existing tools and read information. “Managers that are involved in the program have employees that are involved. So, manager support is important,” he said.