IS YOUR RETIREMENT PLAN GETTING THE SUPPORT IT NEEDS DURING THIS PANDEMIC?

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

If you’re having difficulty with all of the changes and to-dos regarding COVID-19 and how you manage your plan, you’re not alone!

Nearly half of plan sponsors say they are still deciding which CARES Act provisions to implement.[1] In addition, you might be dealing with uncertain cash flows, leaving you with the onerous choice of cutting or suspending retirement plan matching contributions.

You shouldn’t have to face these unprecedented times alone. Now more than ever, you need the expert guidance of an experienced, dedicated retirement plan advisor who can help you navigate this “new normal.”

If you don’t already have an advisor, it may be the time to consider partnering with one. And if your plan has an advisor, are they doing all they can to help you manage the health of your retirement plan?

Your responses to the checklist below can help you determine if now is the right time to hire an advisor or contemplate replacing your existing one.


[1] Plan Sponsor Council of America. CARES Act Snapshot Survey. April 2020.

5 STEPS TO CREATE A FINANCIAL WELLNESS PROGRAM

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

In today’s economy, Americans are worried about their finances, and it spills over into every aspect of their lives, even their work.

Let’s look at this for a minute and you’ll see why having a financial wellness program for your employees is a good thing.

Why Have a Financial Wellness Program for Your Employees?

A recent survey has found that 78% of American workers are living paycheck-to-paycheck.[1] It’s no wonder so many workers say they’re stressed about finances.

But what does this mean for you, their employer?

Employees stressed about their finances are far more likely to be late to work, absent, sick or distracted and unable to work effectively. According to the Chicago Business Journal, 43% of employees who are distracted by finances spend three or more hours a week at work thinking about financial matters or dealing with them. This equates to 150 hours per worker per year in lost productivity.[2] That’s a bundle of lost money that employers will never recover.

These numbers are causing employers to take notice, and more and more are establishing financial wellness programs to help.

5 Steps to Create a Financial Wellness Program

Employees generally need help in four areas: budgeting, debt elimination, saving and retirement planning. A good financial wellness program will address these visible areas while also addressing the invisible problem – poor attitudes about money.

The goal of a financial wellness program is to change employees’ behavior regarding their finances. A change that can result in educating employees how to handle their finances and thus reduce their stress.

So…you’ve decided to offer a financial wellness program to your employees. Where to start?

  1. Determine the program’s goals and the main problem you’re trying to solve.  Is it to help your Baby Boomer employees confidently retire? Decrease the burden of student loan debt on Millennials and Gen Xers? Is it to increase employee knowledge about financial planning? Reduce absenteeism? Or reduce healthcare costs? You’ll need to take into consideration both your needs and the needs of your employees. It might even be a good idea to conduct an anonymous survey and ask your employees what they would like to see in such a program. Their answers may surprise you. When you do make your decision as to the type of program to implement, be sure to give their interests top priority.
  2. Determine your employee demographics. Are there more Baby Boomers or Millennials? Your employee makeup will determine which financial topics your employees are interested in.
  3. Select a vendor. Most financial wellness programs are conducted by outside vendors who can give unbiased education to your employees about their finances while at the same time keeping their confidences. You will probably bear the cost of the program. Do your due diligence. Select with care the program and vendor you would take with any fiduciary decision.
  4. Have a strong communication plan. Advertise the program well in advance. Tell your employees why you’re sponsoring the program and how it can help them.  Be a little cautious, though, since money can be a touchy subject for many people.
  5. Track results regularly after implementation. Results are important. Has absenteeism decreased? Has 401(k) participation increased? Those are easy metrics to measure. It is more difficult to determine attitudes about money and increased productivity. Those may take a little longer to realize.

Measuring Success

Your ROI? With a good financial wellness program in place, you might:

It’s a win-win for you and your employees; the program may even pay for itself if you consider the productivity benefits to your company. After all, unstressed employees are happier and happier employees are more productive.

You probably already have different types of wellness plans in your company – smoking cessation, nutrition, fitness. Adding a financial wellness plan to the mix is a natural progression.

