10 things you didn’t know about life insurance

What do you hear when they mention life insurance during open enrollment? Don't put your loved ones at risk. Here are 10 things you may not have known about life insurance.


Life insurance blah blah blah. Is that what you hear when someone mentions it as part of your new job’s employee benefits round-up or when you see something about it on TV or social media?  Not to worry: we’ve got the low-down on what you need to know. And it’s really not as overwhelming (or underwhelming) as you might think.

1. It’s part of a sound financial plan. You know about savings, you know about retirement. You might know a bit about investments and long-term financial planning for your health and happiness. And life insurance helps with planning for your loved ones’ long-term health and happiness, especially those who depend on your income, in case something were to happen to you.

2. There are different kinds of life insurance. In addition to employment-based life insurance (which typically only lasts as long as your employment at your job), there’s term and permanent life insurance.

Term life insurance: You typically pay lower premiums for term life insurance, but your coverage is just for a specified amount of time, say 20 years, for example. At the end of the term, your insurance coverage ends.

Permanent life insurance: With permanent life insurance (whole, universal, variable) you typically pay higher premiums in the short term, but then these policies generally allow you to accumulate cash value over time. Your coverage is designed to last as long as you continue to pay premiums.

3. Life insurance is surprisingly affordable for most people. Sure, there are forms of life insurance that get pricier the more features you add on to it, and the price goes up if you’re a smoker or dealing with health problems. But most people think life insurance costs about three times as much as it really does, according to the Insurance Barometer Study by Life Happens and LIMRA. Just as a general guide, a healthy nonsmoking 30-year-old man can get a $250,000 20-year level term policy for about $16 a month.

4. Key life events are often the best time to get on board. Getting married? Having kids? Changing jobs? Bought a house? Significant life events are often the time you become most aware of the need for life insurance—and on that note…

5. You can change your life insurance. Perhaps you have a life insurance policy that your parents got for you when you were a baby. Perhaps you have a term policy from when you bought your house but now you have a bigger family and you’re concerned about getting them all through college. Or perhaps you want to bump up your coverage because your overall cost of living has changed. And on *that* note …

6. You may well need more coverage than you think. Sometimes people think life insurance is to pay off their own debts and funeral expenses. But a key advantage of having life insurance is to ensure that the people who depend on you will be OK with their ongoing and future financial needs if something happens to you. Need help figuring this out how much? Go to this online calculator: www.lifehappens.org/howmuch.

7. Life insurance pays out quickly. Because life insurance doesn’t get tangled up in estate claims, it generally pays out quickly, sometimes in days or weeks, usually inside of a month.

8. Life insurance proceeds are generally tax-free. Compare this to, say, crowdfunding options like “GoFundMe” that have become so popular yet create tax consequences for the people they’re meant to help (to say nothing of fees and the lack of guaranteed benefit). It’s also helpful when you’re trying to create an inheritance for a beneficiary.

9. Life insurance protects your family, but only if you let it. Keep your premiums paid up and your beneficiaries up to date, and the door with your agent open so that your loved ones know who to call if they need to. Keep your paperwork with your other vital documents.

10. Life insurance can be more than just life insurance. Using “riders,” or an addendum to a life insurance contract, or even a specific kind of policy, life insurance benefits can become “living benefits,” money you can access before you die, or use to pay for long-term care, as two examples.

If you still need help getting a handle on all this, talk to an agent. They can help you understand the ins and outs and the best policy for your budget and needs. Because of course—the most important thing to know about life insurance is that it’s there to help the people you love the most.

SOURCE: Mosher, H. (29 June 2018) "10 things you didn’t know about life insurance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.lifehappens.org/blog/10-things-you-didnt-know-about-life-insurance/


Shifting from employee engagement to employee experience

Employee experience is gaining steam and has many employers changing the way they view their employees. Read this blog post to find out more.


The way businesses view their employees has changed. From mere workers and resources, employers started adopting the mindset that they should give their employees benefits and values, instead of just extracting value from them. The concept of employee engagement applies to this. A lot of studies and researches came out on how employee engagement helps increase employee performance and profitability. Recently though, a shift is happening, with the term “employee experience” gaining steam.

What is Employee Experience?

So, what exactly is employee experience or EX? According to this article, employee experience is “just a way of considering what it’s actually like for someone to work at your company”. It is a holistic model. It includes what the employee experiences in the workplace and within teams—bringing together all the workplace, HR, and management practices that impact people on the job.

Why the shift?

Employee engagement tends to focus on the short-term. For example, there’s an upcoming engagement activity. Once the activity is done, what happens? Most likely, the employee returns to their work, the event just a memory until the next one.

