You Can’t Talk About That at Work: Tackling Financial FAQs

Northeast Benefit Services_Larry Kavanaugh_Financial FAQs


Talking about money is tricky, especially at work. While it may seem too personal for work and easier to avoid the conversation, the effects can have a lasting effect on a company.

More and more forward-thinking employers are starting to overcome the stigma that surrounds talking finances at work. They are putting to rest their fear of overstepping boundaries because employees strongly value financial guidance at work. In fact, 87% of employees want help and nearly 9 out of 10 take advantage of financial wellness services when offered.[1]


Stress Impacting the Bottom Line

It is well documented that financial stress can cause a myriad of workplace complications. Stress can have a cascading effect; for example, 4 in 10 employees experience health issues or loss of sleep due to financial stress, which in turn leads to a $400 annual increase in healthcare costs per stressed employee.[2]

Stress also has a way of consuming productivity; 3 in 10 employees admit that financial stress has impacted their job performance, and they spend three to four hours a week at work dealing with their finances.[3]  That’s 150 hours of lost productivity per stressed employee per year.  That’s a lot!


The Elephant in the Room

When companies are up against a complex problem like financial stress, how do they start attacking the problem? Well, like the saying goes, you have to eat the elephant one bite at a time, so financial guidance and education can be great ways to start combating the 5,000-pound problem.

One of the most important areas of concern for employees is retirement readiness, so employers need to emphasize communication around the topic.

Good employee communication is a must, especially letting them know there is no such thing as a “stupid” question. Emphasize that they shouldn’t be hesitant or embarrassed to ask the questions on their minds. Here are some questions employees might ask about saving, investing and planning for retirement.


Tackling Employee FAQs

Why save? First, to help you in the event of an emergency or for large-ticket items such as a house or car. It is also very important is to save for retirement if your goal is to be financially secure when you’re no longer working. You don’t want to depend on Social Security for your total retirement income.

When should I start saving for retirement? Now. The sooner the better. It’s easy to see retirement as something in the future and not an important event you need to start preparing for at an early age. Additionally, if you don’t know how to start, what to invest in or understand the power of compound interest, you might feel like putting it off. Ask your 401(k) administrator if you don’t understand your plan.

What’s compound interest? Compound interest is interest paid not only on the money you’ve invested, but on the interest you’ve already earned. Because of compound interest, even small amounts become larger over time.

What’s an investment? An investment is a way of putting money aside so you can get a return on it. Investments are often thought of in terms of stocks and bonds. Your 401(k) plan has investments to put your contributions into, so take advantage of them.

What’s a stock? A stock is an investment that represents partial ownership of a company. Units of stock are called “shares”, which may pay interest and dividends to you as an owner. They’re traded on the stock market, where the price can fluctuate up and down.

What’s a bond? A bond is an investment where you lend money to a company (or a government); the borrower then pays interest until the bond matures at which time you should receive your money back.

Your 401(k) plan may have a variety of investments such as mutual funds, a type of investment in which many investors pool their money in securities like stocks, bonds, and money market instruments. It might also contain Target Date Funds, a type of investment, often consisting of mutual funds, structured to grow over a specific time frame and then become more conservative once that target date, usually at retirement, is reached. Like stocks, the value of mutual funds and target date funds can fluctuate.


Teamwork Makes the Dream Work

Speaking with a financial advisor or joining a financial wellness education session can engage and assist employees in being more financially responsible, take better advantage of their 401(k) plan and be more “present” at work.

After all, 82% of employers subscribe to the belief that it is in their company’s best interest to help employees become more financially secure. And employees tend to agree: when employers demonstrate a commitment to their financial wellness, 60% of workers say they are more dedicated, loyal and productive at work.[4] It’s a win-win situation for all!

Contact us to discuss common employees FAQs and ideas to reduce workplace financial stress that can elevate savings.



Larry Kavanaugh, Jr. AIF®, CPFA, CLU, ChFC

950-A Union Rd. Suite 31

West Seneca, NY 14224


1200 Jefferson Rd. Suite 302

Rochester, NY 14623



This information was developed as a general guide to educate plan sponsors and is not intended as authoritative guidance or tax/legal advice. Each plan has unique requirements, and you should consult your attorney or tax advisor for guidance on your specific situation.

©401(k) Marketing, LLC. All rights reserved. Proprietary and confidential. Do not copy or distribute outside original intent.


[1] PwC. “PwC’s 10th Annual Employee Financial Wellness Survey.” 2021.

