Plan sponsors may be getting more difficult questions from their participants during this year of rising inflation and market volatility.
Open enrollment, which generally runs from November through January, is a good time to get the full spectrum of wealth and health options in front of them, say retirement experts working at firms that have the range of benefits, wealth management, and retirement businesses.
“This year is unique in regard to inflation and how it’s putting pressure on people’s paychecks, as well as market volatility and its impact on decision-making,” says MJ Goss, vice president of retirement and financial wellness with Atlanta-based OneDigital.
Goss says open enrollment provides plan sponsors a chance to reach a a lot of employees to promote awareness around retirement savings and other financial resources their employer may be providing. That said, the information should be bite-sized, accessible, and timely so participants feel the information is useful and relevant to their needs.
“We can include tools during open enrollment that are very specific to a timeline or market need,” he says.
With OneDigital’s full services model, the retirement team can work directly with the benefits team to create a consistent experience and higher likelihood of action across their full benefit offering, Goss says. This takes open enrollment form a time to be avoided to a time to introduce an employee to their team of retirement advocates and their resources.
Katie Hockenmaier, a partner and US defined contribution research director with Mercer—a division of Marsh McLennan—looks to guide plan sponsors to education or useful topics around finances and saving. For instance, plan sponsors can offer a company match for people investing into a health savings account, or if they already offer it, remind them of the advantages of using in it.
Mercer’s recent research shows that financial concerns top of mind for people in the current market, with three out of four feeling financially stressed and concerned over having the ability to retire (second only to covering monthly expenses). With the wider network of benefit and wealth management offerings from a full-service firm, the retirement group can connect people to their individual needs, she says.
“We can hear the concerns of the employer and then work to implement the right solutions for them, whether that’s a managed account program or general wealth advisement,” Hockenmaier says.
Goss of OneDigital says that they seek to get the firm’s resources in front of people in as simple ways as possible. During open enrollment some plan sponsors will get a micro-site link that takes participants to a resource or contact page, or a QR code that brings them to OneDigital’s financial academy. Through this approach, participants can identify what is relevant to their situation and then engage with the educational material.
“We really believe everything should be goal based,” Goss says. “It could be that someone wants to save for a new vehicle, or they’ve got kids going to college. The 401(k) may be the reason the door is open but tools like Financial Academy, while still maintaining a retirement focus, are able to promote financial literacy across a multitude of topics.”
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