Creating an environment where employees feel empowered about their finances is a dialog; we’re happy to help with. At our firm, we feel employee education starts with the plan sponsor. We’re here to provide resources that can help your employees confidently work toward their financial goals.


Jerome Pfeffer, CRC, AIF
Managing Director

INVESTMENT SOLUTIONS GROUP
6020 Academy NE, Suite 206
Albuquerque, NM  87109

(505) 888-4015 Direct
(505) 515-0036 Fax

Jerome.Pfeffer@lpl.com
www.investmentsolutionsgroup.com

Securities and Advisory Services Offered Through LPL Financial. A Registered Investment Adviser. Member FINRA / SIPC.

[1] Friedman, Zack. “78% of Workers Live Paycheck to Paycheck.” Forbes Magazine. Jan. 2019.

[2] Lane, Shannon. “Employees’ money worries drain employers’ bottom line.” Chicago Business Journal, April 15, 2019.

HOW A FINANCIAL WELLNESS PROGRAM CAN IMPROVE COMPANY CULTURE

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

Employers recognize that financial stress is taking a toll on their workforce — and their bottom line. Financial wellness can help improve employees’ fiscal well-being and reduce stress by providing the education and tools they need to help them

Here are five ways financial wellness benefits your company culture!

Jerome Pfeffer, CRC, AIF
Managing Director

INVESTMENT SOLUTIONS GROUP
6020 Academy NE, Suite 206
Albuquerque, NM  87109

(505) 888-4015 Direct
(505) 515-0036 Fax

Jerome.Pfeffer@lpl.com
www.investmentsolutionsgroup.com

Securities and Advisory Services Offered Through LPL Financial. A Registered Investment Adviser. Member FINRA / SIPC.

THE LINK BETWEEN EMPLOYEE PRODUCTIVITY, HEALTH, AND STRESS

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

If you think financial wellness programs are a fad, think again. The industry consensus is that financial wellness not only produces results for employees, but it positively influences company bottom lines.

That’s good news for a number of reasons, especially for the juggernaut of financial stress in the workplace.

A recent study found that nearly 60% of respondents listed financial matters as the top cause of stress. Additionally, they found that 35% of employees report that issues with personal finances have been a distraction at work.[1]

Causes of financial stress vary by generation but include not having enough emergency savings (millennials and Gen X) and, not surprisingly, the biggest financial worry for Baby Boomers is not being able to retire when they want. 

The link between stress and employee productivity is real; experts estimate that it costs companies $500 billion or more a year due to “health costs, absenteeism and poor performance”. [2] More specifically, university research reported:[3]

By implementing a financial wellness program, your company can help its employees tackle these issues head on, which in turn may help reduce these issues and expenditures.

Expert and renowned personal finance professor, E. Thomas Garman, has stated that incorporating a financial wellness benefit to “reduce the costs associated with financial stress by even 3%-5% can improve a company’s bottom line simply through cost avoidance.”[4]

Another insight comes from Liz Davidson, CEO of Financial Finesse, who said that quantifying ROI with financial wellness wasn’t a slam dunk initially.[5]

“CFOs who look at financial wellness through a narrow lens struggle with the fact that there is no line item on the income statement that shows increased revenue or reduced costs as a result of a financially healthy workforce. Financial wellness has a measurable financial impact but can be hard to measure.”

Davidson and her team set out to research – and measure – the impact of financial wellness by conducting a case study of a Fortune 100 company’s comprehensive workplace financial wellness program from 2009 to 2014.[6] They focused on a few tangible and trackable elements (garnishments, flex spending/health savings accounts and absenteeism) and then measured the change in employee financial wellness scores on a specialized 0 to 10 scale.

As the median employee financial health scores went up, the costs to the company diminished, resulting in a measurable bottom-line impact.

“The correlation was so strong,” says Davidson. “For every point increase on the employee wellness scale, there was a direct financial savings per employee for the company.”

Davidson adds that the trackable elements only represent five to ten percent of what a financial wellness program involves. She and her team are working to add elements to their ROI model, including measuring the wellness program impact on healthcare costs, delayed retirements and employee turnover.

