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A Financial Wellness Plan That Actually "Works"

Many American workers are NOT prepared for retirement.

For example, 1 in 3 have zero saved for “life-after-work,” while more than 50% of Gen Xers have less than $10,000 saved for retirement. Even for those Americans over age 55, 28% have no retirement savings. It’s no wonder that 50% of workers age 60 and over plan to work until age 70 or later. Has corporate America calculated its “hidden liability” for the higher wages, benefits costs, and increased turnover of younger workers resulting from delayed retirements?

Yet, it is difficult to expect dramatic behavior change regarding savings rates for “tomorrow’s money” when many Americans are not financially fit in regard to “today’s money.” 37% of workers can’t meet monthly expenses, with 49% carrying a credit card balance – and of those, 41% find it difficult to make the minimum payments. It should not be a surprise that 54% of Americans are stressed about their financial situation, with 25% saying it impacts their job performance.

Consequently, many employers have implemented financial wellness programs for their workers, ranging from online versions often provided by their 401(k) recordkeeper, to video “classes” made available to employees on numerous financial topics. In our experience, everyone “feels good about doing something,” but these tend to engage only those that are already financially fit, and the program dies out after a year or two without moving the financial fitness dial of the workforce.

We believe there are five key steps for a financial wellness program to actually deliver meaningful results:

  1. Set a goal. Conduct a formal workplace financial wellness assessment of your employees, identifying the “big issues.” You then set a measurable goal for your financial wellness program. We recommend 75% of your employees on track to maintain their same standard of living during their retirement years that they are accustomed to during their working career. Success here dramatically reduces the “hidden liability” of delayed retirements.

  2. Organization. A key to personal financial fitness is to first “get all your affairs in order.” Organizing all your assets, liabilities, and important legal documents in one place is mission critical. Toward this end, we give participants our allmymoney financial wellness app which has daily account aggregation, a secure online document vault, and self-help planners and calculators.

  3. Education. This can include an online financial learning center like our intellicents university which provides curriculum for employers, their employees, and retirees; but must also involve targeted messaging, onsite topical workshops and webcasts, and an 800# Financial Hotline staffed by Certified Financial Planners.

  4. Advice. This is what workers want, and it is the missing ingredient in most financial wellness plans. Remember, not long ago nobody wanted to give advice to 401(k) participants, and now most plans do; and it is, in fact, considered a best practice as long as it is delivered by a fiduciary. 73% of employees age 25 to 54 find it somewhat or very attractive if their employer offered holistic financial advice as an employee benefit; and 66% of workers age 55 to 65 find it somewhat or very attractive. This is the key to employee engagement, and must include a financial plan for no more than $500. Employers have to recognize, however, that their employees will have resulting investment questions and needs. From a fiduciary standpoint, a low-cost robo solution like our intellicents bionic advisor should be considered in order to meet the best interest fiduciary standard of care.

  5. Benchmarking. Employee utilization, satisfaction, and behavior change, must be monitored annually. The best way to measure an employer’s return-on-investment, however, is to annually benchmark the aggregate retirement readiness rate of its workforce, and the aggregate cost of delayed retirements.

Recognize that the typical American gets the vast majority of their financial needs taken care of at their place of employment. Think about it…not only do they get their income, but they also get their health, dental, vision, life, and disability insurances; Health Savings Account; medical and dependent care flex plans; critical illness, accident, and even identity theft voluntary benefits; and, of course, their retirement savings, most often via a 401(k) or 403(b).

The decision support matrix of these benefits is converging. Consider the complexity of the decisions we are asking people to make every year at benefits enrollment time. These are no longer just benefit questions or decisions, but rather financial planning issues.

The wealth management industry is addressing these issues for owners, upper management, and the affluent, often referred to as the wealthiest “1%” of Americans. But this same industry acknowledges that they have little interest providing this service for the 99% that they openly refer to as “the under-served.”

That is the passion of us here at intellicents, and we invite other like-minded advisors and employers to join us in this crusade by implementing a workplace financial wellness program that really “works.”

It’s time we “over-serve the under-served.”

Data Sources:

Kirkham, Elyssa (2016, March 14). “1 in 3 Americans Has Saved $0 for Retirement.” Retrieved from: survey/

MassMutual@work – “Is Delayed Retirement Impacting Your Bottom Line?” October 2018

American Century Investments – “American Workers Regret Not Saving Enough; Look to Their Workplace for Help: 2018 Survey of Retirement Savers”


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