The change in workforce demography creates new demands. The millennial generation, which currently dominates the workforce, have different priorities than the previous generations. The Generation Z’s are now also entering the workforce with a new set of expectations.

Making little changes that impact employee morale and motivation is important. Employee experience is more long-term and big-picture focused. Its scope, from an employee’s point of view, can be end-to-end—from recruitment to retirement.

The challenge of EX is immense. Fortunately, technology is on your side. Various HR tools have been developed to help you get the data that you need, as well as make it easier for you to design the programs you want. Deloitte lists down what you could do right now:

  • Elevate employee experience and make it a priority
  • Designate a senior leader or team to own it
  • Embrace design thinking
  • Consider experiences for the entire workforce
  • Look outside
  • Enlist C-suite and team leader support
  • Consider the impact of geography; and
  • Measure it

The best way to conquer the challenge of EX is by starting now!

SOURCE: Cabrera, A. (23 January 2018) "Shifting from employee engagement to employee experience" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://peopledynamics.co/shifting-employee-experience/


5 things millennials need to know about life insurance

Does life insurance cross your mind often? Odds are, it's the last thing on your mind. Read this blog post for the five things millennials should know about life insurance.


Being catapulted into the adult world is a shock to the system, regardless of how prepared you think you are. And these days, it’s more complicated than ever, with internet access and mobile devices being must-have utilities and navigating tax forms when they aren’t as “EZ” as they used to be.

Maybe you’re still living with your folks while you get established. Or maybe you’re looking forward to moving out of a rental and into a house or to tie the knot. Life insurance might be the last thing on your list of things to deal with or even think about. (You’re not alone.) But here are five things you might not know about life insurance—that you probably should.

1. Life insurance is a form of protection. If you Google “life insurance” you’ll get a slew of ads telling you how cheap life insurance can be, without nearly enough information about what you need it for. That’s probably because it’s not terribly pleasant to think about: this idea that we could die and someone we care about might suffer financially as a result. Life insurance provides a financial buffer for the people you care about in the event something happens to you. Think just because you’re single, nobody would be left in the lurch? Read the next point.

2. College debt may not go away. Did someone—like your parents—co-sign your student loans through the bank? If so, the bank won’t discharge that debt upon your death the way that the federal government would with federal student loans. That means your parents, or others who signed the paperwork, would be responsible for paying the full balance—sometimes immediately. Don’t saddle them with the bill!

3. If you don’t know anything about life insurance, it’s probably better if you don’t buy it off the internet. It’s what we’re used to: You find the thing you need or love on Amazon or Ebay or Etsy, click a few buttons, and POOF. It arrives at your door. But life insurance is a financial planning product, and while it can be as simple as a 20-year term policy for less than a cup of coffee each day (for real!), going through your options with an insurance professional can ensure that you get the right amount for the right amount of time and at a price that fits into your budget. And many people don’t know that an agent will sit down and help you out at no cost.

4. Social fundraising only goes so far. This relatively recent phenomenon has everyone thinking that they’ll just turn to GoFundMe if things go awry in their lives. But does any grieving person want to spend time administering a social fundraising site? The chances of going viral are markedly slim, and social fundraising sites will take their cut, as will the IRS. And there is absolutely no guarantee about how much—if any—money will be raised.

5. The best time is now. You’ll definitely never be younger than you are today, and for most of us, the younger we are the healthier we are. Those are two of the most important factors for getting affordable life insurance coverage. So don’t delay. And if you don’t have an agent, you can also use our Agent Locator. The key is taking that first step.

SOURCE: Mosher, H. (5 July 2017) "5 things millennials need to know about life insurance" (Web Blog Post). Retrieved from https://www.lifehappens.org/blog/5-things-millennials-need-to-know-about-life-insurance/


How tech solutions can take aim at employee stress

Workers are stressed out. Stress can lead to a number of grave health conditions and unhealthy coping mechanisms. Read this blog post to learn how technology is helping battle employee stress.


In case you haven’t noticed, today’s workforce is completely stressed out. Overwhelming workloads, looming deadlines and the 24/7 always-on mentality is becoming the corporate America norm. Unfortunately, long-term stress can contribute to everything from heart disease to strokes, cancer and other grave conditions. Stressed employees also are more likely to be unmotivated, quit their jobs, perform poorly and have low morale and higher incidence of illness and accidents.

