5 Easy Ways to Improve Financial Literacy in Your Community

April is National Financial Literacy Month, and according to the stats, most of us could use a refresher in financial education. A study conducted by FINRA Investor Education Foundation revealed that only 34% of Americans could ace a quiz on basic financial literacy topics such as interest rates, inflation, and mortgage rates. The lack of financial literacy can lead to devastating consequences. In fact, 62% of U.S. adults report having credit card debt and a quarter have nothing saved for retirement.

We believe that anyone can be an advocate for the cause, which is why we’d like to challenge YOU to join us by making change with one (or many!) of these five simple ways:

  1. Sign a petition. A principal factor contributing to our nation’s financial illiteracy is the lack of prevalent financial education in schools. In fact, less than half of U.S. states require high school students to take a personal finance course. To get involved, we recommend checking out National Financial Educators Council’s petition for mandated comprehensive financial education in all U.S. public schools.
  2. Donate. There are many national organizations dedicated to advancing youth financial literacy, including Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, W!se, and Council for Economic Education. If you want to go more local, consider Donors Choose to donate to a specific initiative near you.
  3. Support a school program.  Whether you’re an educator, parent, or student, every member of the community plays a vital role in expanding financial literacy. To make a difference in the financial education taking place at–or missing from–a local school, check out Jump$tart’s Check Your School Campaign.
  4. Educate a young person. Financial Literacy Month was first and foremost created for educating our youth, so a great way to honor this tradition is to commit to teaching at least one young person in your life about personal finance! Here are some resources to get you started:
  5. Educate yourself. While it’s great to share your financial knowledge with younger generations, it’s also important to continuously expand upon your own. Keep up with the latest industry and market trends by checking out one of the podcasts below, or, better yet, share your favorite financial resources with your network.
    • Animal Spirits: Ritholtz Wealth Management’s Ben Carlson, CFA and Michael Batnick, CFA take an intimate, engaging approach to finance, discussing topics ranging from their personal experiences in financial markets, parenting, and asset management business, their favorite TV shows, and more.
    • The Meb Faber Show: Drawing from his own experience as the Chief Investment Officer of Cambria Investment Management, Meb Faber delves into the art of investing and provides insights into global equity, bond, and real asset markets.
    • The Indicator from Planet Money: Hosted by National Public Radio, this daily podcast dives into the latest economic news, helping you to make sense of what’s happening in the markets today.
    • Financial Advisor Success: This podcast tackles practice management and development through interviews with financial advisors and leading industry consultants who share their success stories and insights.
    • Standard Deviations: Each week, psychologist Dr. Daniel Crosby chats with guests from the finance industry and holds discussions that approach money through a psychological lens.

It’s never too early (or too late) to start making an impact on financial illiteracy rates. Even a small step now can pay huge dividends in the future for your family, your community, and even yourself.

Tell us how you are joining in by using the hashtag #LetsGetFinLit.

10 Reasons to Work at Vestwell

At Vestwell, we’re striving to help millions of people save for retirement. Yet, we could never fulfill our mission of democratizing access to quality plans without our number one asset: our employees. Catalyzed by Employee Appreciation Day, we’ve been giving a lot of thought to what makes Vestwell unique. Here’s a quick highlight of the top 10 things our employees love about working here.

