How to speed up financial wellness learning? Simplify it

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The idea of providing financial wellness tools for employees is appealing to plan sponsors, but the actuality of doing it poses a challenge.

This is because the concept of financial wellness is often perceived as too big, too much, too broad to not only understand but also to incorporate into a concrete plan.

In an attempt to overcome these challenges, I created a five-week program that focused on delivering information on some of the universal topics that cause stress for many employees. The objective was to find those employees wanted help and deliver to those individuals a targeted program that was not just educational, but also moved them to action.

We coordinated a series of videos and checklists for each participant, with topics that focused on short-term goals, such as credit, budgeting, and cash flow, as well as the long-term goal of saving for retirement.

One of the hurdles for plan sponsors is benchmarking the success of their wellness program, so we included a pre- and post-assessment form for each of the participants. At the end of the nine-month study, what we found was that we made an impact on those who completed the program.

The percentage of participants who felt “highly stressed” about their personal finances fell from 52.4% to only 19.2% after completion of the program. More than 15% increased their retirement plan contributions — with half of them increasing by more than 1%. Additionally, 56% believed they are now better able to manage their monthly cash flow.

Ask participants what they need

Here are some of the conclusions I made as a result of the feedback we received:

First, the highest impact items, as indicated by the participants, were the Financial Checklist and the Cash Flow Worksheet. They reported that they really felt having “something in front of them” was very useful. Unfortunately, the retirement industry has often nuanced the delivery of information by leveraging new technology and thereby making it more complicated, when often times the participants want something really simple they can act upon.

Second, it was a lot easier to adopt a program that was limited to only 10-20 employees within the organization, versus trying to roll out something to everyone at once.

And third, it is crucial to ask participants what they want and need. With no clarity about what they want, delivery is a hit or miss approach. Surveying after the fact allows us to better measure results, which will make an impact not just on the employees, but for the plan sponsor as well.

How does a plan sponsor move from the “idea” stage to the “action” stage? Start small. Find success early, and then leverage these successes to gain traction with the rest of the plan participants.

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Financial wellness Financial literacy Financial stress Financial planning Retirement readiness Retirement income Retirement education Retirement planning