As I write this, the entire Benefits Group staff is just returning from the 6th Annual Employee Benefit Adviser Summit, co-located with our 24th Annual Benefits Forum and Expo. In Dallas this year, we had a gratifying turnout of nearly 1,000 benefit industry professionals from all parts of the industry, with Summit attendance boosted by participants staying over from the United Benefit Advisors conference - a most welcome addition to the educational sessions and to our industry networking opportunities.

As described in our meeting coverage in this issue, the conferences once again provided a chance for attendees to gain fresh perspective on their jobs, their organizations and the entire benefits landscape. Not all of it was a pleasant view, but there seemed to be new energy found in sharing our common struggles. I say it was not always a pleasant view, but it definitely offered a larger view sometimes lost amid our day-to-day responsibilities.

The big picture was particularly on display in a pre-conference event, "Financial Wellness at Work." Our partner on the event, the Personal Finance Employee Education Foundation, helped us convene a stellar agenda led by experts who, in turn, fostered tremendous interaction with attendees.

A theme that emerged at the day-long pre-con, and the entire Summit, was the importance of a holistic approach to financial education. For too long, the education provided by employers has centered strictly on retirement plans - the joys of compound interest, the agonies of inflation, how to balance your portfolio, and so forth. What the latest economic downturn has made painfully obvious is that workers need broad information about handling all their financial issues. This includes topics such as credit risk management, college savings programs, home mortgages and generally managing the benefit portion of compensation.

If you are a broker/consultant working only with health and welfare plans, that's not your concern, right? Again, please consider the big picture. The pool of money employees have for health plan contributions, wellness program participation and voluntary benefits is directly affected by their financial education. If they aren't purchasing supplemental coverages, for example, it might not be because they don't understand the value, but because there is a leak somewhere else in the pool.

I hope you enjoy all the photos and coverage from this year's Summit, and that you will incorporate a holistic view of your client services as we ramp up to 2012.

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