In an attempt to save money but still help employees plan for their futures, more organizations are moving to a holistic benefits education approach that addresses health care and retirement savings at the same time.
We are hearing in the news and seeing across companies that many [companies] are freezing their pensions or terminating their pensions. Even those who are still offering pension plans are not offering them to new hires, says Linda Robertson, a certified financial planner with Financial Finesse. Only 7% of employers are offering traditional DB pension plans to new hires, which means a lot more responsibility is put on the shoulders of employees for health care and retirement planning.
Financial Finesse recently conducted a survey to find out where employers stood on benefits planning. It found that for 2016, two-thirds of employers are likely to offer a consumer-driven health plan. That means many are moving away from HMOs and PPOs to high-deductible plans that come with health spending or flexible spending accounts.
Thirty percent of employers surveyed said they plan to only offer a high-deductible health care option next year, she says.
Robertson pointed out that a lot of employees are struggling with day-to-day cash flow so it is hard for them to now be totally responsible for making all of their health care decisions and retirement planning decisions.
A recent EBRI study showed that more than half of workers had less than $10,000 saved up in retirement accounts or investments in 2014.
There are a lot of people at the lower end of the bell curve who have very insufficient retirement savings, says Liz Davidson, founder and CEO of Financial Finesse. Whats shifting in the marketplace is awareness that those employees need financial guidance the most.
In the past, companies spent more time trying to educate wealthier individuals about how to invest their money.
Many people who have difficulty paying everyday expenses are also the people who will avoid going to the doctor when they really need to go or who wont fill prescriptions they need because they are too expensive, Robertson says.
Increased financial stress could lead to physical health symptoms. Financial issues are the number one cause of stress today, she adds.
In the past, large corporations had the edge in hiring because they had the means to offer robust health and retirement benefits. Small businesses had a more difficult time competing. Now, it is a pretty even playing field, with most businesses moving away from defined benefit pension plans to employee-managed 401(k) plans and high-deductible health plans.
You look at companies in competitive industries companies that pride themselves in being best in class, the best places to work kind of companies the reality is that a lot of traditional differentiators with the right benefit packages are not financially sustainable, says Davidson. What are those things to differentiate when you are looking to acquire and retain talent? I think we are seeing a shift to company culture, financial and physical wellness programs and employee development; giving them the tools and resources to make good decisions about benefits but also to make full use of all company educational and developmental resources.
More than 50% of Generation Y said they want more benefits education and 98% say they want more financial education, Davidson says.
This is a gap. People really think of their finances from an intensely personal level and often dont recognize that personal finance is their benefits at work, she says.
Financial Finesse recommends that companies offer some sort of mass personalization a website, for example, that explains all of a companys benefit options that includes a benefits calculator where participants can enter how much they have saved for retirement in their workplace retirement plan and outside of the company.
Technology has been absolutely instrumental in counteracting some of the challenges organizations are facing with this shift from DB to DC strategies, Davidson sys.
The next step would be to offer a financial wellness program that speaks to employees about topics that are important to them, including personal financial planning, and one-on-one support from a financial adviser.
It comes down to helping employees understand and appreciate the benefits they have available, Robertson said.
Paula Aven Gladych is a freelance writer based in Denver.
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