Translation: companies could benefit financially even more when you take into consideration the overall program.

While financial wellness programs may have started out as a feel-good benefit, they have quickly become significant contributors to employee well-being and a retention tool with a much needed impact on the bottom line.

And that’s just good business all around.


Jerome Pfeffer, CRC, AIF
Managing Director
INVESTMENT SOLUTIONS GROUP
6020 Academy NE, Suite 206
Albuquerque, NM 87109

(505) 888-4015 Direct
(505) 515-0036 Fax

Jerome.Pfeffer@lpl.com
www.investmentsolutionsgroup.com

Securities and Advisory Services Offered Through LPL Financial. A Registered Investment Adviser. Member FINRA / SIPC.

[1] PwC. “8th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey.” June 2019.

[2] Salary Finance. “The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellness.” 2019.

[3] Umass Lowell. “Financial Costs of Job Stress.” 2019.

[4] ASPPA. “Measuring the ROI of Financial Wellness.” Sept 2018.

[5] 401K Specialist. “How to Measure 401k Financial Wellness Success.” Sept 2017.

[6] Financial Finesse. “ROI Special Report.” May 2016.  

FOUR WAYS TO HELP REDUCE FINANCIAL STRESS FOR YOUR EMPLOYEES

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

Employee financial stress is a hot topic. So much so, that nearly 60% of employees cite finances as their primary stressor. [1] Their financial worries surpass other top stressors, and it’s impacting their job performance.

Research shows financially stressed employees are less productive and more distracted at work. They also have higher rates of absenteeism and presenteeism (at work but not fully functioning). Employees typically spend more than three hours a week dealing with their personal finances at work and they lose nearly a month of productive work time (21-31 days a year) due to financial worries.[2]

Employers simply can’t afford to ignore employees’ financial stress. Lost productivity due to financial stress costs American businesses $500 billion annually — around 2.5% of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP).[3]

The good news is that many employees want help dealing with their financial strain — and they appreciate their employer’s help.

As an employer, you’re in a unique position to positively impact your employees’ lives by helping them reduce their financial stress. Here are four ways you can help:

1. Emphasize financial wellness: Research shows that financial wellness benefits, when properly structured and executed, reduce employee stress, improve retention, boost productivity and improve a company’s ability to recruit and retain top talent. Nearly three quarters (74%) of employees believe financial wellness is an important benefit, and 60% are more likely to stay with an employer that offers a program to help them manage their money.[4]

Financial wellness programs are designed to help relieve employee stress and anxiety by helping them successfully manage their day-to-day finances, prepare for unexpected expenses and save for the future. To create an effective financial wellness program, you’ll first need to understand individual employee concerns. Anonymous surveys are a good way to gather this information so you can tailor the program to their needs.

Keep in mind, however, financial wellness is not one-size-fits-all. Every employee situation is different requiring different solutions and levels of attention.

2. Bring in experts: Financial wellness programs can help boost your employees’ fiscal health and reduce their financial stress over the long term. However, some may have issues that need to be addressed immediately to minimize their financial stress. In fact, 31% of employees want individualized advice about their money concerns.[5] Giving employees the opportunity to meet with an expert, like a financial advisor, can pay dividends when it comes to helping them manage financial stress related to common concerns such as repairing bad credit, budgeting and saving, medical bills and retirement planning.

3. Encourage employee engagement: Actively engaging employees in your financial wellness program can reduce their money-related stressors. Since improving financial security is based on behavior changes, your financial wellness program should be inspiring. Implementing milestones and quick wins — such as creating a budget or canceling an unused subscription service and allocating the savings toward paying off debt — can help keep employees motivated and accountable. The program should also be easily accessible, which helps remove barriers to success. Consider a financial wellness program with online tools that are available from any computer or mobile device — where employees spend most of their time anyway.

4. Help employees save more for retirement: Nearly 60% of employees say they’re stressed about saving for retirement.[6] Employers can help mitigate that stress by encouraging employees to take advantage of their retirement plan’s tax benefits and any employer matching contributions. It’s a great way to support lifelong savings behaviors and improve retirement readiness.

