Rethinking Well-Being: Integrating Health and Wealth
Americans are back in debt.
And with the growth of consumer-directed health plans, people have to save for both retirement and health expenses—in addition to other financial needs. What can you do to help employees manage all these competing priorities?
In this free webinar, Engagement Strategist Megan Yost examines the close relationship between our health and wealth. She shows you how to create a more holistic view of well-being—one that goes beyond the typical silos around health care and financial benefits.
This session will help you:
- Understand what financial wellness is and why it is so important right now
- Identify barriers that keep your employees from being engaged with well-being programs, even those they desperately need
- Implement a course of action to help your diverse workforce overcome those barriers
Megan Yost is a recognized thought leader on retirement, financial wellness, and employee engagement. She has worked with some of the country’s largest employers to build better employee experiences with retirement benefits and to increase employees’ interaction with them. Before joining Benz, Megan was the vice president and head of DC Experience at State Street Global Advisors.
This webinar was previously recorded. View the full transcript below.
Rethinking Well-being: Integrating Health and Wealth
Jen: Hello everyone. Thank you for joining us today. This is Rethinking Well-being: Integrating Health and Wealth. I am Jennifer Benz, and I’m the CEO and founder of Benz Communications. I’m delighted to be joined today by Megan Yost who is going to lead today’s webinar. Megan is an engagement strategist on our team, and a leading expert in retirement, financial well-being, and employee engagement.
She’s a frequent speaker including presenting on Capitol Hill and testifying before the Department of Labor’s ERISA Advisory Council. She’s worked with some of the country’s largest employers to build better employee experiences with benefits, and to increase employees’ interaction with them, especially around retirement and financial well-being. Before joining our team, Megan was the Vice President and Head of DC Experience at State Street Global Advisors.
Megan, I’m so excited to be doing a webinar with you today.
A little bit about us. Since 2006, we have been working with leading organizations to engage employees and drive business results through effective benefits communication. We focus our efforts on helping incredible companies like yours inspire people to improve their health, their finances, and their future. Our work spans all aspects of benefits and blends the fields of consumer marketing, design, and behavioral science. We absolutely love this work and the impact that it makes on our clients and their employees, and I’m super excited about this webinar today.
One final word before I hand things over to Megan, this presentation is being recorded. You will get the slides following the presentation, and please type in any questions you have throughout. We’ll have time at the end for Q & A. And with that, I’ll hand things over to Megan to talk us through the agenda and get things started.
Megan: Great. Thank you so much Jen, and thank you all for joining us today. I’m really excited about this presentation. Today we’re going to talk about the integration of health and wealth in terms of well-being. We’re going to start with looking at a human-centered approach to benefits and how benefits are becoming more focused on individual needs as opposed to programs. Then we’re going to talk about the impact of financial stress and the evolution of financial well-being to become more involved in holistic well-being. We’ll talk about employee mindsets, and then tips and tricks for you to best engage employees before going into Q & A.
Let’s move into taking a human-centered approach to benefits. For a number of years now, there’s been a shift underway in both the 401(k) industry and in the healthcare space in terms of moving more of the responsibility and cost onto individual employees. And because of the way that both 401(k) retirement plans and healthcare plans were administered in the past, historically teams have been segregated around areas of specialty, jargon, and the knowledge or language that they had built to understand those different specialties, and the complexities of investing and healthcare. But there’s a growing appreciation now as more individuals are responsible for the decision-making and cost of both their retirement and their healthcare decisions that we as industry professionals need to better understand and help think about these benefits in a more integrated fashion that reflects how individual employees think about these decisions in their own lives. And from that shift we’ve seen the industry move in a direction to focus more about talking about needs as opposed to talking about programs in a more siloed fashion. So we’re looking at it from a much more holistic perspective than ever before.
Now let’s talk about financial stress and how this spans both health and wealth.
Several years ago, there was a song that was really popular on the radio called Stressed Out by Twenty One Pilots, and I highlight that here because when I first heard this song, I found it shocking. In fact, it almost stopped me dead in my tracks as I was driving home from work. And it was the first time, I thought, that I had ever heard a song that was looking backwards in terms of wishing you were younger rather than all the songs that had come in generations before, where you think about the Beach Boys and wishing to grow up and wanting to be older, and also thinking about a lot of songs that talk about spending money, having money, and enjoying money. This song talks about the stress of finance—of student debt in particular—is one of the things that these singers are stressed out about. And I thought that was a watershed moment culturally in terms of the how much financial stress, in particular student loan debt, is bubbling up into the cultural zeitgeist and what we’re all feeling and experiencing as individuals moving through various life stages.
