How a city in Kansas prioritized financial wellness
Employee well-being is a major focus of the city of Lenexa, Kan. That’s why the city of 50,000 people on the outskirts of Kansas City made sure financial wellness — including ways to help employees save for retirement — is an important part of its overall wellness strategy.
Through its progressive wellness program, the city each year focuses its attention on one piece of the wellness puzzle. This year, the city launched Ramsey Solutions’ SmartDollar program.
The program resonated with the city’s human resources manager, Kristin Crow, because of its flexibility. The city employs 450 people in a variety of departments, including police, fire, public works and parks and recreation. Thanks to its diverse population, it was difficult to offer a more traditional financial wellness program.
“That program seemed to fit well with our workforce,” Crow says. The city rolled out the program with the help of employees in the organization who had already gone through the program. They attended kickoff meetings to tell their story about how the program has helped them meet their financial goals.
SmartDollar is an online program that uses a Q&A format to gauge where each employee is in their financial journey and then gives them small steps to reach that goal.
“We started working with the City of Lenexa in January of this year,” says Dryden Neilson, relationship manager for SmartDollar. “It took off and fit well with their culture. It has been fantastic, with results we are able to see. The heart they have for their employees permeates the place. They want to make sure everyone there is having the best experience regardless of their role.”
In nine months, the organization has signed on 48% of its employees into the SmartDollar program, which is a good start, according to Brian Hamilton, vice president of financial wellness at Ramsey Solutions and the SmartDollar program. But with 52% of the staff still not enrolled, the program still has a ways to go.
SmartDollar has worked closely with the city to integrate the program into its current wellness program, by allowing points earned through SmartDollar to count toward an employee’s wellness points with the company.
The SmartDollar program tries to engage participants in activities that drive behavior change with personal finances. SmartDollar’s relationship managers work with clients to build a promotional campaign. Employees sign up through a co-branded enrollment page and upon going there and learning what the program has in store for them, they create an account and answer questions about setting up an emergency fund, paying off debt and saving for their future. The program is then tailored to where they are in terms of financial wellness and the steps they need to move forward and make progress on their financial goals.
“Besides a plan, we have content. Lots of people can have a plan but most employees aren’t motivated to do the things they should be doing about money,” Hamilton says. “At SmartDollar, we take that on as our responsibility to motivate employees. … When you combine motivation and inspiration with common sense education that is simple and clear, they know the next steps they should be taking.”
In addition to the SmartDollar program, the city of Lenexa also offers a defined benefit pension plan to fulltime employees, a defined contribution 457 plan that employees can contribute to through work and a 401(a) plan, which allows the city to match employees’ contributions to their retirement investment. Currently, the city gives all full-time and regular part-time employees a 4% match on their retirement accounts. If the employees contribute at least 4% to their 457 plan, the city will give an additional 2% contribution, on top of the initial 4% contribution.
The city also has an onsite health center that is staffed by a physician assistant. A doctor comes in four hours each week and is available for employees and their families. “That’s a pretty cool benefit that the employees love,” Crow says.