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Taking Stock: What’s Appening with Financial Wellness?

June 21, 2018 / by Thomas D. Cook, Consultant and Deirdre L. Pomerleau, CFA, CAIA, Consultant

Today, a web site will only take you so far.

At least that’s the takeaway for corporate employers vying for the attention of their plan participants. This rings especially true for millennials—the biggest generation in US history, larger than even the baby boomers. As these 21-to-37-year-olds cement their presence in the workforce, it is a priority for their employers to encourage their participation in their retirement savings plans and promote their financial wellbeing. After all, the fiscal health of employees affects productivity which, in turn, impacts the bottom line of employers.

To this end, many corporate plan sponsors are asking more of their record keepers and service providers as they engage in discussions around available tools and programs aimed at promoting financial wellness.

Record keepers and service providers, in turn, are looking to that holy grail of the digital age: apps. And they don’t have to look too far for inspiration. For instance, there’s Venmo, the free mobile payment app owned by PayPal which allows you to send money with the ease of a few taps on your touchscreen phone (splitting the dinner check with six credit cards is so yesterday!). There are also financial planning apps, such as NerdWallet which helps with credit cards and setting financial goals, and Mint, a nifty tool for budgeting and paying bills. In addition, there are investment apps, for example, Acorns, which round up purchases and invest the spare change as a way of micro-investing.

Taking a cue, record keepers and service providers have rolled out apps for retirement plan participants. These apps give employees access to their retirement accounts with a few easy taps. They can change their investment elections, research their investments and see their account balance as often as they’d like. Some apps include tools to help with budgeting, financial planning and savings.

We don’t think it will be long before apps are used for messaging plan participants directly to engage them in their account activities. Wouldn’t it be great to receive a banner notice on your phone when your payroll contributions are invested, informing you of just how much you and your employer deposited into your account that period? Or how cool would it be to receive a message when your account balance crosses certain milestones, say every $1,000 of growth? (Maybe the message could contain fireworks and vibrate like a Fitbit does when you cross 10,000 steps!) Wouldn’t that be appealing?

At NEPC, we have been building topnotch defined contribution plans for nearly 30 years, and we are very excited about the potential of apps to directly reach plan participants and engage them in their retirement success.

To learn more about your provider’s approach, you should appsolutely download their app and familiarize yourself with your account and the tools available to you. Now go out into the world and take your financial health into your own thumbs. Happy app-surfing!

Topics: Defined Contribution, Taking Stock, Blog

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