Not surprisingly, when we think about the sources of financial stress, one of the biggest and most popular ones that gets a lot of headlines is student loan debt. And what’s most important to think about or to understand about student loan debt right now is that it doesn’t just affect Centennial and Millennial employees. It spans across all generations. In fact, a lot of times those who are taking out student loans are parents or grandparents who are taking out loans on behalf of children they’re sending to college. So this source of stress is affecting all aspects and all demographics in the workforce.
Another interesting statistic that I’ve seen recently in MarketWatch is the most Googled terms for things that are keeping us up at night, and not surprisingly the top-searched financial concept is student loans and how they work, followed by a mortgage, car loans, payday loans, and 401(k). And I think that that’s important, that context is important to think about because of how more broadly we need to think about talking to employees about finances. It’s not just about retirement. It’s not just about a 401(k). It spans all aspects of the financial world.
PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) has done a number of annual longitudinal studies on financial well-being, and one of the things that’s most interesting about the research they’ve done, and how they look at and segment the statistics and the feedback they’re getting from their research, is that they have recognized that the top financial concerns or financial stress depends upon income for a certain degree. So, for those making less than $75,000, it’s a different experience than those making more than $75,000 a year in terms of what their anxieties are about work. If you look at this graphic here, the top sources of stress for those making under $75,000 are not having enough emergency savings or not being able to meet monthly expenses. But for those making more than $75,000, emergency savings again are still a hot topic, but being able to retire or being laid off are higher up on the list than for those making less. So I think of this as a very important distinction to understand in terms of how people are feeling, because all income levels are feeling stressed, but the sources of stress can vary.
Moving on to the financial impact of stress on employees, the top impact is health. And so again, here is where we start to see some connectivity. Those who are feeling stressed out about their financial situations can be internalizing it and manifesting it in their physical and emotional health, and that has impact to the workplace, to relationships, to home, and to others.
And speaking of health, there’s a lot of connectivity not just in the physical impact of stress on individuals but also the affordability of medical care itself, and a lot of research coming out about the rising cost of healthcare and how it’s outpacing wage growth. It’s outpacing inflation. It’s also having a big effect on share-of-wallet, because healthcare expenses are taking a bigger piece of the pie than ever before. Interestingly, the New York Times and CBS News a number of years ago asked people about whether or not they would want to discuss medical costs with their doctor while they were talking about potential treatments, and 80% of people said they want to talk about cost. So I think that that reflects this shift in ownership and this shift of responsibility and a more increasing understanding of the potential cost of healthcare expenses on individuals.
Looking forward into the future, we know for employees who are nearing retirement that thinking about running out of money is a huge concern for the next stage of their lives in terms of determining when to retire or determining when to take Social Security and how best to go about that. But right after that, on the heels of running out of money, people are worried about health issues and healthcare costs, not surprisingly. And I think that this is also important to keep in mind for employers who have a number of employees, especially as Baby Boomers are moving into retirement, and thinking about how they are considering whether or not to retire and if they’re retirement-ready. One of their concerns could be if they’re worried about running out of money, they would work longer. They could also be working longer because of the social security and other benefits that they get at the workplace that are keeping them there longer. That has implications from a cost perspective in terms of medical care, in terms of workforce management, and in terms of the test of the employees and how they’re moving through the workforce.
And lastly, the use of HSA. As we talk about the growing use of consumer-driven health plans and high-deductible health plans, HSAs are a component of that. What was most interesting to me, and PwC’s research in particular, is that they said that individuals who are feeling stressed about their financial lives are twice as likely to use the HSA for immediate medical expenses. I think that’s really important to think about as we work on communicating about the HSA and the value of it to employees, and in some cases, it may make sense depending upon your employee population, more about the HSA and its future use, and how it can help you build additional savings for retirement or to pay for healthcare expenses in retirement, but there’s a big part of the population that is using it for immediate need, and that’s what it’s meant to be used in a lot of ways. You don’t want employees taking that money out of the 401(k) or taking hardship loans or going to payday lenders and so on and so forth. You do want them to use the money in the HSA for healthcare expenses. So that’s an important consideration.
