Seeking new ways to grow their business, financial advisers are looking toward financial wellness as a solution. But there is a tremendous disconnect between the idea of delivering financial wellness and the actual execution of it. And herein lies the problem.

There is no clear definition of what financial wellness is, or how it should be delivered, not to mention that it is a major undertaking to create, deliver and benchmark a program to hundreds of employees.

Making matters worse, I have spoken with numerous providers in the financial wellness space and I hear that the utilization rate of virtual tools offering guidance is as low as 10%-20%. And because such a small percentage of employees embrace these new tools, many advisers who fell in love with the idea of financial wellness as a business-building tool are frustrated with the results. Most advisers are not interested in spending the time, money and resources to offer financial wellness if they cannot benchmark tangible success — that being new assets or new plans.

So the conclusion for many is that this is a waste of time. This notion was reinforced in a conversation I recently had with Charlie Epstein, founder of the 401k Coach Program. He said, “I believe teaching financial literacy in the workplace is a misguided notion.”

Epstein went on to say that as busy as employees are, it is going to be very difficult to gain their attention for a long enough period of time to make an impact on them.

The start of something good
I understand what he is saying, and I understand the frustration advisers are feeling. I just think we are looking at this the wrong way. Instead of seeing that “only” 10%-20% of employees are embracing financial wellness and concluding that this is a failure, why not look at those who are willing to engage in the process as the start of something good?

I say, we should focus on those who truly appreciate the opportunity to improve their financial lives and give them tools to reduce their stress and improve their situation. I say, instead of trying to deliver financial wellness to the masses — and feeling frustrated that most will not understand it or take the time to engage with us — we should find those who are willing and build our successes one at a time.

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I strongly believe that with a new focus, we as advisers can make a significant impact on others’ lives, and find that financial wellness can be the means to the end, which is finding a new way to build our business. The key to that is to hit the “easy” button.

Kay McManus with BPAS Plan Administration & Record Keeping Services and I were talking about the problem advisers are facing. We discussed that many of the financial wellness programs are too broad, almost a shotgun approach, which creates tremendous frustration for advisers. She mentioned that an effective program must be both easy for the advisor to implement and easy for the plan participant to embrace.

If we can focus on those who wish to spend the time to improve their lives and deliver easy-to-engage tools that can be easily benchmarked, then financial wellness will not be a waste of time. We will make a significant impact on those who are willing. We will be able to gather success stories for their colleagues in the future and we will be able to leverage the delivery of financial wellness as a successful business-building tool.

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Mark Singer

Mark Singer

Singer, CFP, is the author of three books, a frequent public speaker and the creator of The Financial Literacy Toolbox.