PLANSPONSOR Roadmap: The Financial Security Journey
Experts recommendedmaintaining regular outreach and measuring success as ways to champion a financial wellness plan.
While there is no blanket solution for financial wellness, advisers can recommend creating a metric for success, celebrating small wins and offering consistent communication, experts said at the “The Financial Security Journey” session of PLANSPONSOR’s Roadmap livestream event.
To identify plan priorities, Jake Spiegel, a research associate at EBRI, said participants’ wide array of backgrounds must be part of the solution.
“We all have identities that aren’t as unique as our own fingerprints,” said Spiegel. “Everybody’s got diversities, and so there is just not going to be a one-size-fits-all solution.”
He provided the example of a participant population that might seem homogenous, such as a tech company, where everyone is relatively young and highly compensated. However, in reality, one worker might have to care for an elder, another worker might have huge student loan debt, and another worker might have a child with special needs.
Spiegel said the right benefits to include in a plan will depend on how a company defines success. From his experience, he observed that many employers are looking to create financial wellness metrics and use them to direct more resources toward successful projects.
“They’re looking to measure things like, ‘Do people participate in this program?’ ‘Do we increase retention this way?’ There’s a huge appetite for employers to develop these sorts of metrics and justify their financial spending,” he said.
Monica De Agostino, manager of benefits, compensation and human resources information system at MRIGlobal, agreed there is no right formula to creating a financial wellness plan, but she believes in celebrating the minor wins.
“Complexity leads to inertia, and when we’re talking about financial wellness, we’re dealing with—at the bottom of it—human behavior,” said De Agostino. “Changing behavior is a long-term gig. Especially in the beginning, accomplishments are going to feel small, the milestones can fade in and out very quickly. It can feel like they were not really making any progress, but you actually are in creating that conversation.”
De Agostino went on to say that small wins can lead to better outcomes for employees. She said in 2021, the MRIGlobal HR committee sat down together to look at securing retirement for their 450 employees.
“We had a couple of different plans,” she said. “We had a matching and nonmatching contribution. The nonmatching contribution was a complicated formula. I said, ‘We have to explain it in 10 seconds or less, or it loses momentum again or actually leads to inertia.’ That’s how we came up with the 100% dollar-for-dollar formula and focused on the match.”
The committee put its dollars into the match, rolled the solution out and immediately saw contributions rise. Older employees advised their younger counterparts to jump in on the match, and the participation rate peaked at 98%. In addition, the project ended up being budget-neutral.
“To this day, we have really high savings rates,” she said. “Because at the end of the day, people just really enjoy, at least in our population, the match.”
Jeff Petrone, managing director at SageView Advisory, emphasized again that there is no one silver bullet strategy that works for every single group, but across-the-board programs that have seen the most success have had “champions” like De Agostino driving the initiatives for their employer and workforces.
“[They] want those initiatives to be successful, who spend the time to craft a communication plan that’s not just once a year, but continually reaching the employees to make them aware of those resources,” said Petrone. “They’re working department by department, working division by division, sending things out to employees continually throughout the year.”