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RETIREMENT PLAN INVESTOR

Use your plan ID (available on your account statement) to determine which employer-sponsored retirement plan website to use:

IF YOUR PLAN ID BEGINS WITH IRK, BRK, 1 OR 2

Visit americanfunds.com/retire

IF YOUR PLAN ID BEGINS WITH 34 OR 135

Visit myretirement.americanfunds.com

Categories
Health Care
Get an edge by packaging health care with retirement
Ryan Tiernan
Institutional Retirement Strategic Growth Counselor
KEY TAKEAWAYS
  • Health care is complex and expensive, so employers place a premium on knowledge in this space.
  • Benefits consultants and retirement plan professionals make strong allies.
  • A combined “wealth care” package improves competitive advantage.
     

Peanut butter and jelly. Movies and popcorn. Health care and retirement plans. Some things just go together.


While financial professionals have long separated health care and retirement plans in their work, the two live together in employers’ minds as part of a total benefits package. Indeed, the association is so strong – and the combination so compelling – that financial professionals may want to embrace packaging the two.


To do this, consider forming an alliance with benefits consultants. Together, you can present a cohesive “wealth care” solution that strengthens your competitive advantage – and theirs.


Before we delve into details, let’s review the landscape.


Benefits are overwhelming


Employees are increasingly fatigued and overwhelmed by benefits complexities.

  • Of people with employer coverage, 67% find it difficult to understand their medical insurance, based on a Kaiser Family Foundation/Los Angeles Times survey done in 2018.
  • Only 29% of employees know about caregiving resources offered by their benefits plans, according to 2019 Bank of America research.
  • Only 12% of employees access voluntary benefits, like dental or vision, according to a 2018 survey from Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI).

Education is also lacking. Based on the same EBRI data, 37% of employees say they receive no education or advice on benefits.


Health care reigns supreme


Employers’ highest value investment, from a pure expenditure perspective, is the employee health care plan. Let’s compare:

  • A small retirement plan with 100 participants and $5 million in assets translates to an average of $61,500 annually, or $5,125 a month from the employer, in terms of total plan expenses.
  • For a health plan of the same size, the average cost is $490,800 annually, or $40,900 a month. A portion of that may be reimbursed by employee paycheck deferral.

Based on these examples, health care can cost eight times as much as a 401(k) plan. It makes sense, then, for employers to focus more of their time and HR budget on health care.


Scale showing “Retirement: $5,125 per month” on the left and “Health care: $40,900 per month” weighted down heavily on the right. Sources: 401k Averages Book, 2019; eHealth, 2019.

 


Team up to level up


Because benefits consultants offer extensive health care knowledge, they often have the ear of employers, but they are not competitors to financial professionals who work with retirement plans. Rather, they can be teammates and collaborators.


Both benefits consultants and plan professionals have value to offer one another in what could be a fruitful and symbiotic relationship.

  • As a retirement plan professional, you have existing relationships with large organizations that would prove valuable to the benefits counselor. 
  • Benefits counselors have fluency and nuanced knowledge in matters of health care and can include you in conversations that might otherwise happen without you.

What is wealth care?


By combining the wealth management experience of a retirement plan professional and the health care knowledge of a benefits consultant, you can create an employer-centric total benefits package. That’s wealth care.


As a bundle, wealth care can be greater than the sum of its parts.

  • It can make employers’ lives easier with joint meetings and materials.
  • A combined retirement/health benefits plan would be more difficult for competitors to subvert. In order to change solutions, the employer would need to unbundle the solution they have in place with you.
  • A joint value proposition speaks to more of employers’ top concerns at once.

Here are four things you can do to put together a wealth care package.


1. Align schedules


Save the employer time by scheduling meetings together to work in tandem on a total benefits package. When you coordinate your timelines with a benefits consultant and visit together, you’re able to increase impact by telling a joint story.


Think about employees signing on for a new job. They get to discuss the 401(k) at the same time they make their health plan elections, making their lives easier and the employer’s ability to retain top talent greater. This best practice should happen not only in the onboarding process but also annually or even quarterly.


2. Co-brand materials


A co-branded pack of resources for the employer and employee is a tangible takeaway you can offer. It can include combined resources, like:

  • Biometric screening forms
  • Mail service pharmacy information
  • Financial wellness resources
  • List of preventative services
  • Information on using telemedicine

The joint resource pack can make it easy for the employer to pass along valuable benefits information to workers, which in turn demonstrates their (and your) commitment to employee well-being.


3. Hone your pitch


You’re used to crafting a value proposition for clients and plan sponsors, but in pitching collaboration with a benefits consultant, you’re speaking to a whole new selling vector.


Your value proposition to a benefits consultant includes:

  • Education for the employer and employee
  • Industry connections and client network
  • Market intelligence via similar clients
  • Investment knowledge
  • Partner resources

You can also indicate if you have knowledge in health care matters that affect retirement, like health savings accounts (HSAs) and Medicare.


HSAS


HSAs can be powerful tax-advantaged investment vehicles, and their adoption rate is rising along with high-deductible health plan (HDHP) enrollment. In a joint discussion, the benefits consultant can refer the investment discussion to you. These may be dollars that you can keep on your side of the benefits/retirement equation.


MEDICARE


Medicare is a key retirement consideration for many people, but benefits consultants and employers lack incentive to talk about it. Here you can make a difference.


Key topics to cover regarding Medicare include:

  • Medicare Part A vs. Part B
  • Medigap
  • Medicare Advantage Plan (“Part C”)
  • Medicare Plan D
  • When HSA assets can be used and when they’re not permitted

4. Refine your knowledge


To make yourself indispensable in benefits conversations and improve your pitch, take time to brush up on the language of health care and resources that may help participants in unexpected ways.


Explore and bookmark sites like:


Regardless of your approach to aligning with benefits consultants, becoming more conversant in issues employers and participants care about will only help increase your value.


Stronger together


As the benefits environment expands, benefits consultants and aggregators will continue to gain significance. This shift in dynamics can be an incredible opportunity if you embrace these professionals as allies. Together, you have the tools and knowledge to help employers create a cohesive benefits package that cares for employees’ health and wealth. That’s the synergy of wealth care.



Ryan Tiernan is a institutional retirement strategic growth counselor with 21 years of industry experience (as of 12/31/2021). Prior to joining Capital Group, he founded Access Point HSA. He holds a bachelor's in biology from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst as well as the Accredited Investment Fiduciary® and Certified Investment Management Analyst® designations. 


Sources:

 

Bank of America, “2019 Workplace Benefits Report: Expanding the Financial Wellness Conversation,” September 2019.

 

Paul Fronstin and Lisa Greenwald, “The State of Employee Benefits: Findings from the 2018 Health and Workplace Benefits Survey,” Employee Benefits Research Institute Issue Brief, January 2019.

 

Kaiser Family Foundation/LA Times, “Kaiser Family Foundation/LA Times Survey of Adults With Employer-Sponsored Health Insurance,” May 2019.
 

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