  1. We’re a bunch of retirement geeks. We’re not ashamed to admit it: we fully geek out about retirement. Our CEO (chief geek) has worked tirelessly to build a passionate team of entrepreneurs focused on reinventing workplace savings and investing.
  2. 401(k)s for all. Naturally, we have a pretty great 401(k) plan. We offer a non-elective 3% match, which means regardless of if you contribute to your 401(k) or not, Vestwell contributes to your retirement (but know in advance, we’ll provide you with lots of education around why you should)!
  3. Sometimes we slack.  Given the virtual work environment we’ve found ourselves in, we had to get creative with how our culture transcended the distance. We use the messaging app Slack to stay in touch about work, but just as important, we created dedicated Slack channels for sharing photos and stories about personal hobbies and interests in channels like #pets_like_401k_plans, #thefunstuff, #scavenger-hunt, #positive-vibes-only, and more.
  4. We’re backed by some pretty big names. Goldman Sachs, BNY Mellon, Nationwide, Point72, and Franklin Templeton are just a few of Vestwell’s investors. Together, we’re working to change the world (of retirement, that is)!
  5. We don’t sweat the small stuff. But we do take some time to get a workout in during the work day by regularly hosting virtual workout sessions (including desk chair yoga!) to encourage employees to stay active and clear their minds.
  6. We don’t just diversify our portfolios. Diversity and inclusion is a big focus for us. We have identified partners in the tech community that focus on BIPOC and women in technology like Grace Hopper, Afrotech, and Women in Tech, and we work with them as part of our ongoing recruitment strategy for technical talent. We are also launching our first official summer internship program, designed to identify talented students from the BIPOC communities. Internally, we host unconscious bias trainings and “lunch and learns” to give employees a safe space to have conversations about diversity, belonging, and inclusion.
  7. We have fun, too. Vestwell regularly hosts online social events including trivia game night, scavenger hunts, and cooking classes (did I mention there are prizes!?).
  8. Equity for all. Every Vestwell employee receives equity in the company, which means we share a collective interest in seeing the business succeed. So when we reference “our” company, we really mean it!
  9. We’re always investing…in our people! We provide every employee with a stipend for continued training and education. We also have regular, formal feedback sessions to discuss development to make sure employees are growing (and happy!) in their roles.
  10. Other people say we’re pretty great. Okay, can we brag for a sec? We have been recognized as one of America’s Best Startup Employers by Forbes for two years in a row! We’ve also been recognized as a best place to work by Crain’s NYC and we’re a three-time winner of Built in NYC Best Place to Work. So we must be doing something right, right?

Interested in working at Vestwell? Good news — we’re hiring! We currently have 10+ job openings, so check us out and see if there’s an opportunity that’s right for you. And if not, please email us at jobs@vestwell.com and tell us why you’d be the perfect fit for our team. We can’t wait to hear from you!

Personalization at Scale: How Advisors Can Efficiently Deliver Custom Advice Through Managed Accounts

Managed account adoption is increasing dramatically as advisors see the value of providing personalized advice at scale. As part of Advisor2x’s 2021 Wealth@wor(k) Digital Series, Franklin Templeton’s Yaqub Ahmed, Strategic Retirement Partners’ Jeffrey Cullen and our very own Josh Forstater addressed the factors driving adoption including advancing technology, the convergence of retirement consulting and private wealth, and the growing demand for customization. During the 30-minute session, they also explored the importance of certain design features to ensure that your managed account offering helps drive outcomes while delivering the individualized experience today’s participants have come to expect.

Vestwell Honored as a 2021 Best Place to Work by Built In

Vestwell is honored to be recognized by Built In three times this year as a “2021 Best Place to Work,” including Best Places to Work for NYC, Best Small Companies to Work For, and NYC Companies with the Best Benefits. This annual awards aims to highlight top employers across the country that continually go above and beyond for their employees, taking into account benefits, support, culture programs and initiatives.

100 Best Places to Work In NYC 2021

50 Best Small Companies to Work for in NYC 2021

50 Companies with the Best Benefits in NYC 2021

 

Interested in joining the Vestwell team? Check out our open opportunities at https://vestwell.com/jobs.

So, Your State Says You Need a Retirement Plan?

By Allison Brecher, General Counsel, Vestwell

We’re all too aware of the looming retirement crisis. Almost 25% of adults in the United States lack any retirement savings. In response, a number of states have decided to take matters into their own hands by enacting legislation that requires employees to participate in their state-sponsored retirement program. So, what does this mean for business owners not currently offering a plan?

For businesses operating in a state where legislation has been proposed, it’s very likely that you’ll have to make some changes in the not-so-distant future. Some state plans come with penalties for not enrolling, while others offer appealing incentives for getting involved. However, the real question may not be whether you want to offer a state-sponsored plan or not, but rather, whether a state-sponsored plan is the right option for you.

