Making Retirement Benefit Education Meaningful

Making Retirement Benefit Education Meaningful

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, the word “meaningful” means “Having a meaning or purpose, full of meaning, significant.” It’s a concept that’s decidedly absent in much of the retirement benefit education employers provide their workers. Sure, they may cover all the bases, from how much a worker can contribute and how those contributions can be made to the basic options for investment of their funds and tax benefits of each. These facts are important. But they’re not as meaningful as engaging employees in a real conversation about their personal future.

If you’d like to make retirement benefit education at your organization more meaningful—and therefor impactful—consider the following suggestions.

Help Them Connect with Their Future Self

It’s easy to put off saving for retirement when you’re living purely in the present, consumed by your current wants and needs. Your workers may not be thinking about how the financial decisions they make today—from buying a $6 mocha latte to taking a European vacation—will impact their future. Fortunately, you have the opportunity to help them do so.

Ask your employees to imagine their retirement. What do they see? Are they traveling the country in a recreational vehicle? Are they living on the beach or in the mountains? Do they golf every day or spend time volunteering? How do they feel? Are they comfortable, happy and content? Do they worry about outliving their money? Once they make an emotional connection with their future self and what he/she will want and need, it will be easier for them to save for retirement.

Help Them Set an Achievable Savings Goal

Without a concrete savings goal, your employees cannot create a successful retirement plan. Unfortunately, most of them have no idea how much they will actually need. One 2013 survey found that 45 percent of savers believed they were not saving enough because they didn’t know how much money they would eventually need. Seventy-seven percent said they would save more if they knew how much today’s savings would be worth in future retirement dollars.

Instead of giving your employees a daunting goal to shoot for, help them find the answer to all those “how much?” questions. One way to do this is to choose a retirement plan vendor that offers online tools to allow your employees to model potential scenarios. They can then visualize how much they will need to save based on current rates to generate the future income they want.

Help Them Factor in Healthcare

Senior healthcare can take a big bite out of retirement savings. One 2013 study found out-of-pocket health-related expenses for a 65-year-old couple could be as much as $220,000 given average life expectancy. According to the study, most savers are only planning for $50,000 in healthcare expenses in retirement.

If you help your employees understand your employer sponsored healthcare plan as well as their future Medicaid and Medicare options, you will ensure they have a better picture of the benefits they will receive and the possible out-of-pocket medical expenses they’ll have to cover on their own. They can then incorporate this sum into their retirement savings goal.

If you’d like additional insight into meaningful retirement benefit education, contact your benefits advisor.

Trends in Workplace Health Management Programs

Trends in Workplace Health Management Programs     When it comes to engagement, employers need to think about more than salary and vacation benefits. There is an inextricable link between employee engagement and employee health. So much so, in fact, that study results often reveal that employees who participate in health programs are as much as three times more likely to be satisfied in their work.

Nurturing this satisfaction—or engagement—is well worth the cost. Research from the American College of Occupational and Environmental Medicine found that workplace health and wellness programs lead to significant reductions in lost work time—about 10.3 hours a year per participating employee. Employers also saved about $350 per year in healthcare costs per participating employee.

That’s enough to get anyone’s attention, and the use of such workplace programs continues to grow. The Optum Resource Center for Health and Well-being recently released a report on trends in workplace health management programs. Based on a survey of more than 500 human resource professionals at U.S. companies of all sizes, perhaps some of the findings—summarized below—will inspire you to create one at your organization.

  • Health management programs are prevalent in today’s businesses. On average, employers offer eight such programs. The larger the organization, the more programs they offer (5.2 average for small employers vs. 9.3 at large companies).
  • Employee assistance programs (EAPs) are the most common. Seventy percent of the surveyed employers offer them. Other popular programs are health/wellness websites (53 percent), health assessments (52 percent), wellness coaching (49 percent) and health/fitness challenges (48 percent).
  • More health management programs are available online (81 percent). Seventy-nine percent of the programs surveyed employers used had an onsite component.
  • Employers recognize the importance of establishing a “culture of health” in their organization. Sixty-two percent of the surveyed large company HR professionals said doing so is important. However, only 23 percent have actually done so.
  • Program budgets remain stable. Despite economic concerns, companies of all sizes report their wellness program budget have remained stable. More than 21 percent of employers actually increased their budget last year. Nearly 40 percent plan to increase spending on health management over the next three years.
  • Program administration is usually the most significant cost. This is followed by incentives, staff, communication, environment, program evaluation and other.
  • Most wellness programs have been in place for at least four years. On average, at companies of all sizes, wellness offerings have been available for about four years. However, more than 40 percent of large companies have offered their programs for more than five years.
  • Strategic planning is important. Nearly 50 percent of employers have established long-term strategic plans for their health management programs or—at minimum—an annual plan. Large employers are most likely to plan (73 percent), compared to midsized (44 percent) and small companies (43 percent).
  • Incentives for participation are common. More than 81 percent of employers offer incentives. Most spend an average of $167 per participant per year. The most commonly incentivized program offerings are biometric screenings, fitness challenges and health incentives. Incentives often take the form of contributions to a health savings or health reimbursement account.
  • Some employers reward their workers for achieving certain health outcomes. While most provide incentives to employees who complete wellness programs, 42 percent reward those who meet a health goal (such as losing weight or reducing blood pressure). In fact, the percentage of companies offering incentives for health outcomes increased from last year’s survey. The percentage offering rewards for program enrollment or completion actually decline.
  • More employees are participating in the health management programs offered. Fifty-five percent participated this year, an increase from 47 percent last year. Small companies have the highest participation rate (62 percent), while participation is slightly lower at large companies (54 percent) and medium-sized organizations (47 percent).
  • The success rate is quite high. Surveyed employers reported a 90 percent success rate for biometric screenings, 86 percent for onsite fitness centers, and 86 percent for health/fitness challenges.

As the Affordable Care Act continues to place an increasing focus on workplace wellness, companies across the nation are investing in health management programs. If you’d like to learn more about adding one to your roster of benefits, we’re here to help.