Because everyone copes with stress differently, some deal with it in unhealthy ways, such as overeating, eating unhealthy foods, smoking cigarettes or abusing drugs and alcohol, according to the American Psychological Association. This vicious cycle makes stress one of the top health concerns, with 49% of individuals at risk for stress-related illnesses, second only to weight, which impacts 69% of individuals, according to internal research.

All in all, employee stress is causing employers … well, stress. In fact, the cost of work-related stress in the US is $300 billion annually, according to the American Institute of Stress. Further, behavioral-related disability costs have increased more than 300% in the past decade and account for 30% of all disability claims.

While more than two-thirds of US corporations have adopted some kind of health and wellness program, the majority doesn’t adequately address or even include solutions that support mental health. That’s why it’s critical to educate employers on the real cost of stress and the benefits of an effective stress-related wellness initiative to help keep health costs down, while keeping employee productivity and retention up.

However the realities of promoting a healthy balance for employees, while simultaneously ensuring the delivery of quality work that’s completed on time, is much easier said than done. Anecdotally, we often hear that employees don’t feel they are benefiting from their corporate wellness plans because they don’t have time or they can’t break away from their desks.

Walk the walk
What can employers do to break the cycle? First and foremost, stress reduction starts from the top-down as management and bosses play a key role in employee adoption and lasting engagement. Not only are they responsible for communicating about available resources, they need to literally and figuratively walk the walk. When leadership incorporates stress management into their own lives, employees understand the company's commitment to these practices and feel more comfortable taking a break.

The role of technology
Some of the most effective wellness programs leverage a variety of technologies that offer something for everyone and makes it easier for employees to engage and benefit, regardless of where they are or the time of day. Popular technology-based solutions include:

· Digital health platforms — Connecting employees to health coaches, board-certified physicians, and colleagues who can provide support for those dealing with stress and offer guidance with chronic disease resulting from, or adding to, individuals’ stress levels.
· Digital health games — Employees receive encouragement and rewards through fun, engaging games in which they compete against others in stress-busting exercise to reach health goals.
· Wearables — Employees can sync popular wearable devices, such as their Apple Watch, to visualize the impact of guided meditations on their heart rate. Through smart feedback, employees can better understand which meditation exercises, locations, and times of day have the greatest impact on their heart rate, and therefore, stress level.
· Virtual Reality guided meditation — Combining an immersive VR with mindfulness meditation can help transport employees to relaxing environments, bringing a whole new dimension to the meditation experience. Using apps on their cell phones and portable VR headsets, employees are able to practice meditation from any place, at any time. In addition to stress reduction, a growing body of scientific evidence suggests that meditation can heighten attention spansimprove sleepreduce chronic pain and fight addictions like drug and alcohol abuse, and binge eating.

The bottom line: Stressed-out employees can have significant health and financial consequences for your clients. With the start of open enrollment season just a few short months away, it’s time to start educating your customers about the benefits of incorporating mental health programs, like digital health platforms and meditation, into their corporate wellness plans to mitigate employee stress and improve productivity.

Miller, M. (11 July 2018) "How tech solutions can take aim at employee stress" (Web Blog Post) Retrieved from https://www.employeebenefitadviser.com/opinion/mental-fitness-why-your-corporate-wellness-portfolio-needs-mental-health-solutions


How to help millennials tackle 2 major financial pain points

Researchers say 65 percent of millennials reported being stressed about their finances. Read to find out why millennials are the most reluctant to face their financial struggles head on.


Stress. Shame. Confusion. Embarrassment.

That’s what comes to mind for millennial employees when they think about their personal finances. It’s draining employees’ ability to stay focused on the work at hand and maximize their creativity and productivity. According to a 2017 PWC Employee Financial Wellness Survey, 65 percent of millennials reported being stressed about their finances. Additionally, approximately one-third of employees report being distracted by personal finance issues while at work, with almost half of them spending three hours or more each week handling these matters during the work day.

While employee financial stress is not new, it’s particularly strong among millennials. This group is experiencing many firsts. They are the first generation to face such a large student loan debt crisis. They are the first to need to save enough money to fund retirements that may be the longest in human history. These are no small challenges.

With millennials set to comprise 50 percent of the global workforce in less than two years, it is essential that employers help this group garner the tools necessary to experience financial calm, clarity, and confidence in the face of these challenges. But first, we need to understand why millenials are reluctant to address their financial concerns head-on.

Millennial employees are distracted by money shame

Millennials tend to be a pretty outspoken group. So why are they not speaking up more about their financial stress and the degree to which it distracts them at work?

