I’ve spent my entire career in benefits – first with a medical carrier, then with ancillary benefits carriers, and now by helping clients design and implement programs for their employees.
While I have learned to quote deductibles, coinsurance, and explain ancillary benefits there has always been a fundamental disconnect between “benefits” and “retirement” – or physical and financial wellbeing. At times, I’ve felt woefully undereducated about retirement options.
That’s why I am both professionally and personally elated that we are seeing a real confluence between retirement and health benefits. And we have the disruptive creativity of the economy and the emerging emphasis on financial wellbeing to thank for it.
Why financial wellbeing is here to stay
I spent a few days at the end of last year at the Employee Financial Well-being Conference, hosted by The Conference Board. I was inspired by the passion and innovative programs that so many leaders within organizations across the spectrum brought to the table. Varied industries and employers with many cohorts of employees were unified in their eagerness to learn more on this issue. High tech, financial services, manufacturing and service organizations were all represented and shared their stories about helping employees navigate their path to financial wellbeing.
The proliferation of the new job titles among attendees was amazing too. Wellbeing leader, financial wellbeing director and wellbeing programs director are just a few examples of newly-created job titles. These dedicated titles alone clearly show employees that their company is committed to benefit programs and that their employers are committed to new ways of thinking. Bringing leaders together to share new ways of offering well-developed and effectively-managed programs is one of the many places we are having conversations on financial wellbeing.
I was also encouraged to see that employers were excited to share their program details, successes and even some “ah ha” moments – from how to get employees to attend seminars to how the best program can falter if it is not communicated well.
Financial wellbeing as an employer focus is here to stay
Perhaps the most important takeaway from the conference was that employers are beginning to measure and quantify the impact financial wellbeing (as well as physical and financial stress) has on workforce productivity and safety. This connection is critical to ensuring that employers won’t quickly abandon these programs as the business cycle shifts. And it means that the smart ones may, in fact, double down on their investments in order to help alleviate outside stressors and financial burdens that are likely to impact their employees.
Addressing financial wellbeing today helps ensure we prepare our workforce for future financial concerns. Perhaps the day will soon be here when my retirement colleagues and I will no longer debate the merits of putting that “next dollar” into a 401(k) or a Health Savings Account (HSA), fully leveraging catch-up contributions, of course. Until then, we’ll be sure to educate employers and their employees on how to best optimize all the financial wellbeing resources available to them.