While we’re thinking about these sources of stress, a number of years ago, around 2014 and 2015, financial wellness started to become a really hot topic in the retirement space in particular because it was a new way of expanding the conversation beyond thinking about retirement, which really is hard. It’s a hard topic to talk to all generations about because of competing needs and different financial priorities. One thing that I think is important with financial wellness is this distinction between wellness and well-being. We at Benz look at wellness from a programmatic perspective, that the programs you offer as an employer or the solutions and the benefits that you offer versus well-being, which is that individual state of employee well-being.
It’s become an increasing priority for employers, which you see here in Aon Hewitt’s Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Well-Being, more and more employers are seeing it as an important part of their engagement strategy, and more employers are looking at it not just because they believe it’s the right thing to do or because it increases engagement, but because it is tied to absenteeism, presenteeism, reducing medical care cost, and helping improve overall retirement statistics in terms of retirement preparation. I think the middle part of this chart is particularly interesting in terms of why employers are looking at financial wellness and integrating it into existing well-being frameworks.
Now, with well-being and wellness, one of the things that’s most important about financial well-being is that it’s not just about the amount of money individuals have in their accounts. It’s really about how they feel about the money they have in their accounts. Tom Rath and Jim Harter from Gallup wrote a book called Wellbeing a number of years ago, and I thought it was really interesting that they, through their research with Gallup, have identified that it’s the perception of what they have that has three times more of an impact on their well-being over income itself. It’s really important as you build well-being programs in your organization to remember that it’s highly connected to the psychological and emotional states of the employees, and not necessarily tied to income while keeping in mind that there is a baseline income level of 75,000 that we talked about earlier where basic survival is a factor there. So when you get beyond that 75,000, it’s really about the perception and the emotion to it and what that means.
We started talking about financial well-being and a framework for it a number of years ago, Benz and SSGA together, when I was at SSGA and working closely with Jen here at Benz, and we used this framework from Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs trying to connect the different states of fulfillment and security versus how we think about those layers of financial security in terms of getting through the day versus building stability and building for the future.
What I want to share now is how this has started to evolve with different thinkers in the industry in terms of how they’re expanding well-being beyond just the frameworks we’ve seen historically around building short-term savings to becoming more financially independent. Now we’re seeing much more holistic frameworks such as this one created by Bersin by Deloitte that’s taking into account mind, body, wealth, and even purpose, which I think is a really nice new dimension that they’re adding to this framework and thinking about how people feel engaged through volunteer activities, through career development, through rewards and recognition, and training and support. It’s not just about your physical state, your mental state, or the money that you have or don’t have. There’s more to that overall sense of well-being that brings you purpose in life.
Another interesting twist on this is work that Jim Loehr and Tony Schwartz have done in their book, The Power of Full Engagement. They historically worked with high-performance athletes in terms of trying to help them maximize their performance on the tennis court or on the field, and they looked at well-being through this framework of managing your energy. What I think is really interesting and new about this topic is that they’re thinking about sources of energy, and they’re channeling it into performance. I think that that’s a really different way of looking at it from the perspective of individual employees, and is much more engaging than coming at it to employees from the perspective of how it benefits the organization, how it maximizes productivity or it helps ROI or the bottom line of the organization.
This helps people, looking at it from this perspective, in terms of how they manage their work-life integration, how they manage their stress, and how they can be high performers in their work and in their personal lives, because everyone wants to feel like they’re contributing, that they’re working to do something impactful, and that they’re highly engaged. It’s a much more interesting and personal perspective coming from this angle as opposed to coming from the angle of organization, so I think that this lens of performance and individual happiness and so forth is a new element that’s coming into the conversation that I think is really exciting. Here you don’t see anything about financial well-being in this framework at all, but it’s part of that emotional well-being that we talked about earlier in terms of how you feel and think about your finances and how that affects your energy and your mental state when you come into the office.
And lastly, Bersin by Deloitte have this framework again, and the point of sharing this is showing how we’re evolving to talking about sustainable performance. Well-being is moving into this new sphere of how you integrate being your best self physically, mentally, socially, and so forth, with being a high performer or being a high performer but taking time off when you need it to recharge so you can be on when you need to be on.
So that’s a little bit of the context of well-being and how it’s changing. I’m now going to shift to talking about the employee mindset and how this starts to fit together.