When thinking of ways to positively impact your employees’ financial and mental health, keep these four strategies in mind. Although financial stress is on the rise, you can play an important role by offering benefits that help your employees improve their financial stability and well-being.

Selecting and implementing the right financial wellness program for your employees can be challenging. We can help you design the appropriate program for reducing your employees’ stress and provide them more financial flexibility. Give us a call to learn more.


Jerome Pfeffer, CRC, AIF
Managing Director

INVESTMENT SOLUTIONS GROUP
6020 Academy NE, Suite 206
Albuquerque, NM 87109

(505) 888-4015 Direct
(505) 515-0036 Fax

Jerome.Pfeffer@lpl.com
www.investmentsolutionsgroup.com

Securities and Advisory Services Offered Through LPL Financial. A Registered Investment Adviser. Member FINRA / SIPC.

[1] PwC. “8th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey.” June 2019.

[2] Salary Finance. “The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellness.” 2019.

[3] Salary Finance. “The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellness.” 2019..

[4] Financial Health Network/Morgan Stanley. “Better for Employees, Better for Business: The Case for Employers to Invest in Employee Financial Health.” May 2019.

[5] PwC. “8th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey.” June 2019.

[6] Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI). Retirement Confidence Survey. 2019.

Q2 2020 NEWS AND INFORMATION FOR EMPLOYERS

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

The link between stress and employee productivity is real. Experts estimate that it costs companies $500 billion or more per year due to “health costs, absenteeism and poor performance”. [1]

And with finances being the number one stressor, offering a financial wellness benefit can help!

This quarter, we’ll be sharing our insights and best practices through the following topics:


Jerome Pfeffer, CRC, AIF
Managing Director

INVESTMENT SOLUTIONS GROUP
6020 Academy NE, Suite 206
Albuquerque, NM 87109

(505) 888-4015 Direct
(505) 515-0036 Fax

Jerome.Pfeffer@lpl.com
www.investmentsolutionsgroup.com

Securities and Advisory Services Offered Through LPL Financial. A Registered Investment Adviser. Member FINRA / SIPC.

[1] Salary Finance. “The Employer’s Guide to Financial Wellness.” 2019.

Infographic: The CARES Act and its Impact on Retirement Plan

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

Coronavirus, COVID-19, CARES Act, these topics have without a doubt overtaken your media feeds and with a valid reason. However, in this time of turmoil, we wanted to take a moment to explain what some of this means in hopes of bringing you some calm.

For employers, a lot has changed and very quickly. To help you navigate these changes, we have created a simple infographic that walks through two key points:

CARES Act Update: Changes Impacting Retirement Plans

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

Signed into effect on March 27, the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a robust economic stimulus package designed to help small business owners and hardworking American families during these unprecedented times.

For small businesses, the new regulation allows access to capital to help maintain operations. For employees, it grants new ways that they can use their retirement plan savings for emergency financial relief. Additionally, for qualifying individuals, there are other features available that strive to alleviate financial anxiety around tax filing deadlines, HSA payments, student loans, and the new $1200 recovery rebate checks.

This article will focus on the information that plan sponsors should know about retirement plan changes and what questions to anticipate from employees.

Who is Eligible for CARES

Before we dive into these three changes, let’s start with eligibility. The new CARES Act is specific to individuals affected by coronavirus. For plan participants to qualify, that individual needs to claim they meet these requirements:

– An individual who:

  1. Is diagnosed with the virus by a test approved by the CDC
  2. Has a spouse or dependent that is diagnosed with the virus by a test approved by the CDC
  3. Experiences adverse financial consequences as a result of being quarantined, being furloughed or laid off or having work hours reduced due to such virus or disease, being unable to work due to lack of child care due to such virus or disease, closing or reducing hours of a business owned or operated by the individual due to such virus or disease, or other factors as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.

– Additionally, they need to take the distribution before 12/31/20.

