I WAS RECENTLY asked whatbenefit I would recommendadding to an employer’sportfolio in light of theCOVID- 19 pandemic. Myanswer was that financialwellness benefits are nowmore important than ever.
As unemployment has soared,accompanied by salary or benefitrollbacks from many employers,millions of people are under financial stress that most people aresimply not prepared to manage.
Financial wellness needs spanthe generations. As an older babyboomer, I remember my own experiences. We hear a lot about membersof Generation Z and millennials whohave college loan debt, which isnothing new. When I went to college, Ipaid my way through a combination ofscholarships, college jobs and loans. Inever had more than two weeks whenI wasn’t working at least part-time,and over winter break and summers, Iworked full-time every year. I still had toborrow some money and it wasn’t easyto repay the debt, but I did.
Once out of college, I worked a succession of full-time jobs in the insuranceand benefits business until I retired fromMutual of Omaha last spring. Since then,I’ve done some independent consulting. During my career, I faced the usualsources of financial stress, starting withrepaying college loan debt and planningmajor purchases like a car. After gettingmarried, my wife and I saved to buy andfurnish a home, and faced the expense ofraising four children.
When we started a family, we went
from two incomes to one because my wife
and I decided she would be a stay-at-
home mom, even though she had been
making more money per year than me. So,
we went through the next level of finan-
cial wellness needs: planning and
budgeting for big expenditures,
trying to stay reasonably
debt free, putting aside some
money for the kids’ college,
and managing our finances
through the exigencies of life.
The biggest source of stress
today is losing a paycheck; did we
ever go through that? Yes, when our
two oldest were in high school. For
six months, our insurance was via
COBRA and I had to cash in an IRA,
among other sacrifices.
What about retirement? Well,
after 51 years working in the insur-
ance and benefits business, we have
our 401(k) money plus savings and
investments. We are relatively lucky
compared with most people. If all my
wife and I had for retirement income was
Social Security, our household income
would be under the federal poverty level.
We’ve managed to be debt free and areable to live in reasonable comfort.
But there’s still insecurity about howlong our investment money will last,given the fallout from the pandemic. Westill have worry that the assets we havemay not be sufficient.
So, there’s evidence of the need forfinancial wellness, based on my own lifestory. Over the years, I could have usedhelp in:
1. Repaying college loans.
2. Budgeting family expenses andmajor purchases.
3. Planning for children’s education.
4. Paying for children’s education.
5. Managing finances after job loss.
6. Saving for retirement.
7. Investing and planning to make aretirement fund last for a lifetime.
That’s why people need financial wellness tools. It’s our responsibility to meetthat need and help employers providethe benefits their employees deserve.
MartyTraynor isan Omaha-based consultant inthe benefitsfield. Hemay bereachedat firstname.lastname@example.org
of the need
my own life