Most state-sponsored plans are designated as Roth individual retirement accounts (IRAs), using investments chosen by the state, and are generally low-cost, so there are absolutely benefits. However, there are also benefits to creating a customized plan that works for you and your employees. Issuing your own plan allows you to:

  • select your own investments to include the right fund variety and offer user-friendly models like target-date funds;
  • create your own plan design so you have more control over things like company matching and eligibility rules;
  • derive significantly greater tax benefits because a 401(k) plan allows deductions of pre-tax earnings of up to $19,500 whereas an IRA only permits deductions of up to $6,000 in earnings;
  • borrow against your plan in times of emergency; and
  • keep costs equally low thanks to new entrants and advanced technology that eliminates overhead.

So while state-sponsored plans are getting the conversation started, it’s important to look at your bigger picture strategy and determining the best short- and long-term decisions to support your business. To better understand the urgency behind any retirement plan decision, it’s worth digging deeper into the specific requirements of your state.

But regardless of what state you’re in, there are many perks to offering a company-sponsored retirement plan such as tax incentives, recruitment and retention benefits, and investing in your own future. And thanks to new entrants and advanced technology, many traditional inefficiencies and excess fees have been eliminated, keeping costs down.

It’s great that states are putting a real emphasis on the retirement crisis and stepping in to help. But at the end of the day, this is about setting your employees – and yourself – up for retirement security. So look at the current proposals in your jurisdiction, think about what you’re trying to accomplish at the end of the day, and determine what will offer the greatest value for you and your team. Everyone deserves retirement security and you can help.

Now is Always the Right Time: 5 Reasons Why It’s a Great Time to Start a Company-Sponsored Retirement Plan

We may all be living on the edge of uncertainty as we navigate the COVID-19 climate, but the one thing we can all be sure of is that Americans need a healthy nest egg in order to retire comfortably. So at a time when health and money are top of mind for most, if you don’t already offer your employees a tax-deductible way to save, this marks a great opportunity to start a company-sponsored retirement plan. Not only does a 401(k) help you do right by your employees, but it also offers many benefits for the company as well.

1. The SECURE Act Offers Meaningful Tax Credits

One of the most compelling incentives for starting a retirement plan is the significant tax credits afforded by the SECURE Act. Small businesses that sponsor a retirement plan for the first time are eligible for a tax credit of up to $5,000 per year for three years. Additionally, any small plan that implements automatic enrollment in 2020 or later is eligible for a $500 credit for three years. This applies to both existing and new plans and can be combined with the start-up tax credit for additional savings. Thanks to these credits, starting a 401(k) has become incredibly affordable. In instances where you pass some expenses onto participants, you might not end up paying any fees for recordkeeping or other services for up to three years.

By way of example, the cost of starting a standard Vestwell 401(k) could look like this in Year 1:

2. There are Company Tax Deductions Too

While employers are not required to match employee contributions – unless they’ve opted into a Safe Harbor Plan, which has many incentives – many chose to do so as a way to reward employees and help them save faster and more successfully. That said, the contributions help the employer as well. Not only are they tax-deductible, but they’re not subject to Social Security or Medicare taxes.

3. It can also reduce individual Taxes — Especially for owners

At a time when financial stress is at an all time high, reducing taxes now while at the same time saving for a financial future can be a big incentive. Annual pre-tax contribution limits are $19,500 a year as of 2020, with an extra $6,500 in catch-up contributions for those over 50 years of age, which means you can reduce your taxable income by up to $26,000 a year. Business owners can save even more. With certain plan types, like profit sharing, business owners can save as much as $57,000 a year before taxes or $63,500 with catch-up contributions.

4. you want your employees to retire…eventually

In June 2020, 72% of employees said they plan on working after they claim Social Security retirement benefits. This is up from 67% this May, a trend closely tied to the current economic climate. While this is an issue for individuals, it can also be an even bigger issue for businesses, specifically when it comes to rising payroll costs. A recent survey showed that 49% of employers are concerned that delaying retirement will raise benefits costs, 41% worried it would force up overall wage and salary expenses, and 37% feared it would block younger employees from promotions. Offering a 401(k) plan not only helps your employees become retirement ready, but it could also help with the long term view of your business.