A big part of this is overarching “money shame.” After years of schooling and higher education, it frankly can feel embarrassing to admit one is struggling with money issues. This is particularly true if the money issues are due to student loan debt – a kind of “good debt” that was supposed to make their lives better. Many millennials are wondering how they can feel so bad (financially) when they “did all the right things” (educationally). As an employer, you need to recognize this money shame is causing your millennial employees to hold back asking for help.

How employers can help their millennials overcome money fears

Employers can help their millennial employees overcome their money woes by providing financial wellness education around the two areas causing the most financial stress for millennials: student loan debt and saving for retirement.

Both of these topics can be extremely overwhelming so baby steps are key. A good introduction to both of these topics could be an educational video laying the groundwork for the big concepts that need to be addressed to help ease employees into the reality of dealing with each of these vital issues.

With regard to student loans, the education here is trickier, as some employees will have government loans, some may have private loans and some may have a combination of both. Providing basic educational lunch-and-learn type lectures to review the role of budgeting in finding the extra funds to accelerate debt paydown, and to discuss various options for consolidation, income based repayment plans and other options can help give employees a sense of relief that they have some tools and information they can use.

When it comes to retirement, many 401k and 403b providers offer onsite education for plan participants. Instructing these providers to focus heavily on these three points can go a long ways towards helping millennials understand how to make smart choices here:

1. The mathematical impact of saving early (i.e. a dollar saved and invested for your retirement in your mid 20s is four to five times more valuable than a dollar saved in your mid 40′s due to the power of compounding).

2. It’s not enough to save for retirement; wise investment choices must be made too (and often the smartest and most cost effective decision here is to use target date retirement funds composed of underlying index funds).

3. The extremely positive mathematical implications of contributing to a retirement plan at least to the point of the employer’s match (i.e. that this is literally “free” money and equates to a guaranteed rate of return; if you are matched $0.50 on the $1.00 that’s a guaranteed 50 percent return which you will not get anywhere else!)

While there are very few “sure things” in the business world, investing in reducing millennial employee financial stress and increasing work enjoyment and productivity has the potential to generate positive “human capital” dividends for years to come.

SOURCE:
Thakor M (13 July 2018) "How to help millennials tackle 2 major financial pain points" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/07/02/how-to-help-millennials-tackle-2-major-financial-p/


3 questions to ask about paid leave programs

Paid time off policies are offered by employers for numerous reasons, employee wellness being one of them. Continue reading to learn about the 3 key questions to ask about these programs and their costs.


Employers provide paid time away from work policies for a variety of reasons: to attract and retain talent (responding to employee needs and changing demographics); to be compliant with local, state and federal laws (which are proliferating); and to support general employee well-being (recognizing that time away from work improves productivity and engagement).

While offering paid absence policies delivers value to both employees and the employers, employers recognize the need to balance the amount of available time with the organization’s ability to deliver its products and services.

To help employers balance paid time away drivers, here are three key questions to ask to get a handle on the costs and benefits of paid leave.

1. Do you have a complete picture of the costs associated with your employees’ time away from work?

A challenge for many employers is getting a handle on the cost of time away from work and the related benefits. If an employer cannot quantify the costs of absence, it may not be able to define management strategies or to engage leadership to adopt new initiatives, policies or practices related to paid and unpaid time away programs.

Ninety percent of employers participating in the 2017 Aon Absence Pulse Survey reported they hadn’t yet quantified the cost of absence, and 43 percent of participants identified defining the cost of absence as a top challenge and priority. Though intuitively managers and executives recognize there is an impact when employees are absent from work, particularly when an absence is unscheduled, they struggle to develop concrete and focused strategies to address absence utilization without the ability to measure the current cost and collectively the impact of new management initiatives.

Employers struggle to quantify the cost of absence in the context of productivity loss, including replacement worker costs. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2017, employers’ cost of productivity loss associated with absenteeism was $225.8 billion, and 9.6 percent of compensation was spent on lost time benefits and overtime.

Employers are expanding their view of absence, recognizing that use of paid and unpaid time away programs are often associated with an employee’s health. As a result, combining data across health and absence programs allows an employer to recognize drivers of absence “work-related value” and define strategies to address not just how to manage the absence benefit, but to target engagement to improve well-being and the organization’s bottom-line.

As an example, musculoskeletal conditions are frequently associated with absence, which is not surprising when 11 percent of the workforce has back pain. It is noteworthy that of those with back pain, 34 percent are obese, 26 percent are hypertensive and 14 percent have mood disorders. The Integrated Benefits Institute reported in 2017 that back pain adds 2.5 days and $688 in wages to absence associated with this condition. It is this type of information pairing that provides employers with the insight to develop strategies to address comprehensive absence.

