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Building retirement stability and financial wellbeing

Retirement|Integrated Wellbeing
COVID 19 Coronavirus

By Jeff Howatt , William Chow and Emma Longmore | August 17, 2020

How employers can help safeguard their employees' long-term financial future.

As economies reopen and organisations work towards regaining normalcy in Asia Pacific, employers are presented with a situation that gives them a chance to reset. Data from our 2020 Asia Pacific Restoring Stability survey indicates that while businesses are struggling with economic issues, they are also taking care to safeguard their employees’ long-term financial future, by continuing to provide retirement programs and other benefits.

Retirement programs

An overwhelming majority of organisations (91%) have made no plans to suspend or reduce their contributions to employee retirement plans in 2020. A similar majority (90%) have no plans to reduce employee contributions in the same period.

chart showing employer actions towards retirement plans
Figure 1. Few employers are suspending or reducing contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans

Many employers are taking responsibility both for employees and the community in ensuring retirement benefits are undisrupted by the pandemic. Sustainability remains critical and many employers are reviewing their retirement plan service providers to ensure alignment with plan objectives:

Many employers are taking responsibility for employees and the community in ensuring retirement benefits are undisrupted by the pandemic.

  • For defined contribution schemes, this means equipping employees to make well-informed retirement planning decisions.
  • For defined benefit schemes, this means managing the financial impacts and risks due to investment return volatilities on assets.

Financial wellbeing

The challenges brought by COVID-19 have highlighted the importance of financial wellbeing, and employers are placing more of their attention on this area recently.

Financial and health issues can lead to anxiety, disenagagement and lower social connections.

Even before the current pandemic, our 2019/2020 Global Benefit Attitudes Survey found that three in 10 employees reported having both financial and health issues, leading to problems such as anxiety, disengagement and lower social connections. This number has likely increased during this pandemic.

chart showing how employee finances, health and performances are connected
Figure 2. Employee finances, health and performance are strongly connected

Employers must take steps to understand and reduce financial stress on their workforce, first by gauging the prevalence and severity of financial concerns, giving them the information needed to design a program that suits their employees’ needs. Modelling tools and AI solutions can help engage employees and allow for greater personalisation of the programs. These tools can answer help answer frequently-asked employee questions such as:

  • When can I retire?
  • What will my retirement income be, based on my current savings and retirement age expectations?
  • How can I adequately plan my retirement spend?

Providing employees with an education on financial management is also crucial, focusing on topics such as budgeting, debt management, short-term and long-term savings practices.

Some factors drive improvement in employees’ financial wellbeing more than others. Salary and positive job changes have an impact, but other factors have proven more impactful, such as positive interactions with peers and good wellbeing habits, as well as good financial behaviours. The link between financial and social, emotional and physical wellbeing are clear from this research. It’s important that employers find ways that will best help employees improve their financial wellbeing.

Communicating your financial wellbeing programs

Employers are becoming more aware of the need to communicate benefits and financial resources to their employees. Many employers now are educating their employees around the resources that are available to support their financial wellbeing. In Asia Pacific, 24% of employers have highlighted existing emergency financial assistance programs. A further 22% opted to promote their own employee assistance programs in this regard.

Now is a great time to try new channels to reach employees.

Employers can highlight several benefits and programs to support employee financial wellbeing — from pension plans, insurance arrangements or leave policies. And there are many channels that can be used to reach employees, depending on whether they are still working onsite or remotely. Now is a great time to try new channels, because how we are currently working requires new ways of interacting and managing.

How to start?

  • When developing your financial wellbeing strategy, the place to start is your vision. This involves thinking about what is motivating you to focus on financial wellbeing and the kind of employee experience are you trying to drive.
  • Continuing to listen to what employees want and what your data indicates are causes of low wellbeing are crucial factors to inform your program. This also gives you the opportunity to segment your workforce to provide tailored solutions and address any pain points.
  • Of course, you will already have several existing programs, but it is worth reviewing their design to understand whether these programs meet your employees’ needs and whether they are being used.
  • An effective communication and delivery strategy will be key to enable and engage employees to trigger action
  • Collecting feedback, whether in the form of online surveys or direct feedback, is crucial in letting an organisation know if their financial wellbeing measures are having the desired effect.

An opportunity to stand out

The current pandemic presents an opportunity for an organisation to stand out by supporting their employees at a stressful time. With the right programs, an understanding of what is needed and a clear communication strategy, organisations can help their workforce through the short-term difficulties caused by COVID-19 and towards are stable, financially-healthy long term.

Authors

Head of Retirement – Asia

Director, Retirement, Hong Kong and Macau

Head of Communication, Australia

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