5. employees want your support

52% of U.S. employees state that finances are their biggest concern, more than all other aspects of their wellbeing including physical, mental, and social health. Not only that, but 47% believe their employers have a responsibility to address their financial wellbeing (up from 40% pre-COVID). Offering a company-sponsored retirement plan allows you to educate and support employees when it comes to their financial future.

if you’re interested in implementing a plan on or before January 1, 2021, here are some deadlines to consider: 
  • August 15, 2020: Deadline for deciding to implement a Safe Harbor 401(k) plan in 2020. This type of plan is incredibly popular with small businesses because they allow companies to bypass certain compliance testing requirements. There is still time to reap the benefits for the 2020 calendar year if you act quickly.
  • November 1, 2020: Deadline for agreeing to move an existing 401(k) plan to Vestwell for a January 1, 2021 start date as well as the deadline for terminating a SIMPLE IRA and moving it to a 401(k) plan structure for 2021.
  • November 15, 2020: Deadline for deciding to start a new, non-Safe Harbor 401(k) plan for a January 1, 2021 start date. This maximizes your tax benefits for the 2021 calendar year.

It’s times like this when many take stock of what’s important. As a business, one can argue the financial health of the company and the people within it are paramount. Offering a company-sponsored retirement plan is not only surprisingly affordable, but can benefit the company and its employees for years to come.

 

 

 

Mind the Gap: Doing our part to acknowledge and change the acute disparity of accumulated wealth for people of color

By Aaron Schumm, Founder & CEO, Vestwell

Across every aspect of the retirement industry, from corporate offices, to advisory firms, to small businesses, to the average American worker, it is clear that a myriad of systemic racial issues has put BIPOC (black, indigenous, and people of color) at a disadvantage. I’ve spent the past twenty years in the financial services industry and the past handful building Vestwell, which focuses specifically on bringing retirement savings & investing plans to small and mid-sized businesses. As a company that has the privilege of leveraging the platform on which we stand, it is our moral obligation to do our part to amplify minority voices and break down racial barriers within the industry.

Acknowledging the Problem

There is much written about the overall lack of long-term savings, with 45% of Baby Boomers having nothing put away for retirement. But when you begin to break down the average retirement savings by race, it becomes clear that BIPOC are deeply and disproportionately affected. In 2016, the median white family had almost $80,000 in retirement savings, while the median black family only had about $30,000 saved. The median retirement savings for hispanic families was even lower, at only $23,000. Furthermore, in 2018, the median black household earned just 59 cents for every dollar of income the median white household earned.

So while there are several factors that lead to this discrepancy in retirement savings, including the extreme disparity in average income, there is also the issue of accessibility. Minorities are notably less likely to work for an employer that offers a plan. In fact, “Blacks, Asians, and Latinos are respectively 15, 13, and 42 percent less likely than whites to have access to a job based retirement plan in the private sector.” People of color are also less likely to have access to a defined benefit plan, with 24% of white households having a pension through a current job versus only 16% of households of people of color.

What Vestwell is Doing

Vestwell was founded to make quality retirement plans more accessible to everyone. This means not only making plans easier to implement and manage but also making sure that more – if not all – Americans have one. Knowing that BIPOC often work lower-income jobs and are less likely to have a company-sponsored retirement plan, creates both an opportunity and a responsibility for Vestwell. And we plan to do something about it.

Given Vestwell’s position as a 401(k) provider, we feel compelled not only to continue current conversations around racial disparity, but also to do more to close the retirement gap, especially for people of color. This starts with education as well as access. If you are a minority-owned business, or an advisor to a minority-owned business, we want to make it easier for you to implement a 401(k) including discounts for the plan.

The struggles that are currently being conveyed in the media are not new. But today, this moment has to become a movement…one that does not fade with a news cycle. We ask our industry colleagues and friends to continue to challenge us, educate us, and remind us to do what we can to create true racial equality within the financial services industry and within every fiber of working America.