When absence and health costs are quantified, organizations quickly recognize the impact on the business’s bottom line. As the old saying goes, “we can only manage what we can measure.”

2. What is your talent strategy to improve work-life benefits, inclusive of time off to care for family?

The race for talent is on, and every industry recognizes the huge impact the changing workforce demographics currently has, and will continue to have. The current workforce incorporates five generations, though an Ernst and Young report from 2017 estimates that by 2025 millennials will make up 75 percent of the workforce. As a result, the work-life needs of millennials—and their perspectives around benefits—is driving change, including time away from work policies.

It is worth noting that, per a 2015 Ernst and Young survey, millennial households are two times more likely to have both spouses working. The Pew Research Center reported in 2013 that, among all workers, 47 percent of adults who have a parent 65 years or older are raising a minor child or supporting a grown child. Additionally, a 2016 report from the Center for Work Life Law at the University of California Hastings claimed that 50 percent of all employees expect to provide elder care in the next five years.

In response, employers are expanding paid time off programs for care of family members. The paid family leave continuum often begins with a paid parental policy providing time to bond with a new birth or adoption placement. An elder care policy may follow, and the culmination might be a family care policy covering events like those under the job-protected Family Medical Leave Act. An Aon SpecSelect Survey reported that 94 percent of employers offer some form of paid parental leave in 2017; this is a significant change from 2016 when 62 percent offered this benefit. Two weeks of 100 percent paid parental leave was the norm per Aon’s SpecSelect 2016 Survey, but we are finding that many employers are expanding these programs, offering between 4 to 12 weeks.

Offering paid leave programs on their own may meet immediate needs for both time and financial support, but may be incomplete to help the employee address the full spectrum of issues that could affect success at work. In combination with family care needs—even those associated with a happy event such as a birth—there may be other health, social or financial issues. Employers combining their paid leave programs with a broader well-being strategy deliver greater value, improve engagement and increase productivity.

3. If you’re a multi-state employer, how are you ensuring your sick and family leave policies are compliant across all relevant jurisdictions?

Paid leave is a hot legislative topic lately. Last December saw the enactment of a paid FMLA tax credit pilot program as part of the federal Tax Reform The paid sick leave law club now totals 42 states and myriad municipalities. Both Washington state and Washington, D.C. are ramping up to implement paid family leave laws in 2020, joining the four states and one city that already have some form of paid family or parental leave law.

How are multi-state employers keeping up with this high-stakes evolving environment? The 2017 Pulse Survey saw 70 percent of employers report they are aware they have an employee who is subject to a paid sick leave law. Ten percent of respondents said they did not know if they had anyone subject to such a law. If knowledge is the first step in the process of compliance, deciding on a compliance strategy and then successfully implementing it are surely steps two and three.

With respect to paid sick leave, there are three major compliance options: comply on a jurisdiction-by-jurisdiction level, with as many as 42 different designs and no design more generous than it has to be; comply on a national level with one, most generous design, or meet somewhere in the middle, perhaps with one design for each state where a state- or local-level law is in place, or by grouping jurisdictions with similar designs together to strike a balance between being overly generous and being bogged down by dozens of administrative schemes.

Data analytics can be a key driver in designing a successful compliance strategy—compare your employee census to locations with paid sick leave laws. The ability to track and report on available leave is a requirement in all jurisdictions, and at this point, few if any third-party vendors are administering multi-state paid sick leave.

For paid family leave, the primary policy design issue is how an employer’s FMLA, maternity leave and short-term disability benefits will interact with the various paid family leave laws. So, while there may be fewer employer choices to be made with statutory paid family leave, clear employee communications will be critical to success.

Employers may tackle time away from work program issues individually to meet an immediate need, or collectively as a comprehensive strategy. Such a strategy would include data analytics across health and lost-time programs, absence policies that meet today’s needs for the employer and employee, health and wellness programs targeting modifiable health behaviors, and absence program administration that is aligned to operational goals. The expected outcome for time away from work programs isn’t about the programs themselves: it is about an engaged, productive workforce who delivers superior products/services. How do your programs stack up?

SOURCE:
VanderWerf, S and Arnedt, R (13 July 2018) "3 questions to ask about paid leave programs" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/07/05/3-questions-to-ask-about-paid-leave-programs/


Who are Benefits for, Anyway?

U.S. employees often decline benefits to them by their employers. Continue reading to find out why your employees may be declining their benefits.


