5 key strategies for implementing a successful financial wellness program

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LAS VEGAS — Implementing a successful financial wellness program is not always easy. Employees are increasingly searching for offerings to help them pay down debt, manage their money and plan for retirement.

The need for benefits, which help employees manage their finances, originated from the financial crisis in 2008, said Rebecca Liebman, the CEO of LearnLux. Issues like a shift from pension plans to 401(k)s and the rising student loan debt crisis have all played a role in workers’ need for improved financial wellness.

“It’s important to think holistically about someone’s financial plan,” Liebman said at the Benefits Forum and Expo last week.

One challenge is that employees often aren’t open about the financial challenges they are experiencing, said Karlos Guerra, benefits consultant at Lockton. Employees are often reticent to share their personal problems, which can make implementing the benefits a challenge.

“[Employees are] not going to come out and say they have thousands of dollars in credit card debt,” he said.

Regardless, there are some key steps brokers and employers can take to ensure the successful implementation of these benefits, Liebman and Guerra said.

Audit what you already offer
The first step is looking at the benefits the employer already offers, Liebman said. But beware: just because a company offers a 401(k) plan does not mean they have a successful financial wellness program.

“Look at the employee base and say not everyone is benefiting from the 401(k),” she said. By assessing the benefits the company already has, brokers can determine what might make a meaningful addition.
Conduct an assessment
Employers need to understand the generational differences among their workforce in order to pinpoint key financial needs, Guerra said. Millennials, for example, may be putting off saving for retirement because they have student loan debt.

Brokers should consider conducting an assessment of the types of financial issues employees are facing. It’s likely that workers aren’t going to share these problems publicly, so privately surveying the company may be the way to go, Liebman added.

“If people are having financial issues they’re not going to tell you,” she said.
Create a go-live plan
Once a broker has identified a best-fit plan, it’s time to create a go-live strategy, Guerra said. Developing a marketing strategy is key to getting workers excited about a new financial wellness benefit.

“Sometimes you have to take your finance hat off, your HR hat off and think like a marketer,” he said. Advisers should think of themselves as the “quarterback running the plays,” he said.
Drive engagement
Once the employer has launched a financial wellness program, the first 30 to 90 days are crucial, Liebman said. Employers need to encourage workers to sign up for the program at launch, otherwise they will struggle to get them to engage later on.

“If someone doesn’t use the product in the first 10 days it’s going to be hard to get them on it after that,” she added.
Learn and iterate
Employers should continue to learn and adapt their financial wellness plans to the needs of their workforce, Guerra said. It may be beneficial to regularly survey workers to assess their needs and challenges.

“It’s measuring tracking and learning about the workforce as they change that is key,” he said.