There’re a lot of barriers to engagement, typically in the financial space. The conversation was always about retirement historically, and most of the time conversations were with older, more senior employees, whether they were friends, family members, colleagues, or mentors talking to junior employees about the benefits of saving for retirement and why it matters.
Here’s a comical look at the benefits of starting to save early. But that’s shifting again to be more holistic, to think not just about retirement but all these other elements of financial priorities that individuals have, and some of the things that gets in the way of not helping people start building those savings early or to have emergency saving funds. These are a number of different things that include behavioral and cognitive barriers, written about a lot in behavioral finance. Individuals like Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein and Nudge and Dan Ariely have written a lot about them, the different obstacles that we face from a behavioral perspective.
We have competing priorities, which I’ve mentioned. There’s trust in terms of individuals not necessarily trusting financial providers for many reasons, partly coming out of the global recession a number of years ago now. But then there are these interesting dimensions, in terms of finance in particular, that requires a knowledge of two languages: numbers and money. Both of those are intimidating and things that many people would rather avoid. And then this dimension of when you think about this whole spectrum of well-being for both your physical and your financial standpoint is thinking about the future, that future self, and things you don’t want to think about when you get to ages 80 and beyond, but are important to a broader, thoughtful, holistic well-being perspective, and that longer-term planning both from a healthcare perspective and from a retirement perspective.
Knowing that there are all these obstacles that we face, there are a number of tips and tricks that we as engagement specialists and communication professionals use to help better engage individuals in these conversations about money and healthcare. We’ve talked a lot about, in the number of different webinars we’ve put on over the years at Benz around the 10 Keys to Engagement, but what we like to prioritize is keeping it simple, so using straightforward language that doesn’t include jargon, minimizing the use of disclosures, and then talking about things with very small steps. So rather than trying to get someone to move from A to Z, start by moving from A to B, from B to C and so forth. That’s much more manageable and can help people take those initial steps to develop better habits and behaviors that can then snowball into longer-term beneficial behaviors.
With financial products in particular, especially investment products and retirement, in the past historically there’s been a focus on risk and return, talking about what your risk tolerance is, and most people don’t even know how to answer that question. It’s much more helpful to reframe that terminology when you can to talk about things that people understand in a more tangible, tactical manner, such as spending and payments. People know how much money they make on a monthly basis, on a biweekly basis, and they know more about how they’re using their money. They don’t necessarily understand risk and return and what that really means in their everyday life.
Another important tactic to consider is positive framing. So you’ve probably seen a number of billboards or advertisement where the provider’s trying to scare people to thinking about running out of money or various situations that are unpleasant to think about. And that isn’t motivating for employees. The research has shown that that’s not effective. What’s more effective is helping people to encourage them wherever they are in their lives. So even if they’re 60 and they haven’t started saving for retirement yet, encouraging them to save because they still have time to save for the future. They could be retiring in the number of years ahead of time. It doesn’t help to make people feel bad about not having started saving earlier, because they could have had a whole number of situations that prevented them from starting earlier. So you always want to start that conversation in a positive step.
Another important consideration is not just focusing on the logic of why something is important, so whether it’s an HSA or it’s retirement or anything, showing people the numbers of why compounding works, people understand that conceptually, but they don’t always buy into something until it’s made more emotional for them. People make decisions based on emotions, and so you need to connect the numbers to real life, often through storytelling or through something that will resonate, that is evocative, that will help them be in a frame that conveys the importance of what you’re trying to share with them.
Rather than talking generally, make it about the individual. Make it personalized. If you can make it targeted it’s even better, but treat the person that you’re communicating with or you’re working with, you’re trying to engage as a person, not like an investor or a healthcare consumer, because people don’t see themselves as a healthcare consumer. They don’t see themselves as investors most often. They see themselves as just trying to make it through the day and trying to do the best they can for themselves and for the people they support in their families. You’re much more likely to have more success getting through to employees by looking at it on that very personalized level.
Another part of engagement that we haven’t yet touched upon is engagement versus education, and there have been a lot of studies around financial literacy over the years. I know there are similar studies around health literacy and the efficacy of educational efforts, and what researchers have proven, including a group out of the University of Colorado Boulder, also including John Lynch, is that education has decaying effects. So in other words, just like the Spanish you might have learned in high school or the piano playing that you may have done as a child, if you don’t continue to practice that over time, you lose that skill or you lose that information. What this chart here shows is that more hours of instruction doesn’t impact the efficacy of that education over time. It all eventually, over 20 months or so, comes out to around the same place. What this chart means is that we need to educate people continually to help them know where to go for information when they need it. Try to match needs with resources at the right time. If you tell people generally about a certain benefit that’s not relevant to them at that point in their lives, they’re most likely going to forget about it. It makes more sense to educate continuously and to find the resources so that when they have a need, they can go to that place and find trusted non-biased information.