With many Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, U.S. employees have a significant need for financial protection products to secure their income and guard against unplanned medical expenses. However, employees frequently decline these benefits when they are offered at the workplace. Only two-thirds of employees purchase life insurance coverage at work when given the option, while roughly half enroll in disability coverage and less than one-third select critical illness insurance coverage. Why do so many employees choose not to enroll in benefits?

Is this right for me?

Some employees may opt out of nonmedical benefits because they do not believe these offerings are intended for people like them. In a recent report, “Don’t Look Down: Employees’ Understanding of Benefits and Risk,” LIMRA asked employees whether they thought life, disability, and critical illness products were “right for someone like me.”

While a majority of employees feels that life insurance coverage is appropriate for someone like them, they are on the fence about other coverages. Fewer than half believe they need disability insurance and only 36 percent feel they need a critical illness policy.

It is also noteworthy that a large portion of employees respond neutrally or only slightly agree or disagree with these sentiments, which suggests a lot of uncertainty. Given employees’ poor understanding of these benefits, many simply do not know if the coverage is intended for them.

Role of behavioral economics

Behavioral economics reveals that human behavior is highly influenced by social norms, particularly among groups that people perceive to be similar to themselves. In light of this, LIMRA asked employees if they think most people like them own certain insurance products. Their responses indicate that employees feel very little social pressure to enroll in these benefits.

Only 22 percent of employees think most people like them are covered by critical illness insurance, while 47 percent disagree. Similarly, 38 percent disagree that most people like them have disability coverage (versus only 34 percent who agree). Life insurance is the only product where a majority of employees (60 percent) think most others like them have the coverage.

Employees who believe others like them purchase benefits will tend to be influenced by this peer behavior. This could lead them to take a closer look at the information provided about these benefits and possibly enroll.

However, for the larger group of employees who think others like them do not have coverage, social pressure will discourage them from enrolling. These employees will perceive not having coverage to be the “norm” and assume it is safe to opt out, without giving these benefits proper consideration.

Who should purchase benefits?

If employees do not think insurance benefits are right for them, who do they believe these products are intended for?

Of employees who are offered disability insurance at work, only 38 percent recognize that anyone with a job who relies on their income should purchase this coverage. Troublingly, more than 1 in 5 think disability insurance is only for people with specific risk factors, such as having a physical or dangerous job, a family history of cancer, or a current disability.

Similarly, less than half of employees recognize that critical illness insurance is right for anyone. One in five think this coverage is only for people with a family history of cancer or other serious illness, while 15 percent believe the coverage is for people who have personally been diagnosed with a serious health condition.

Employees have a better understanding of life insurance. Eighty percent of employees recognize that life insurance is appropriate for anyone who wants to leave money to their spouse or dependents upon their death. However, some employees still express uncertainly about this or believe life insurance is only for high-risk individuals.

Confusion about who should purchase insurance benefits is contributing to low employee participation in these offerings. To counteract this trend, educating employees to understand how these products apply to their own lives is crucial. By clearly explaining what the products do and providing examples of how anyone could use them, benefit providers can help employees see the relevance of these offerings and help them make more informed financial decisions.

SOURCE:
Laundry, K (12 July 2018). "Who are benefits for, anyway?" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/07/12/who-are-benefits-for-anyway/


Wanted: Female financial advisors to shrink industry gender gap

Recent studies show that just 16 percent of all financial advisors are women, creating a substantial gender gap. Do you want to close the gap?


If you want more female financial advisors, leverage the ones you already have.

That’s among the findings of the J.D. Power 2018 U.S. Financial Advisor Satisfaction Study, which says that despite the fact that women control 51 percent of assets, just 16 percent of all financial advisors are women.

That kind of a gender gap is nothing to be proud of, especially since it also finds that female financial advisors are generally more satisfied and loyal to their firm than their male counterparts.

That said, female advisors have “some unique pain points” that firms looking to better their position in the industry would be wise to correct.

“The wealth management industry clearly recognizes that aligning the gender mix of advisors with the shifting demographics of investors is critical for their success,” Mike Foy, director of the wealth management practice at J.D. Power, says in a statement. Foy adds, “But firms that want to be leaders in attracting and retaining top female talent need to differentiate on recognizing and addressing those areas that women’s perceptions and priorities may differ from men’s.”

The study, which measures satisfaction among both employee advisors and independent advisors, bases its evaluation on seven factors: client support; compensation; firm leadership; operational support; problem resolution; professional development; and technology support.

Considering that even though overall satisfaction with firms is improving, women are “more satisfied and loyal, bigger brand advocates.” The study finds that female advisors’ average overall satisfaction score is 786 among employee advisors—an impressive 59 points higher than among their male counterparts. Among independent advisors, overall satisfaction among women is also higher, at 793, topping their male counterparts by 39 points.

