Category Archives: Retirement

The New Wellness Initiative: Financial Wellness

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Today’s guest post is contributed by Mike Kasecamp, QPFC, QKA.

Many employers today are already offering wellness programs. We are all familiar with them — if you meet certain criteria during the year, it typically results in discounts to your insurance premiums and it gives employees a better understanding of their current health situation. Most of these programs show great results and ROI for the groups that are dedicated to the programs and encourage their employees to participate. It is just like anything in life really, you get out of it what you put into it.

Now, a new buzzword centering on wellness initiatives has emerged, financial wellness. As someone who preaches financial wellness on a daily basis, it is not a surprise to me that this concept is starting to gain traction.

Stress is one of the key factors in most unhealthy individuals and financial tension can be one of the leading causes of stress. Financially stressed workers are generally not good for business. Employees who bring their financial woes to work with them tend to be less productive, less engaged, and even raise employer health care costs. If employers who offer a wellness program really want to maximize ROI, they may want to consider a financial wellness program to complement their initiative.

What is a Financial Wellness Program?

To understand the program, let’s first define what financial wellness means. Financial wellness, from an employees’ perspective, is a state of financial well-being, where they:

  • Have minimal financial stress;
  • Have a strong financial foundation (little or no debt, an emergency savings fund, and are living below their means);
  • Are following a plan that puts them on track to meet future financial goals (i.e. retirement, college savings, etc.).

From the standpoint of employers who are offering financial wellness programs as an additional employee benefit, the programs must meet the following criteria to qualify as a true financial wellness program:

  • Delivering unbiased financial education that is focused on changing employees’ financial habits and behaviors, and helping them make informed financial decisions and create strong financial plans. Pairing this with an advice component can make for a comprehensive program, but solely having financial representatives sell employees insurance, mutual funds, or manage their assets is not a financial wellness benefit.
  • Holistic and comprehensive, meaning that it covers all aspects of financial planning, from serious debt issues to advanced estate planning and wealth protection, so the program can help all employees in a workforce, not just those who fall into a certain demographic. Also, the program should integrate all employer benefits and providers so it is a seamless program from an employee perspective.
  • Personalized and employee focused so that the programs start with the employees’ financial issues and provide guidance around their specific needs, rather than attempting to simply educate them on financial terms or specific financial services. Personalized financial wellness programs are tremendously successful at driving behavioral change because they provide direct guidance tailored to the person’s individual needs, as opposed to a “one-size-fits-all approach.”
  • The program must be a process, not an event. Employers would never expect employees to exercise once or eat their vegetables for a week and immediately improve their health. The same idea applies with finances. Financial wellness programs, by nature, provide multiple channels and ongoing access to financial coaching so that employees have the support and accountability they need to not only make one-time changes, but ultimately develop financial habits and behaviors that become part of their lifestyles.

Why Should an Employer Care?

This is an important question–What is in it for the employer? A lot of the same reasons an employer would start a wellness initiative apply to financial wellness programs. Educating your employees and helping them reduce financial induced stress has a tremendous impact to the employer’s bottom line. Here is a link to a study that was conducted to measure the ROI & impact of implementing a financial wellness program.

Takeaways

Some of the biggest takeaways that I found from reading this case study are:

  • The average annual per employee benefit cost savings from a financial wellness participant compared to a non-participant is $271.50
  • Participants of these programs pay off credit card debt, increase their contributions to their retirement plan, set up an emergency savings account, and even start saving additional money in IRA’s.
  • Employee absenteeism is significantly reduced.
  • 100% of financial wellness users contribute to their employer sponsored retirement plan.

In conclusion, employers who believe in and sponsor wellness programs should immediately consider adding a financial wellness component if they are not already doing so. The impact from these programs can be felt immediately and are valued by the employees who use them. Contact your benefits consultant to find out if a financial wellness solution is right for you and your company.

Mike Kasecamp is a Retirement Plan Consultant at CBIZ. He can be reached at ckasecamp@cbiz.com.

Why the Controlled Group Rules Matter

By Zack Pace, SVP, Benefits Consulting

In my travels, I often run into situations where Controlled Group rules are overlooked. I’m not sure why that happens. For a host of reasons, including assessing the Affordable Care Act’s Employer Shared Responsibility penalty risks, it’s critical for businesses to understand if they are part of a Controlled Group. Usually, that advice is provided by a company’s accountants and legal advisors. But, occasionally, it’s missed.

For example, a few days ago a client called and said that they were spinning off a small division. The launch was scheduled to occur within days. But, at the last minute, someone asked about group life insurance benefits for the spin-off. Thus, the call to me.

I asked, “What’s the ownership structure of this spin-off look like? Are there new shareholders?”

“I’m not exactly sure, Zack, but, no, I think it has the same ownership.”

“Is the ownership team receiving accounting and legal advice on this transaction?”

“Absolutely – a full team of those folks have been working on this for weeks.”

Right here is the point where I pause and am almost embarrassed to ask the next question – why is the Benefits Consultant the one to ask this?

“Have you heard anyone mention the term Controlled Group regarding this new entity?”

“No, what does that mean?”

“In a nutshell, if there is significant common ownership between two entities, the benefit programs, including the retirement plan, are essentially considered one plan by the regulators. Thus, while the benefits can differ, nondiscrimination testing is generally based upon the combined entities. Moreover, because the combined entities have more than 99 full-time employees, the Affordable Care Act’s Employer Shared Responsibility Penalty Risk will apply to this spin-off in 2015.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes . . . but if you have a team of accountants and lawyers over there, it would be very hard to believe that no one has considered this question. . . I’m just your benefits guy, after all. . .”

A few days later, the client called back, “Zack, you’re not going to believe it, but your hunch was right – we are a controlled group. . . What do we need to do to place everyone under the same benefit and retirement programs?”

Is your company part of a Controlled Group? Now is a great time to double-check.

Further reading:

  1. Exploring the Final Employer Shared Responsibility Regulations, page 1.
  2. Questions and Answers on Employer Shared Responsibility Provisions Under the Affordable Care Act, Questions #53 & #56.

You can reach me on zpace@cbiz.com or via Twitter: @zpace_benefits