I would also mention here that people are most engaged with their finances at points of inflection. So if they’re having a life change, if they’re having a baby, they’re getting married, they’re getting divorced, or they’re changing an employer and are going through a merger or change of investments in a 401(k) plan, or you’re changing the healthcare plan to an open enrollment, those are the times when you’re most likely to engage people because they have to make a decision, and they need to figure it out, and that’s where they want to find something. They want to know where to find the right resources.
And that brings me to our philosophy around the 10 Keys to successful communications. We talk about the 10 Keys through a three-piece framework, including foundation, marketing, and resources, and many of the things that I have touched upon so far involve that marketing of simple, straightforward communications that are consistently provided to employees, that are targeted if possible to different needs or different demographics, different life stages that resonate with individuals that in having those communications drive people to a resource, a website, a destination where they know they can consistently find the information they need.
So that’s a quick overview of how health and wealth are starting to become more and more integrated, and I’m curious for Jen if there are any questions that you have seen come through the line.
Jen: Yeah, absolutely. Thanks Megan. Such great information, and so many topics to cover around health and wealth. We have quite a few questions coming in. So for folks that are on the line, you can type any of your questions into the questions module, and we will get through them one at a time.
So the first thing, Megan, is, we have a couple questions around this idea of treating someone like a person versus an investor, and I’m curious if you can say a little bit more about getting away from that industry jargon. Certainly it’s not just treating them like an investor; we often treat people like healthcare experts also in the communication. So what have you seen be really effective for moving away from that jargon and getting to the right level of education?
Megan: I think one thing that’s really important is using metaphors and using examples. If you’re presenting information, try to keep the information as simple as possible and not use language that individuals who are not in your field would understand. Also, metaphors are important, visuals can have a really big impact on how people understand information, and then remember that we all learn and understand things differently, and so people might need to hear it and read it. They might engage more with a video. There’s different media that can help convey the concepts that you’re trying to help your employees understand, and I also wouldn’t use the term investor explicitly. I see that a lot in participant communications from 401(k) plans where they talk or they’re addressing the participants, the employees, as investors, and I just don’t think that that’s a term that resonates with most people. If you asked your neighbors or people on the street, they may be invested in a 401(k), but they probably don’t see themselves as investors.
Jen: Yeah, absolutely, just like people don’t see themselves as consumers of healthcare. They see themselves as a patient trying to navigate a very complicated system. That’s great.
There’s a question about the 10 Keys, so while we have that up I can speak a little bit more to this. Megan mentioned that this is our approach for really driving engagement with benefits. Having a foundation in place is key, and then taking a marketing approach and the concept around how we’re talking to people and the terminology that we’re using is really a key piece of taking the marketing approach, both in terms of simplicity and thinking about that employee experience and how you help people move through the process and make good decisions in a very complex world that we’re trying to navigate between health and financial benefits. And then having the right resources in place with the right budget and partners to support communication of those ongoing efforts, and this is a methodology that we’ve created over the last year and a half or so. We have a whole set of e-books on our website, and there’s a webinar that goes into a lot of detail just around this framework. We also have an assessment and a worksheet, so for those of you on the line trying to understand how to really elevate your communication efforts to better connect benefits and make a more holistic experience for your employees, this will provide a really good guideline for doing that.
Jen: And kind of along those lines, we had a couple questions about personalized and targeted communication, so Megan, can you share a bit about what you’re seeing as most successful or the ways to do targeted campaigns that try to connect the dots between health and financial benefits?
Megan: Yeah, absolutely. I would say that you want to unify the communications through an overarching theme that everyone in the workforce will identify with or that it will catch their attention or disrupt them from their typical line of thinking about health and wealth. If you can use something that will be engaging and spark their attention, that overarching campaign is really helpful. Within that, different employees have different needs. Like I mentioned before, depending upon the topic that you are communicating about, you want to make sure that you are orienting content to the needs of different groups. You could send print communications to different audiences, depending on if you’re bucketing them by age or by need, if they have needs for financial college planning for their children, you may not want to send that communication to your part of the population that is just coming out of college. If you have a sense and can identify some of the needs in your employee population, try to match those needs to the individuals and their different life stages.
