Why advisers need to incorporate wellness into retirement strategy

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Advisers are critical to the success of retirement plan participants. That was what Jon Anderson, director of retirement plan solutions at Cetera Financial Group out of El Segundo, Ca., said yesterday to members of the SPARK Institute as he defined what financial wellness means to him at the 2017 SPARK National Conference in Oxon Hill, Md..

“When we talk about financial wellness, I think it is critical that we provide the best possible advice to participants to help them make the financial decisions that they need,” Anderson said. “I can’t say financial wellness is going to help [clients] replace 70% of their income at a certain rate by the time they reach age 65, but it is the crucial role of the financial adviser to help them reach that goal.”

Anderson was accompanied by William Beardsley, senior vice president at LPL Financial Retirement Partners, and Ed O’Connor, managing director at Morgan Stanley Wealth Management, to help identify why brokers need to incorporate wellness into retirement readiness strategy.

Beardsley said although financial advisers tend to focus on preparing clients for retirement, having employers initiate a form of debt assistance benefit for young employees entering the workforce fresh out of college could provide talented workers with a strong start to retirement saving.

“I think more advisers need to focus on assisting in student loan debt because it is certainly [financial] wellness-related and also tactical,” Beardsley said. “From a more broader wellness perspective, we need to target this large problem that is impacting savings rates in HSAs and 401(k)s.”

New questions
In order to begin reducing student debt, O’Connor said advisers need to continue to ask as many questions as they can to their clients, because even though plan participants may be investing in their retirement, they might not be working all angles for saving.

“A really good adviser poses questions to the participant that they haven’t even thought of,” O’Connor said. For example, “Is an HSA benefit good or not?”

Also see: How to become a benefits guru.”

Anderson said, to be a successful adviser, one must incorporate wellness into the retirement plan process. “Wellness should be a part of the 401(k) or other form of retirement plan being offered to employers for their employees,” he said. “It should not be a separate benefit.”

O’Connor added to Anderson’s claim, saying plan sponsors should be utilizing financial wellness to garner better talent. Once the talent is acquired, he said, offer retirement benefits coupled with the wellness program to retain that talent for an extended period of time.

“The [wellness program] has to be personalized and scalable for the employee,” O’Connor said. “Set some personal goals and then leverage the scale of whatever the firm you’re engaged with, whether it’s Morgan Stanley, LPL Financial Retirement Partners or some other larger employer firm.”

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