In addition, female advisors also are more likely than male advisors to say they “definitely will” remain at the same firm over the next 1–2 years (68 percent, compared with 56 percent) and are more likely to say they “definitely will” recommend their firm to others (60 percent, compared with 50 percent).

But as far as female advisors are concerned, their firms fall short in a number of areas. Women are significantly more likely than men, the report finds, to say they do not have an appropriate work/life balance (30 percent, compared with 22 percent). And 90 percent of women who do have that balance say they “definitely will” recommend their firm, while only 68 percent of those who do not will do so.

Women are also less likely than men to say they “completely” understand their compensation (60 percent, compared with 66 percent) and less likely to believe it reflects their job performance (60 percent, compared with 68 percent). They’re also less likely than men to believe mentoring programs are effective (44 percent, compared with 53 percent).

The mean tenure for female advisors at their current firms, the study reports, is 18 years, while the mean tenure for male advisors at their current firms is 20 years.

SOURCE:
Satter, M (13 July 2018) "Wanted: Female financial advisors to shrink industry gender gap" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/07/12/wanted-female-financial-advisors-to-shrink-industr/


HSA How-To

Health Savings Accounts can be tricky, employees have the control, employers and insurance companies are there to guide them in the right direction. Here is a how to helping guide to assist your customers to the right HSA plan.


If an employer wants to offer employees pretax payroll deferrals to their health savings accounts, the employer needs to first create a Section 125 plan or cafeteria plan that allows HSA deferrals.

A cafeteria plan is the only way for employers to offer employees a choice between taxable and nontaxable benefits, “without the choice causing the benefits to become taxable,” the IRS says. “A plan offering only a choice between taxable benefits is not a Section 125 plan.”

Here are five things to know about HSAs and Section 125 plans.

1. A Section 125 plan is just one of several ways for employers to help employees with funding their HSAs.

Employers offering HDHPs face the choice of whether and how to help their employees with the funding of the employees’ HSAs. The options include the following:

  • Option 1 – Employee after-tax contributions.Employers are not required to help with the employees’ HSAs and may choose not to. In this case, employees may open HSAs on their own and receive the tax deduction on their personal income tax return. This option allows for income tax savings, but not payroll taxes. A variation on this option is for employers to allow for post-tax payroll deferral (basically, direct deposit of payroll funds into an HSA without treating the deposit any differently than other payroll which may also be directly deposited into an employee’s personal checking account).

    This does not change the tax or legal situation, but it does provide convenience for employees and will likely increase HSA participation and satisfaction.

  • Option 2 – Employee pretax payroll deferral.Employers can help employees fund their HSAs by allowing for HSA contributions via payroll deferral. This is inexpensive and can be accomplished by adding a Section 125 cafeteria plan with HSA deferrals as an option. Employers benefit by not having to pay payroll taxes on the employees’ HSA contributions. Employees save payroll taxes as well. Plus, HSA contributions are not counted as income for federal, and in most cases, state income taxes. Setting up automatic payments generally simplifies and improves employee savings.
  • Option 3 – Employer-funded contributions.Employers may make contributions to their employees’ HSAs without a Section 125 plan if the contributions are made directly. The contributions must be “comparable,” basically made fairly (with a lot of rules to follow). This type of contribution is tax deductible by the employer and not taxable to the employee (not subject to payroll taxes or federal income taxes and in most cases, not subject to state income taxes either).
  • Option 4 – Employer and employee pretax funding.Employers can combine options 2 and 3, where the employer makes a contribution to the employees’ HSAs and the employer allows employees to participate in a Section 125 plan and enabling them to defer a portion of their pay pretax into an HSA. This is a preferred approach for a successful HDHP and HSA program, as it ensures that employees get some money into their HSA through the employer contribution and allows for the best tax treatment to allow for employees to contribute more on their own through payroll deferral.
  • Options for more tax savings.Some employers go beyond these options to increase tax savings even more. Although a number of strategies exist to increase tax savings, using a limited-purpose FSA (or HRA) is a common one. Generally, FSAs are not allowed with HSAs; however, an exception exists for limited-purpose FSAs. Limited-purpose FSAs are FSAs limited to payments for preventive care, vision and dental care. This provides more tax savings and employees use the FSA to pay for the limited-purpose expenses (dental and vision) and save the HSA for other qualified medical expenses.

HRAs can also be used creatively in connection with HSA programs. The HRA cannot be a general account for reimbursement of qualified medical expenses, but careful planning can allow for a limited-purpose HRA, a postdeductible HRA, or other special types of HRAs.

