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Financial wellness complements retirement

Slowly but steadily, saving for retirement is returning to professionally managed funds with automatic features. That’s been the trend the past 15 years, says Michael Case Smith, co-founder and managing director of Edge 401k Funds, based in Winter Park, Fla. “We want good things happening when people do nothing,” he says.

Still, Smith says, many employees need more than auto features to help them save enough for retirement. That’s why his company offers financial wellness services via its 401(k) plan.

Three times a year, plan participants are contacted by phone with an update about their fund and are given an opportunity for one-on-one financial coaching to help them plan for anything they might need for retirement. “Reaching out to people every four months and holding them accountable … is where you get behavior change,” Smith says.

The fee for this service is inside in the fund, which benefits employers who already have to pay for medical insurance, Smith says. “We’ve taken away hard-dollar costs,” he says.

“The other big hurdle is engaging the uninvolved,” Smith adds. “They call them ‘uninvolved’ for a reason. They don’t go to websites.” That’s why individual coaching so crucial, he says, but it’s unfortunately missing from a lot of 401(k) funds.

Financial wellness important to employers

Employers are placing more importance on financial wellness. This year, 93% of employers are “very or moderately likely to create or broaden their efforts on financial wellness topics in a manner that extends beyond retirement decisions,” according to Aon Hewitt’s 2015 Hot Topics in Retirement report. Nearly half, 49%, of those surveyed said that “financial wellness has become more significant in the last two years. Only 1% feel it is less important.”

Smith realizes that many people aren’t concerned with retirement — they’re focused on immediate bills such as paying rent and student loans. “They’re not listening to the 401(k) guy,” he says.

That makes automatic features and one-on-one coaching even more important, Smith says. “That’s what financial wellness needs.” Helping people get their finances in order translates into more productive employees, less turnover, fewer claims and less absenteeism, he says.

Can Companies Solve Workers’ Money Problems?

The Wall Street Journal
Can Companies Solve Workers’ Money Problems?
By Rachel Feintzeig
7 April 2015

Companies are expanding their wellness programs to focus on workers’ wallets in addition to their waistlines.

Meredith Corp., Staples Inc. and PepsiCo Inc., among others, have begun offering programs aimed at improving employees’ financial security.

Modeled after physical-wellness programs that invite employees to lose weight or undergo health screenings, financial-wellness programs include finance classes, counseling sessions and even ideograms designed to help staffers pay down debt, stick to a budget and invest for their retirement.

Bosses say the programs also boost productivity, citing research findings that suggest workers under financial strain can be distracted and absent from work.

Employees, though, may wonder why their employers don’t just pay them more.

Several years after the global recession and a long spell of anemic wage growth, American workers still aren’t happy about the state of their finances.

The most recent Labor Department jobs report shows average hourly earnings for private-sector worker were up 2.1% in March from the prior year, and the wages have been growing at about 2% for the past four years. nearly 80% of workers in the U.S. and Puerto Rico are under moderate to high levels of financial stress, according to evaluations of about 40,000 workers conducted by the financial-education firm Financial Fitness Group last year.

Companies say financially stressed workers call in sick more often and may be delaying retirement. In 2013, 76% of employers said they were interested in financial-wellness programs, according to a survey by Aon Hewitt. Last year, 93% said they were planning to create or expand their efforts.

At Meredith Corp., workers who complete a 35-question “financial wellness checkup” or take a course on refinancing their mortgage earn points that can make them eligible for cheaper health plans offered by the media company.

Employee’s spouses can accrue points too, says Tim O’Neil, the company’s director of employees benefits and wellness. In 2014, 80% of Meredith’s 5,200 emplyees and spouses completed at least one workshop, and 95% filled out the questionnaire, which asks whether the person is behind on bills and whether financial stress affects their productivity at work.

Since the program began, employees’ financial stress has abated at a pace that Mr. O’Neil says reflects more than just the improvement in the economy. The company says employees’ focus at work has improved, too. According to Meredith surveys, 88% of workers who reported less money stress used no sick time last year, a figure that was 10 percentage points better than for those with higher levels of money stress.

As corporate-benefits programs shift more responsibility onto workers, Meredith’s chief executive, Stephen Lacy, says he hopes the personal-finance help will “empower” employees to make the right choices. ” This whole self-directed activity is extremely risky without a lot of education and effort,” he says.

Others say businesses are trying to solve a problem of their own making. “Companies pulled away a lot of the social safety net that they used to provide, ” says Jeffrey Pfeffer, a professor of organizational behavior at the Stanford Graduate School of Business. “Since we pulled away the safety net, you of course are going to be stressed.”

In a Towers Watson report from March 2014, 76% of workers said their employer “recently enacted significant changes that could compromise their near-term or long-term finances,” like scaling back retirement benefits or raising health-care costs.

“It can feel a little like ‘budget better, you’ll have more money,” says a Meredith editor in New York who spoke anonymously to avoid offending her bosses. “If I make more money, I’ll have more money.”

She has also found the program “a bit big brother-y,” adding: “There’s something a little uncomfortable about the person who pays your salary knowing what margins you have.”