[2] Prudential. “Wellness Programs Earn Their Place in Human Capital Strategy.” June 2019.

[3] Prudential. “Wellness Programs Earn Their Place in Human Capital Strategy.” June 2019.

[4] Prudential. “Wellness Programs Earn Their Place in Human Capital Strategy.” June 2019.

Four Tips to Boost Your Employees’ Retirement Outlook

As many employees look ahead to retirement, 47% of workers feel somewhat confident that they’ll have enough money saved to retire on time and then live comfortably.1 However, forward-thinking employers have the ability to help their employees work toward a confident and happy retirement. According to the 2018 Retirement Confidence Survey from the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI), only 17% of American workers feel very confident in their ability to live comfortably in retirement.  Additionally, their 28th annual survey found that another 47% of workers feel somewhat confident about living comfortably in retirement.[1] That means that over 64% of Americans (or 2/3 of your workforce) feel prepared for their retirement future.

To help boost confidence, here are 4 forward-thinking tips proactive employers can do to help improve your employees’ retirement outlook:

Amp Up Auto Features

The majority of plans, nearly 6 out of 10, have already adopted auto-enrollment.[2] A lot of plans started years ago; but back when many employers implemented automatic enrollment, it was at a 3% default deferral, with no auto-escalation feature.

If you’re auto-enrolling employees at a low rate like 3% and leaving the deferral rate there, consider that many retirement-savings experts believe that Americans need to save 12% to 15% every year. Relying on a 3% deferral, even with a match, may limit your employees’ chances of reaching their goals upon retirement.

We can help you figure out whether a higher initial deferral rate makes sense for your participants and for your organization’s budget constraints on match spending. Auto-escalation has become the new norm: 73.4% of auto-enrolling plans now have this feature.2

Strengthen the Match

Many employees take their cue on how much they should save for retirement from the message you send with the employer match you offer. Match 100% of the first 3% of pay that an employee defers, for example, and employees may think they need to save 3% a year to have enough for retirement. In reality, they most likely will need to save more.

We can work with you to analyze your options for a match formula that can help your employees save more for retirement. For some sponsors, this means implementing a “stretch” match that requires employees to contribute more to get the full employer match: Instead of a 100% match on a 3% deferral, for instance, a plan could match 50% up to 6%.

Other employers, realizing the long-term costs to the company if employees do not retire on time, have decided that it makes business sense to offer a more-generous match to employees. According to the 60th Annual Survey of Profit Sharing and 401(k) Plans by the Plan Sponsor Council of America, it was found that employer contributions have increased to an average of 4.8% of payroll, up from 3.8% in 2007.2

Move Forward on Re-enrollment

Even if you auto-enroll, all your eligible employees may not experience the benefits. Many employers implement automatic enrollment only for new hires, not employees already working at the company when auto-enroll started. And some new hires likely opted out of enrollment when they joined the organization, or later reduced their deferral because they faced a budget crunch at the time. They may be in better financial shape now, but most won’t take the initiative to sign up on their own for participation in the plan.

Think about re-enrolling all eligible employees currently not participating in the plan and eligible employees currently contributing less than the initial default deferral rate. So, if you use 6% as your initial default deferral rate, for example, the re-enrollment could include non-participating employees and active participants saving less than 6%. Some employers do a re-enrollment as a one-time event, while others do it every year. We can help you evaluate whether re-enrollment makes sense for your plan.

Send Targeted Messages to Low Savers

Research has shown that people respond more to communications that have been tailored to them individually. Fortunately, recordkeepers have made big strides in their data-crunching and customization capabilities in the past few years. Now they can more easily drill down and identify particular groups of participants in a plan–such as those saving below a particular percentage of their pay—and then do an education campaign targeted to that group, personalizing the communication for each participant.

Consider moving ahead with a customized communication campaign to low savers in your plan, such as those participants not currently contributing enough to maximize the match. We can serve as a liaison between you and your recordkeeper to coordinate a targeted campaign to a particular group of participants.

Lawrence M. Kavanaugh, Jr. AIF, CRPA, CLU, ChFC


Northeast Benefit Services, Inc.
950-A Union Road, Suite 31
West Seneca, NY 14224

Phone: (716) 674-7200 x237

1200 Jefferson Road, Suite 302
Rochester NY 14623

Phone: (585) 214-0030 x237

[1] Employee Benefit Research Institute. “2018 Retirement Confidence Survey.” April 2018.

[2] Plan Sponsor Council of America. “PSCA’s 60th Annual Survey.” Feb. 2018.