How to Change the 401k Financial Wellness Conversation

Removes 'barriers' between financial, physical and behavioral wellness

What needs to happen to make financial wellness programs more effective?What needs to happen to make financial wellness programs more effective?

“It can’t wait until tomorrow; it has to begin today.” —Bob Benish

Common sense is a valuable commodity. Although there’s an entire industry dedicated to helping others save for retirement (and spending billions of dollars and millions of hours on education programs in the process), the problem remains—people simply aren’t not saving enough.

Part of the reason is that we begin the retirement “story” at chapter three, instead of setting the foundation first. People need to learn how to effectively manage their finances today before they can effectively save for tomorrow.

People will not (and cannot) focus on saving for retirement if they are struggling with current needs, such as credit card or school debt and living paycheck to paycheck. They might not even know what a budget is, let alone how to live within it.

The most effective 401k wellness programs are those that start with the basics. The basics include living within their means, controlling expenses, and finding the way to reduce and even eliminate debt.

Bottom line—people are financially stressed and they aren’t leaving that stress at home, but bringing it with them to the workplace. It therefore impacts employers directly.

In order to address the problem, we need a holistic view of wellness, one that removes any barriers between 401k financial wellness, physical wellness and behavioral wellness. We need integrated benefit programs in the workplace that look at the whole person. And we need financial literacy programs in our schools, our communities, and in our jobs. Without a commitment to financial wellness, America faces socioeconomic challenges and an exacerbation of income inequality, the very definition of a society with “those that have it” versus “those that don’t.”

The key to effectively addressing the issue is for all relative players to work together to examine the causes of the current knowledge imbalance, and how it impacts the daily lives of American workers. Only then can we offer and implement solutions.

Financial services organizations need to work closely with employers to provide balanced employee education and communication programs when offering retirement plans.

My particular passion involves exploring the root causes of financial illiteracy and how it can be corrected. It involves an exploration of practical solutions that can be implemented to improve financial literacy in the workforce, help relieve employee stressors, improve productivity among workers, and help them to more effectively save for future retirements.

Mark Singer, CFP, AIF is a leader in the world of financial education. Mark is the author of three books, a frequent speaker at events, and is the creator of The Financial Literacy Toolbox www.financialliteracytoolbox.com, a virtual resource center to help financial advisors, wellness providers, and institutional retirement services firms change the conversation about financial wellness. Please complete this one-minute business opportunity survey to receive a free copy of Mark’s newest book “The New Financial Wellness: Changing the Conversation.”

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