2. There are several benefits for an employer using a Section 125 plan combined with an HSA.

  • Employees can make HSA contributions through payroll deferral on a pretax basis.
  • Employees may pay for their share of insurance premiums on a pretax basis.
  • Employers and employees save payroll taxes (7.65 percent each on FICA and FUTA for contributions).
  • Employers avoid the “comparability” rules for HSA contributions although employers are subject to the Section 125 plan rules.

3. The employer is responsible for administering the Section 125 plan.

For payroll deferral into an HSA through a Section 125 plan, the employer must reduce the employees’ pay by the amount of the deferral and contribute that money directly into the employees’ HSA.

The employer may do this administration itself or it may use a payroll service or another type of third-party administrator. In any case, the cost of the Section 125 plan itself and the ongoing administration are generally small and offset, if not entirely eliminated, by employer savings through reduced payroll taxes.

Another administrative element is the collection of Section 125/HSA payroll deferral election forms from employees. Employers that have offered Section 125 plans prior to introducing an HSA program are familiar with this process.

Unlike other Section 125 plan deferral elections, which only allow annual changes, the law allows for changes to the HSA deferral election as frequently as monthly.

Although frequent changes to the elections create a small administrative burden on the employer, the benefit to employees is significant. Employers are not required to offer changes more frequently than annually.

The full extent of the administrative rules for Section 125 plans is beyond the scope of this discussion.

4. Contributions to HSAs under Section 125 plans are subject to nondiscrimination rules.

A cafeteria plan must meet nondiscrimination rules. The rules are designed to ensure that the plan is not discriminatory in favor of highly compensated or key employees.

For example, contributions under a cafeteria plan to employee HSAs cannot be greater for higher-paid employees than they are for lower-paid employees. Contributions that favor lower-paid employees are not prohibited.

The cafeteria plan must not: (1) discriminate in favor of highly compensated employees as to the ability to participate (eligibility test), (2) discriminate in favor of HCEs as to contributions or benefits paid (contributions and benefits test), and (3) discriminate in favor of HCEs as measured through a concentration test that looks at the contributions made by key employees (key employee concentration test). Violations generally do not result in plan disqualification, but instead may cause the value of the benefit to become taxable for the highly compensated employees or key employees.

The nondiscrimination rules predate the creation of HSAs and how the rules apply to HSA contributions is an area where additional government guidance would be welcome.

5. An employer needs a Section 125 plan to allow for HSA contributions through payroll deferral.

Can an employer allow for HSA contributions through payroll deferral without a Section 125 plan? No, not if the goal is to save payroll taxes. Employers can offer HSA payroll deferral on an after-tax basis without concern over the comparability rules or the Section 125 plan rules. Amounts contributed under this method are treated as income to the employee and are deductible on the employee’s personal income tax return. The lack of any special tax treatment for this approach makes it unattractive for most employers and with just a small additional investment of money and time, a Section 125 plan could be added allowing for pretax deferrals.

Here is an example: Waving Flags, Inc. does not offer health insurance or a Section 125 plan to its employees. Waving Flags does provide direct deposit services to its employees that provide it with their personal checking account number and bank routing number. Maggie, an employee of Waving Flags, Inc., approaches the human resources person and asks to have her direct deposit split into two payment streams with $100 per month being directly deposited to her HSA and the balance of her pay being deposited into her personal checking account. She provides Waving Flags the appropriate account and routing numbers and signs the proper election forms.

Waving Flags is not subject to the Section 125 nondiscrimination rules for pretax payroll deferral, nor is Waving Flags subject to the HSA comparability rules. Waving Flags is simply paying Maggie by making a direct deposit into her HSA. The $1,200 Maggie elects to have directly deposited to her HSA in this manner will be reflected in Box 1 of her IRS Form W-2 from Waving Flags as ordinary income. She will be subject to payroll taxes on the amount. She can claim an HSA deduction on line 25 of her IRS Form 1040 when she files her tax return.

Maggie benefits from this approach by setting up an automatic contribution to her HSA, which often improves the commitment to savings. Most HSA custodians will offer a similar system that HSA owners can set up on their own by having their HSA custodian automatically draw a certain amount from a personal checking account at periodic intervals. Employer involvement is not necessary. Individuals with online banking tools available to them may be able to set it from their personal checking account as well to push money periodically to an HSA.

SOURCE:
Westerman, P (2 July 2018) "HSA How-To" [Web Blog Post]. Retrieved from https://www.benefitspro.com/2018/01/01/hsa-how-to/