 

 

3 Ways Retirement Advisors Can Create Stability for Plan Sponsors Amid Instability

The past few months have been jarring, at best. Yet for retirement plan advisors, times of uncertainty emphasize the importance of helping plan sponsors with the administrative and fiduciary responsibilities of their company sponsored retirement plans. We asked retirement experts Katrina Bell, CIMA (ZUNA), Tony Fiore (PGIM Investments) and Chris Miller (Pensionmark) how best to respond. They highlighted three key ways advisors can showcase their value amidst these challenging times.

Provide Investment Fiduciary Relief

In times of market volatility, people can become particularly sensitive about the status of their finances. Participants are logging in more, evaluating the investments in their portfolios, and asking questions. Plan sponsors are not only expected to answer these questions, but they also have a fiduciary obligation to give a good one. Tony Fiore points out that this is where having an advisor as a 3(38) or 3(21) can help sponsors feel more secure knowing their investment selections were properly vetted by a professional. Fiore adds that this is a great way to approach a prospective client and say “You have a lot to deal with and a lot to think about…and you have to deal with those participants. You have a fiduciary responsibility. That’s not going to be number one on your list, but it’s going to be number one on your employee’s list.” If you’re approaching a new client, ask them about their investment charter and their investment policy statement. Chances are if they don’t have one, having a retirement advisor step in can make a lot of sense.

Evaluate Other Service Providers

Just as you add value to your clients, other vendors should be adding value as well. Now is the perfect time to take a second look at those supporting your client’s plans and ask how they can do better. Miller had some thoughts, saying, “If you can offload anything for your plans sponsor that you can’t get at with your current solution, look for solutions that do. Because if you’re not, someone else is going to call your client and say “I can do this for you.’” By way of example, Miller shares that several clients are laying off important staff such as HR employees who typically manage payroll. The manual entry process of payroll can take hours each month and choosing a 401(k) that integrates with your payroll provider can offer substantial administrative relief. It’s also worth exploring other value-add services such as purchase payback providers. At a time when many employers are cutting back on matching, this is a great way to direct additional funds to participants’ plans just by purchasing everyday items.

Serve as a Subject Matter Expert

When markets become volatile and sweeping regulation throws traditional rules about plan distributions and loans out the window, sponsors and participants want answers around what they can and should do. Show clients how your expertise in understanding financial markets, investment strategy, and new regulation is of particular value in times of market volatility. You can approach clients with heightened sensitivity to their problems by showing them ways to save money on their plans, alternatives to plan terminations, and what the new provisions mean for them. Katrina Bell noted this was the first thing her team at ZUNA did when the CARES Act rolled out saying, “We were really able to get in there, reviewing contracts for clients, reviewing plans documents, and then consulting with them on how to implement all these provisions and the CARES Act, if they’re appropriate for their business.”

Looking Ahead

Given the financial and emotional strains of the time, additional administrative work and fiduciary obligations are the last thing any HR department wants to worry about, especially in the SMB space. While these three tips are ways retirement advisors add value throughout the entire year, they become increasingly important during uncertain times. As an advisor, you can offer immense support by simply giving clients a call to remind them of the stability you offer amid a time of instability.

3 Ways Advisors Should be Using LinkedIn

We all know that lead generation can be one of the more challenging – and time-consuming – parts of anyone’s job so it’s important to equip yourself with the right tools to effectively grow your business. When used correctly, LinkedIn can be one such powerful tool. Taking the time to polish your LinkedIn profile and understand how the features work means you’re more likely to find the right clients – and they’re more likely to find you. When creating your LinkedIn strategy, we recommend focusing on these three basic, but critical, tactics.

1. Give Your Profile a Facelift

Profile Picture & Banner Image

Your profile picture is like a handshake; it’s massively important but should in no way be memorable. Include a photo that shows you in a professional, friendly light. Clients like to know who they are dealing with. You can also upload a banner image to the top of your profile. If you decide to add one, we recommend selecting an image that represents your city/region or your firm’s logo.