You can also do this through the websites and the different materials you make available through there, where you can allow people to self-select into different group. For some of our clients we have best benefits by 20s, 30s, 40s and so forth, and they can go through that experience and it helps them navigate through the benefits that are most relevant to them at that particular age.
Jen: Yeah, that’s great, and I would also add that, particularly on the topic of thinking about how to better connect the financial side of benefits and the health of well-being side of benefits, there is a ton of data that is often siloed in those two worlds that is very indicative of the needs that might be managed by another part of the benefits team or are on another administrator’s system. One of the simplest examples of that is looking at your 401(k) data as an indicator of who might be a candidate to be an investor with their HSA. Certainly, your employees that are maxing out their 401(k) contributions would be much more likely to want that HSA as another retirement vehicle, and you could target messages to them specifically around that, versus trying to explain to your entire population, a good portion of whom might be just trying to make it paycheck by paycheck, that your HSA has all of this potential to be invested long-term and to grow like a retirement account.
I think that’s one of the best examples of financial data helping educate and inform the communication that could come on the health side, but then when you dig into it around work-life benefits, Megan mentioned education benefits or childcare benefits and so forth, there’s so much data that is within the medical plans—how many people have dependents, what ages those dependents are, and so forth—that could help highlight the need for those work-life and family benefits, and a lot of our Silicon Valley clients right now have a really big focus on family benefits and supporting people who have young children all the way up through aging or elder parents that they’re caring for, and being able to target those messages and get the right benefit to the right person at the right time is a big opportunity for engagement and just connecting those dots.
Megan: That’s a great point, Jen. Thanks for bringing that up, about the data in particular, and looking at the usages of your retirement plan and your health plans and understanding where there might be pain points and how you can address those pain points with your employees. Data is teaching us a lot about how we can better target employees.
Jen: Absolutely. Another question, Megan, around how we differentiate or talk about wellness versus well-being, and can you talk about that again a bit?
Megan: Yeah, absolutely. I have heard this debated in a lot of different forms with a lot of different industry professionals, and I keep coming away with the belief that when you’re talking to employees, you’re talking to them about their well-being. It’s that individual state. Wellness is the program that you offer or the framework that you’re providing it through. It’s the programs themselves, the benefits that you’re offering. I don’t think people resonate with wellness as much, because that feels more institutional than well-being, which is much more individual and personalized. I think when you’re communicating to employees individually, you want to use the terminology “well-being challenge” or “to help improve your well-being,” for example.
Jen: Yeah, and I think that also highlights an area of confusion for employees, when so much different terminology is used to describe different programs and so forth, it can sometimes be confusing, and so just the difference in usage, the difference in the way benefit plans are named and so forth, keeping everything very simple and focusing on that employee and their needs and how they’re going to get value from the program, and what problem that program is solving for that individual versus the nomenclature of the benefit programs. That’s the way to get people to connect better, and it’s hard when there’s so much complexity on the benefit programs, and so many things almost feel regulated or required, like around descriptions of high-deductible health plans, with health savings accounts and 401(k) plans and eligibility and so forth. All of this jargon and complexity gets away from that idea of, you are trying to help someone impact their own state of well-being, and how do you just get that jargon out of the way and then help that individual connect with how these programs are going to benefit themselves.
Jen: Yeah, that’s great. Another question has come in about the idea that education isn’t enough, and Megan, this is something that we’re always debating internally, because, of course, we’re a communications agency, so communication we believe is very important, but it can’t be the only thing to change behavior. Can you talk a little bit about what you see as the way to create more effective interventions, and why education is limited in the results it can create.
Megan: This is always a controversial topic, but I think what’s important to remember about how we learn things is that benefits, healthcare, retirement, finances is experiential, so the more you interact with the different programs—the plans—the more you understand them. For example, when you buy your first house, you have no idea what you’re doing and you seek out information to better understand the process, and you seek out people to help you through that. When you buy your second house, you may have forgotten some of the steps that are included, but you’ll have remembered the experience of what you had done previously, and what’s interesting about John Lynch’s research is that they also showed how you build this experience every year, you revisit your health plans during open enrollment or any time there’s a change made to the 401(k), you’re going to have to re-evaluate how much you’re saving, and then what vehicles you’re investing. Those are all really important opportunities to help people re-experience the value of what you’re providing to them, and so those touchpoints build over a lifetime and create wisdom and understanding.