Meredith says that individuals’ financial information is confidential and that it views workers’ survey response only in the aggregate. Employers also say that financial-wellness programs show employees that they care–and also cost less than increasing pay. Meredith says its program costs $100,000 a year.

Michael Case Smith, who oversees a 401(k) fund that provides one-on-one financial counseling to participating workers, says the counseling provides a “perceived benefit” to workers. “Anything [companies] can deliver that gives the employee the feeling that the employer cares for them…is timely,” he says.

Mike Kelly, who runs a general-contracting business in Chicago, added the financial-wellness 401(k) for his employees last year. During the recession, some workers requested loans from their plans to make ends meet. He worries about employees being distracted on the job– potential safety issue– because of financial stress but says he can’t afford to increase wages.

“If pay is holding steady, what else can you offer them?” he asks. “We haven’t given out pay increases, but we can say, ‘Hey, we’ve got a way to manage your money more efficiently.”

At Pepsi, about 15 counselors from PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP are on hand to help employees who want to take a class on foreclosure or need help navigating insurance claims after natural disasters. The counselors also keep management apprised what generally, is on the employees’ minds, says Chad Ryan, the company’s director of compensation and benefits.

Adding some levity to a dry topic, Staples has created video games that teach workers about money. For example, “Bite Club,” a vampire-themed game, shows players how to save for retirement. Despite some eye-rolling, the office-supplies retailer says, about 15,000 associates have played it.

Raymond Sablan says the fun of competing against co-workers, plus a character that reminded him of the popular “Twilight” series, was the “bait” he needed to start a 401(k) a few years back. Now a manager at Texas Staples, he says he regularly urges his direct reports to play.

Wrapping Financial Wellness Coaching Into 401(k) Funds: New Book Explores Potential Benefits to Employees and Plan Sponsors (Press Release)

how-to-imprive-retirement-bookTAVARES, Fla.June 12, 2015 /PRNewswire/ — What if you could assign a financial wellness coach to employees in your 401(k) plan, without adding hard-dollar costs? That question is at the heart of a new book recently published by financial industry veterans Tom Ruggie, ChFC®, CFP® and Michael Case Smith.

The book, entitled Financial Wellness Featuring Edge 401(k) Funds, is available through Amazon or by visiting www.edge401kfunds.com.

“We wrote the book after participating in years of enrollment meetings, and realizing the traditional way of reaching out to employees – with glossy brochures and videos – has done little to actually engage them and get them involved in preparing for their retirement,”  said Ruggie, Edge 401(k) Funds President, who, in his role as CEO of Ruggie Wealth Management was recognized among Barron’s 2015 Top 1200 Financial Advisors.

“In the US, 94 percent of companies offer a 401(k), yet, retirement savings continue to fall way short,” said Ruggie, who is also president of Asset Advisors of America (AAA), a 401(k) company affiliated with Insurance Office of America (IOA). AAA serves as consultants for a Fortune 1000 company as well as several major sports franchises.

“Study after study has shown how coaching employees on the things that could make them financially healthier, such as budgeting, debt management, and planning for life’s little surprises, can reduce their overall stress. A financially-healthy workforce can decrease absenteeism, healthcare costs, and turnover. This is beneficial to employees and employers.”

In 2014, Ruggie and Smith partnered with Alta Trust to create the Edge Collective Fund Series, one of two cornerstones of their innovative retirement plan concept called Edge 401(k) Funds, (a dba of RWM Asset Management). Alta Trust is trustee of the Collective Funds.

Edge 401(k) Funds is the first firm of its kind to offer an array of financial wellness services to participants who choose to invest in these Funds, at no additional hard-dollar cost to them or their employers.

“Existing Employee Assistance Programs provide seminars, research, and take inbound calls for a hard-dollar cost – often as much as $50-150/head. Other options require investments on the part of the employees,” said Smith, who has testified at US Senate, Securities and Exchange Commission, and Department of Labor hearings on Wall Street conflicts of interest.

“Our book explains our new twist on the old concept of 401(k)s, in which we assign a wellness coach to employees who select our funds. These coaches pro-actively reach out individually to employees at least three times a year to talk about any financial issue on their minds – from reducing debt to financing a home or a child’s college education, paying off student loans to saving for a once-in-a-lifetime experience,” said Smith, who Is also affiliated with AAA.

“While everyone understands the benefit of a traditional wellness benefit, our new book explains the many advantages of adding a financial wellness component to a firm’s benefits.”

The Funds have already been made available on more than 20 platforms including many large insurance companies, Charles Schwab Trust, Fidelity Trust, and TD Ameritrade Trust, and can be added to an existing plan or included as part of a new 401(k) plan.

About Edge 401(k) Funds
Edge 401(k) Funds is a dba of RWM Asset Management, an SEC registered investment advisor headed up by professionals who have worked with more than 700 retirement plans nationwide. The RWM Asset Management Collective Trust was created by Alta Trust and contains the Edge Conservative, Edge Moderate and Edge Growth Funds. A copy of the firm’s current disclosure statement is available upon request. For more information, please visit http://edge401kfunds.com.