Professional Headline

LinkedIn gives you 120 characters to write your headline so make it as concise (but informative!) as possible. Think of the people you want to engage with and write a very short statement that will directly appeal to them. For example, rather than writing “Retirement Plan Advisor, CFP,” try something more engaging such as “Helping small businesses select and implement the right retirement plans| Financial Advisor, CFA | NYC.”

Summary/About

In addition to your headline, you have an option to include a summary. Think of this as a cover letter, not a resume. This is your chance to elaborate upon the value you lay out in your headline and reflect your personality. It is important to give a clear, consistent message as most people will not read your summary word for word. We recommend laying it out as follows:

  • Section 1 – Opening
  • Section 2 – Your value to your market (Summarize in three bullet points)
  • Section 3 – Who you’re looking to help and how
  • Section 4 – Outside-of-work interests

Pro Tip: Ensure your summary is written in the first person (‘I’ or ‘We’) to prevent it from looking like something you copied and pasted from a resume.

Media

A great feature of your LinkedIn profile is the ability to add multimedia to it, such as PDFs, PowerPoint slides, videos, links, and more. This gives you the opportunity to include content that is specific to your clientele and position yourself as an expert.

2. Find Your Ideal Contacts

To start a conversation with a prospect you have to find them first. Fortunately, the search features available on the free version of LinkedIn turn it into an impressive database of filtered business professionals. The parameters allow you to create highly-focused prospecting lists that provide you with real-time information on your leads. Using this information to personalize your message is extremely valuable when it comes to engaging with people – and makes gatekeepers a thing of the past.

Primary Search Features

All LinkedIn searches can be started by typing a search parameter into the main search bar. By way of example, let’s say you want to find accountants in New York (you can no longer search by zip code radius; it has to be by town or city). To begin your search, simply type “accountant” into the search bar. On the next page will be the result of the search – click on “People.”

You can now narrow down these results by using the 3 primary filters at the top of the screen: Connections, Locations, and Current Companies. As you select each filter, the search result will automatically refine itself. You can also click “All Filters” if you want to narrow down results by industry, past companies, etc.

Boolean Searches

The other thing to keep in mind is that you can now perform “Boolean” searches, whereby you enter “NOT,” “AND,” or “OR” between terms. For example, if you want to find company directors who like golf, you would enter into the search field ‘ “director” AND “golf”.

3. Leverage the News Feed

News Feed

The main feature of the Home Page is a tailored news feed which contains updates from all of your 1st line of connections, such as articles they shared, new job announcements, profile updates, etc. The news feed is a simple, free, and effective way to:

  • Stay top of mind for clients
  • Position yourself as an expert
  • Inform and educate your contacts
  • Drive traffic to your site
Sharing content

Sharing an update is a very straightforward process and it only takes a few seconds. There are 2 primary ways to post content – either by “liking” content on your feed or by taking content directly from a website. Here’s how each of these works:

Liking Content – Simply follow a company on LinkedIn – anything this page posts will then automatically appear on your own news feed. All you then have to do is “like” the article and it will then be shared with all of your 1st line contacts on LinkedIn.

Posting Content – Navigate to a blog or news site. Once you see a link you’d like to share

  1. Copy and paste the article URL to the “Start a post box at the top of the LinkedIn Home page.
  2. Add the first paragraph from the article to your post – or write your own thoughts on the piece!
  3. Add three professional hashtags that are relevant and that people who are looking for that piece of content may search.

Pro Tip: When it comes to news feed etiquette, it’s important not to come across as always trying to sell so don’t just post updates about your latest product or service. People want content that is informative and educational in nature.

Pro Tip Bonus: When posting, it’s important to always include hashtags. While LinkedIn is continually updating their algorithms, three is currently the best number to increase visibility.

What’s next?

If you’ve mastered these steps and want to take your social strategy to the next level, contact Graham Aikin to explore LinkedIn workshops for advisors and wealth managers by emailing him directly at gaikin@hnwsocialmedia.com. And of course, follow Vestwell for shareable content and upcoming retirement-focused webinars.