When John Lynch also did research on men and women, they found that no matter what gender you are, it has to do with your financial acumen and whether you are the person that’s doing the investing or doing the budgeting. A lot of households split up tasks to be efficient. One person might shop for groceries, another person mows the lawn and so forth, and they do that to be efficient; to get things done. But if that is how decisions are being made in the house with regards to finance, he and his fellow researchers have seen that a split happens, so the person who is making the investment decisions, or is continually engaged in the household finances, will build that acumen over time, whereas if someone is not involved in those decisions and the decision-making process, they lose financial literacy over time.
This has historically been an issue for women because years ago, when there were fewer women in the workplace, or when women take time off outside of the workforce, they may not be involved in those decisions—the workplace decisions for workplace savings plans, or for choosing the healthcare plans and so forth—and so they lose that financial literacy. I think that makes that population particularly vulnerable when, if there’s one partner who’s responsible and one person who’s not responsible, that person who is not responsible suddenly finds themselves in the position of needing to be responsible, whether there’s a loss of a loved one or a divorce, that’s when you get into more dangerous situations for individuals. So it’s important to really empower people to be part of those decisions throughout their career so that they can build that wisdom and build that experience and build familiarity and comfort level with the various programs and services that you offer to them.
Jen: Yep, absolutely. And this is our final question that’s come in, and it says, “Can you give us some of your favorite examples of health and wealth campaigns or messaging where the products and services from each have been intentionally combined?” We’ve been doing a lot of these, so I have some ideas to share, Megan. Do you want to start with that one and I can add some more examples?
Megan: Yeah, I’d love to share one that we recently did just a few weeks ago actually with one of our clients. We create a Life Hacks campaign, and what we did was we kind of took a joking perspective in a number of cases, but we talked about these common problems that people run into, whether it involves any part of everyday life, and then we match those different situations with the various offerings that this employer provided, whether they were telehealth, or EAP, or financial wellness tools, or different components of the health plan or backup care. There was a whole spectrum of solutions that we provided, but it was all framed around these different needs and these different scenarios such as you found yourself in the waiting room at a doctor’s office, and everyone else around you is sick and you’re there, and you’re healthy, for a different reason, maybe it’s better to go to telehealth. Kind of putting a funny spin on these common situations and providing them with various solutions. And we had hacks for wealth, for health, and for family and work-life balance.
Jen: That’s one of my favorite recent campaigns too, and we’ve done quite a few others for clients where we’ve really been saying to employees either one of two messages, either: “Life is better, or life is easier when you’re using your benefits, and then we’re going to show you all of the ways that life is easier or life is better, and then all the ways that these programs support your goals;” or, “There’s a benefit for whatever you’re struggling with,” and just helping people really see that regardless of what they’re challenged with in life right now, there’s a program that’s going to support them. And in both of those cases, whether the angle is more around “There’s a benefit for that,” or more around, “How do we help you make your life better?” we’ve organized and orchestrated the benefits so it’s really about the problems or challenges or goals that somebody has rather than the benefit programs themselves, so we’ll maybe have a section when life gets messy or taking care of your family, and those combine all of the benefits that fit under that category, whether it’s health or wealth or work-life, and then we show people how those fit together.
Another thing we’ve been doing with quite a few clients is creating benefits tip sheets or sections on a website that speak to the different segments and the different personas that are in their employee population. This is how benefits fit for a recent college grad, this is how they fit for someone who someone who has a young family, this is everything that’s in place as you think ahead for your future, and in that way too, you’re approaching them from that life perspective or that life stage, and then showing how all of the different programs fit together, and that’s a really effective way for people to connect those dots and really just see that bigger picture value and benefits which often gets lost when we’re talking about so many technical details.
Jen: Great. Well that is our last question. Megan, thank you so much for sharing such great info today.
Megan: My pleasure. Thank you.
Jen: And thanks everyone for joining us. We appreciate your time, joining the webinar. Hope this has been valuable. Tons of resources, including this webinar, are on our website at benzcommunications.com, and we always love to hear from everybody if this was helpful. If there’s an area that we can provide more information on, please let us know. Thank you again, and have a great day.