Magazine article Workforce Management

A Master Financial Plan

Magazine article Workforce Management

A Master Financial Plan

Article excerpt

Many companies are going well beyond basic education programs for retirement savings, and instead are providing a variety of services and tools to help employees plot their entire financial future. Stories by Jessica Marquez

DESPITE BEING laid off by Weyerhaeuser in November, Nancy Blum is confident about her ability to retire comfortably in a few years. At 49, she has made maximum contributions to the company's 401(k) plan since the day it was first offered in 1986. She also pays the maximum into her individual retirement account every year and is a participant in Weyerhaeuser's definedbenefit plan.

Blum, who worked in the IT department at the Federal Way, Washington-based forest products company, says she believes that she is in good shape, despite what she hopes will be a short stint out of the workforce. And that's because she attended every one of Weyerhaeuser's financial planning seminars.

On average, Blum estimates that over the past few years she has attended a session every quarter, whether it was a webcast or two-day seminar. "I did it from the day it started," she says. "I think knowledge is power."

Not only did the financial education sessions leave Blum thinking she has control over her retirement, but she also has no hard feelings against her former employer of 30 years despite being laid off. "They are just going through some trying times," she says. "It was a great company to work for."

In the midst of the recession, a growing number of firms are following in Weyerhaeuser's footsteps by launching tools and educational seminars for employees to help them with overall financial planning.

Companies offering employees basic informational sessions on their retirement savings plans is nothing new. But with the recession, many employers realize that offering just retirement savings education and setting their 401 (k) plans on autopilot might not be enough to get employees on track to retire on time, experts say.

"This is beginning to pop up on employers' radar screens," says David Wray, president of the Profit Sharing/40 1 (k) Council of America.

Now more than ever before, employees appreciate it if employers help them with overall financial planning, from dealing with credit issues to paying for college, says Dallas Salisbury, president of the Employee Benefit Besearch Institute in Washington.

"Given the current economic situation, employers realize that employees have a heightened appreciation of this kind of financial education," he says.

To accommodate employer demand, 401(k) plan providers are expanding their offerings to include more holistic financial planning support. In August, Fidelity Investments unveiled a new online portal for employees at Hopkinton, Massachusetts-based technology company EMC Corp., which allows them to view all of the benefits they have from the company and model their financial future based on their profiles.

Over the last few months MassMutual has expanded its retirement savings education seminars and tools to include more aspects of financial planning, covering such topics as saving for college, budgeting and debt consolidation, says Jill O'Brien, assistant vice president of retirement education at MassMutual's retirement services division.

"Our clients are telling us that they are hearing the need for this from participants and financial advisors," O'Brien says. "Employees want help with their entire financial future."

Companies that are providing only education on their 401(k) plans are missing the point, experts say. "If you do holistic financial planning, you have got employees who are making decisions throughout their career with a full view of what it's going to cost them to retire," says Andy Landis, a life and retirement planning manager with Weyerhaeuser.

THE WEYERHAEUSER WAY

Weyerhaeuser offers an array of financial seminars, ranging from a 15-minute online tutorial about 401(k) plans to a 2 ½-day seminar about preparing for retirement. …

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