1st Quarter 2021
As this article goes to press, the COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, and when we will witness a true turning point—with the production and widespread distribution of a vaccine—is still unknown. But what is known is that the health and economic impact of the pandemic has already meant considerable change for the employer-sponsored benefits system, and it holds the possibility of even more significant social and public policy changes. As a society, we will live for years in the shadow of this devastating event. We can take some solace from the knowledge that for all the risk it poses, it also opens the door to changes that will strengthen employer-sponsored benefits. This article discusses such changes in health benefits (behavioral health, telemedicine and health care costs in general and related to COVD-19), retirement benefits (defined benefit and defined contribution plan interactions, other benefit priorities) and more fundamental changes (social determinants of health, Medicare for all, caregiver benefits, and women’s financial security). In creating a reckoning about the state of financial security, the pandemic also offers opportunities and, hopefully, a corresponding commitment to address them.
Employers play an invaluable societal role in supporting workers’ achievement of long-term financial security in ways that transcend the offering of a job and paycheck. Their role has become even more crucial, albeit precarious, amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has undermined the profitability of businesses and is causing employers to confront difficult decisions. Based on its survey findings, the nonprofit Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies® (TCRS) has identified seven win-win solutions that can help employers improve productivity and optimize workforce management, while supporting their employees’ health and financial well-being: (1) be an age-friendly employer; (2) offer alternative working arrangements; (3) promote wellness in the workplace and home; (4) provide a retirement savings plan, financial education and planning resources; (5) provide other health and welfare benefits that can help improve financial security; (6) facilitate flexible transitions to retirement; and (7) design programs and benefits with affordability and portability in mind. Working with their human resource and benefits advisors, employers can consider these options now and in the future, when the broader economic picture improves.
COVID-19 created major new health risks for Americans at all ages and, at the same time, had a major impact on the economy and daily life, exacerbating a wide variety of retirement risks. The retirement system faced major challenges before the pandemic, but the pandemic and its consequences may change the way people look at retirement issues. This article reviews how COVID-19 changed the economic environment, the work environment and the situation for retirees. It provides insights into employer responses to date and a discussion about what they might do in the future. Organizations that make major changes in employment strategies will also need to revisit their retirement benefits strategies. This article further provides a discussion of retirement risks based on recent Society of Actuaries (SOA) research and includes COVID-19 impacts on the risks. It brings together consideration of retirement risks, the environment before COVID-19, changes in that environment and possible future directions for retirement benefits. In 2020, SOA released a new version of its “Post-Retirement Risk Chart” and several reports on retirement risk and COVID-19. These reports were also used to inform this article.
The COVID-19 outbreak exposed deep fissures in our public health and economic systems, pervasive racial and social inequality, and our collective susceptibility to financial disruption. This article explains how COVID-19 became the tipping point toward a paradigm shift caused by the impact the lack of paid leave had on individuals, society and the workplace. The author describes the effect of the lack of paid leave has on workers’ overall wellness, the dangers of doing nothing and key considerations moving forward. Facing these challenges will require bold thinking and require public-private partnerships to create innovative and equitable solutions that enable people to maintain a dignified standard of living regardless of economic volatility. It is not just the right thing to do ethically; there is also a compelling business case for it. Designing an end-to-end system, rather than simply constructing a patchwork of systems, will help us fulfill the vision of making financial security an achievable goal for all people in the United States.
Former UCLA Basketball coach John Wooden said, “Adversity often produces an unexpected opportunity.” Although much devastation has come as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, there has also been much good. Corporate America has gained more knowledge, has become more empathetic and accommodating, and has shored up its processes and programs in the likely event this type of devastation should reoccur. This article addresses what we have learned from the pandemic and provides eight lessons on how we anticipate the new normal. It also describes how the business of work is different and offers overall best practices for returning to work post-COVID-19.
As we focus on retirement planning, one approach is to also look beyond the financials and help employees consider all aspects of their life in retirement. This may seem like the “soft stuff,” but the soft stuff is hard, and it significantly shapes the hard stuff. This article discusses how going beyond the financials positions individuals for a full and well-planned retirement. Providing this approach will make existing financial wellness programs even more effective. It’s good for retirees, preretirees and younger workers. As it helps all employees, the employer benefits from increased work performance, thereby maximizing the return from financial wellness programs