Despite fiduciary concerns, financial wellness programs continue to expand
- A new report by Alight, a benefits solutions provider, shows that 91% of employers plan to develop or expand their financial well-being programs beyond their retirement plan offerings. Likewise, employees in the report were twice as likely to believe employers should provide financial well-being programs along with retirement plans.
- Employers are recognizing the connection between health and wealth, says Alight. The wellness programs of half the employers in the report have both a financial and a physical well-being component.
- Although employers plan to include financial well-being plans to their wellness programs, regulations are hindering efforts to offer financial well-being plans, according to the report. Around 35% of employers believe fiduciaries are "very highly scrutinized", and 53% said the threat of lawsuits impede innovative plan development.
Compliance concerns over fiduciaries should lessen in the new year somewhat; the U.S. Department of Labor has largely delayed the fiduciary rule until July 2019, and many experts consider the delay a death knell for the rule proper. But the push for strong wellness programs will likely only increase. Wellness tech firms Welltok, meQuilibrium and Zipongo recently released a 2017 report showing that employees across generations are highly stressed and/or sleep-deprived and need total well-being support.
Keep in mind that wellness programs can't succeed unless they reflect the needs of employees — and unless employees actually know about them. In a Transamerica Center for Health Studies report, 78% of employers said they believe wellness programs have a positive effect on employees. But only 40% of workers in the study said their organizations offered wellness programs. Advertising a financial wellness program and finding ways to engage employees, be it through mobile apps or otherwise, is paramount to success.
A more sobering report by the Center for Financial Services Innovation showed that one in three workers are distracted at work by personal financial struggles. Employers that step forward to assist in these matters and remain open to innovation in the field, including student loan repayment programs, will likely see dividends going into the new year.