While that definition does appear to cover all workers, it’s important to let your employees know which of the qualifying exemptions they might claim in the future. Two valuable things to note:

3 Major Coronavirus-related Retirement Plan Changes

Now that your participants are eligible to qualify for Coronavirus-related changes. Here are some of the major updates impacting retirement plans.

  1. Plan loans

If your plan allows for loans, then participants may take a plan loan for the lesser of $100,000 or 100% of the vested account balance.

Example

Alex has $200,000 vested in their retirement account

They can take a plan loan of $100,000

Alex is eligible for a $100,000 plan loan

Jordan has $50,000 vested in their retirement account

They can take a plan of 100%

Jordan is eligible for a $50,000 plan loan

If your plan does not allow loans. You can amend your plan to allow for the new option(s). However, plans do not have to offer the expanded Coronavirus-related distribution or loan options. This is a fiduciary decision and should be considered thoughtfully.

If any participants have existing plan loans and for qualifying employees, their scheduled repayments and any accrued interest can be delay for the remainder of the year (12/31/20). As a best practice, direct your employee to contact the plan’s administrator for their specific loan repayment details. 

The CARES Act created a new type of withdrawal from retirement plans. It is separate and unique from traditional Hardship Withdrawals. The differences are:

One reminder, while these times are difficult for everyone, as the plan sponsor, you have the ability to decide if your plan will offer the Coronavirus-related distribution withdrawal. This will mean amending your plan for these new options. While you can start utilizing any of these provisions immediately, it is best to setup a call with your third party administrator to discuss the details.

Common questions

In addition to the new ways to access retirement plan accounts, many employees are going to have questions about rebate checks and other CARES Act changes.

How much can I expect from the coronavirus stimulus check and when will it arrive?

For employees that earn under $75,000 per year, they should receive a $1,200 stimulus check. For employees earning up to $99,000, they will receive a reduced stimulus check. The payments are reduced by $5 for every $100 in income above $75,000. Additionally, for employees with children, each child may add another $500 to the stimulus check. The stimulus checks are anticipated to arrive in April.

Does the CARES Act include student loan relief?

Yes, if the employee has federal student loans, they can pause payment for the next six months (through September 30, 2020) and during this time interest is waived.

Also, as an employer, under the new CARES Act, you may contribute up to $5,250 annually toward your employee’s student loans, and that amount would be excluded from the employee’s income.

How have health savings accounts changed?

The CARES Act has increased access to telehealth networks and expands the list of qualifying expenses. It best to contact your HSA provider for specifics.

Does the CARES Act include relief for small businesses?

If you are a small business owner with under 500 employees that has been financially impacted by COVID-19 and meet the application requirements, then you could apply for a federally backed loan. For more information, click here: https://covid19relief.sba.gov/#/

While these seem like a lot of changes, the CARES Act cuts the red tape and provides an avenue to those most impacted by coronavirus the ability to access their financial accounts.

As an employer, right now we understand it can be an incredibly stressful time. That is why we are here to keep you informed and updated on how new regulation may impact your company’s retirement plan and your employees. This knowledge is another way that you can educate your employees to make smart financial decisions and help you continue offering this incredibly value company benefit.

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance or tax/legal advice. Each plan has unique requirements and you should consult your attorney or tax advisor for guidance on your specific situation.

Sources“Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act or the CARES Act.” Congress.gov. Mar 2020.

Jerome Pfeffer, CRC, AIF

Managing Director

INVESTMENT SOLUTIONS GROUP

6020 Academy NE, Suite 206

Albuquerque, NM  87109

(505) 888-4015 Direct

(505) 515-0036 Fax

Jerome.Pfeffer@lpl.com

www.investmentsolutionsgroup.com

Securities and Advisory Services Offered Through LPL Financial. A Registered Investment Adviser. 

Member FINRA / SIPC.

Coronavirus and Retirement Savings: Lessons to help mitigate long-term retirement savings mistakes

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

It’s easy to say “stay calm” but harder to actually walk the walk.

Keeping emotions out of investment strategies can be challenging even on a normal day. Add a dose of a health pandemic, in this case the worldwide coronavirus, and you could have a recipe for widespread investor panic. Unfortunately, that recipe could be a breeding ground for long-term retirement savings consequences. 

