Retirement & Financial Planning Report

One area in which the private sector has taken a lead over the federal government involves helping them set their finances in order through basic money management techniques such as instruction in budgeting, offering counseling and other resources to help them assess their overall financial pictures.

Nearly half now provide access to online third-party investment advisory services and another 14 percent are somewhat or very likely to offer them, the AonHewitt consulting firm said in a survey of 400 companies. Further, it found that three fourths are likely or very likely to expand their focus on the financial well-being of their employees.

“In the past, companies were primarily concerned about whether workers were participating in their 401(k) plans, but we’re now seeing employers expand their focus beyond just retirement savings to help workers improve their overall financial health,” it said. “A growing number of companies are offering tools and services to help employees make smarter financial decisions, which can help improve employee engagement and productivity as workers focus less on financial stressors.”

One reason is that an individual’s financial situation is a commonly cited stress factor; half of workers polled in a separate survey said that such stress caused them to be less productive at work.

In contrast, the federal government offers relatively little of such help and the key financial savings vehicle for most employees, the TSP, has an explicit policy of providing only information about its features but not advice and not even information about how the TSP fits into an individual’s overall financial picture. Proposals to begin such efforts have made no progress in Congress.