As we have seen, COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on financial markets, both in the U.S. and abroad. Recently, the Dow Jones Industrial Index has resembled a car dealership air dancer, wildly flailing about, bending all the way to the ground and then randomly bouncing straight back up for a moment or two.

However, there are lessons to learn from history. By looking back in time, we might be able to educate and inform investor actions today.

Lesson #1: Dollar cost averaging

It is a simple investment strategy where plan participants invest a fixed amount into the same fund or investment asset over a gradual period of time. When the investment prices are reduced, investors get a chance to purchase more units, and this can help to reduce price volatility.

Lesson #2: Past performance is no guarantee of future results

Participants should focus on their long-term financial goals, not short-term fluctuations. Even during such market fluctuations as the 2001 tech bubble, the 2008 market crash and the Great Recession, the average growth rate of the S&P 500 still produced positive annual returns.

Lesson #3: Timing the market

To help weather difficult market turns, portfolios should reflect both a risk and asset allocation approach. This includes diversification, both regionally and by product (stocks, bonds, cash and alternative asset classes). Participants should avoid making any knee jerk reactions, such as moving all of their assets from equities to bonds in the hopes of avoiding any losses due to volatility.

Lesson #4: Throwing in the towel

Post-2008, one study found that 27% of respondents either stopped saving for retirement or adding to their 401(k).[1] At the same time, according to a Fidelity Investments report, the average 401(k) retirement plan balance rose by 466% to $297,700 between 2009 and 2019.[2] Millennials’ average retirement savings of $7,000 in Q1 of 2009 grew 1,762% to just under $130,000 in 2019. Translation: participants shouldn’t stop saving for retirement in market downturns.

Lastly, try not to watch the markets with myopic intensity. The U.S. is currently experiencing low unemployment, solid GDP and job growth, and a so-called “Goldilocks” economy (overall, neither too hot or cold).

Analysis after analysis of past financial events show that when investors don’t make panicked decisions, they are more likely to ride out volatility and come out ahead. 

While we understand that is all easier said than done, please contact us if you have any questions, concerns, and/or want to talk because we’re here to help.

This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance or tax/legal advice. Each plan has unique requirements, and you should consult your attorney or tax advisor for guidance on your specific situation.

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. Indexes cannot be invested into directly.

Investing in stock includes numerous specific risks including: the fluctuation of dividend, loss of principal and potential illiquidity of the investment in a falling market.

Bonds are subject to market and interest rate risk if sold prior to maturity. Bond values will decline as interest rates rise and bonds are subject to availability and change in price.

Alternative investments may not be suitable for all investors and should be considered as an investment for the risk capital portion of the investor’s portfolio.

Dollar cost averaging involves continuous investment in securities regardless of fluctuation in price levels of such securities. An investor should consider their ability to continue purchasing through fluctuating price levels. Such a plan does not assure a profit and does not protect against loss in declining markets.

There is no guarantee that a diversified portfolio will enhance overall returns or outperform a non-diversified portfolio. Diversification does not protect against market risk.

©401(k) Marketing, LLC. All rights reserved. Proprietary and confidential. Do not copy or distribute outside original intent.


[1] “Betterment’s Consumer Financial Perspectives Report: 10 Years after the Crash.” Sept 2018. Betterment. https://www.betterment.com/uploads/2018/09/Betterment-Consumer-Financial-Perspectives-Report.pdf

[2] “Fidelity® Q1 2019 Retirement Analysis: Account Balances Rebound From Dip In Q4, While Savings Rates Hit Record Levels.” May 2019. Fidelity.  https://www.fidelity.com/bin-public/060_www_fidelity_com/documents/press-release/quarterly-retirement-trends-050919.pdf

3 DOL HOT BUTTONS

Posted on by Jerome.Pfeffer

DOL audits can be stressful, complicated and expensive! The best way to handle one is to avoid it in the first place. Through our experience, we’ve outlined three hot button issues that are major red flags for the DOL. Watch our short video for the tips and best practices to help manage risk.

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