About Alta Trust Company
Alta Trust Company is a South Dakota chartered trust company that partners with investment managers such as RWM to offer unique collective investment fund solutions to the retirement plan marketplace. Alta Trust is not associated with the additional wellness benefits offered through Edge 401k Funds.

Rankings and/or recognition by unaffiliated rating services and/or publications should not be construed by a client or prospective client as a guarantee that he/she will experience a certain level of results if Ruggie Wealth Management is engaged, or continues to be engaged, to provide investment advisory services, nor should it be construed as a current or past endorsement of Ruggie Wealth Management by any of its clients.  Rankings published by magazines, and others, may base their selections on information prepared and/or submitted by the recognized adviser.

Contact
Sheryl Garelick: PRfect Creative
352-343-1101

Boomers Drive Pitch for Wellness Products

Money Management Executive
‘Boomers Drive Pitch for Wellness Products’
By Andrew Shilling
30 March 2015

The demands of Baby Boomers nearing retirement have pushed product providers to market their offerings as not just investments, but also financial wellness tools to manage retirees’ lives.

Part of that message, providers and advisors say, comes from recognizing that many potential customers have little idea of what challenges they will certainly encounter – and have to pay for – during their retirement years.

“Retirement readiness is a big problem,” explains Neil Krishnaswamy, an advisor with Exencial Wealth Advisors in Plano, Texas. According to Krishnaswamy, many clients save, but often do not realize how much they will actually need to put away.

“Most people that come into retirement are getting close, but they just don’t know whether what they have accumulated is sufficient or whether their ‘number’ will help sustain them throughout retirement,” he says.

That does little to diminish their own estimation of their financial health.

Many Americans, according to a recent MassMutual retiree confidence survey, are more optimistic with their savings strategies than ever before, with the national savings rate up 5.5%.

While some of this has been attributed to declining gas prices, which puts roughly $300 back into the consumer’s pocket every month, the study found that nearly 70% of respondents felt better off financially than they were three years ago.

Lincoln Financial Group product and solutions management vice president Bob Melia says while he agrees there has been a significant confidence boost in the economy, there is always the possibility that a sequence of return risk could disrupt retirement preparation.

“Up to age 55, the time of readiness is contingent on savings behavior that’s very healthy where people save at least 10% of their money and they get a max 5% for a total savings of 15%,” Melia explains. “If a participant does that, by the time they get to age 55 and they can start to ensure their assets, they will reach a high level or appropriate level of retirement readiness.”

BALANCE FUND

Melia touted the firm’s Secured Retirement Income SM investment option, which he says provides incoming retirees guaranteed income for life as well as protection from market declines, yet allows for participation in rising markets.

This is made possible through participant contributions, which are invested in Lincoln’s LVIP Managed Risk Profile Moderate Fund, a balanced fund that employs a risk management strategy and seeks to lower return volatility and provide capital protection in down markets, according to the firm.

“It’s nothing more than another investment on a plan’s lineup,” Melia says. “It’s actually a balance fund with contractual promises that Lincoln makes to sponsors and participants – and what we do is, during the last 10 years of a participants working career, our program puts more money into secured retirement income.”

Some providers are adding more personal service to the activity of retirement investing to move it beyond the idea of spreadsheets and quarterly reports.

Edge 401(k) Funds, for instance, is a retirement plan concept offering clients an array of financial wellness services. Launched earlier this year following a partnership Alta Trust’s Edge Collective Fund Series and industry veterans Tom Ruggie and Michael Chase Smith, participants in the program through their 401(k) are contacted by customer relationship managers from Edge 401(k) Funds three times a year to help schedule meetings with a financial coach to help develop plans for budgeting, debt management, provide funding education and overall savings plans.

 “The financial wellness component helps the employer prioritize retirement readiness,” Ruggie says. “As the financial coaches work with participants on their short-range financial goals, it helps ease financial stress, which increases productivity, employee satisfaction and decreases absenteeism and medical costs.

 “As more businesses recognize the importance of wellness initiatives as part of a healthy workforce and overall employee productivity, we believe our innovative approach will help solve concerns and reduce hard costs related to financial-related stress,” Ruggie adds.

 MassMutual’s CareChoice One, a single-deposit long term care product, provides policy holders a wide range of benefits through a long term care benefit pool, life insurance as well as guarantee cash build up, all under one policy, according to a 2014 CareChoice One overview guide. This can be paid for with Medicare and Medicaid, as well as through personal savings and traditional long care insurance, the firm said.

At Exencial, Krishnaswamy said he typically works with nothing more than proprietary spreadsheets to help his clients prepare for retirement.

“There’s only so much where we can rely on technology, and it does help, but you kind of have to understand them as people and what they want to accomplish, what are their values and dreams, and your job as a partner is to help them with that,” Krishnaswamy said.

Financial wellness plans can decrease company costs

As the climate for financial independence changes, some companies are attempting to educate their employees about money management so they can contribute more money to their retirement.

Financial expert Michael Case Smith began Edge 401(k) Funds with partner Thomas Ruggie last year. Smith said the time has come for companies to take a look at how they are helping their employees become more financially stable.

“The results from the last three decades of the traditional 401(k) are in and they are not good,” Smith said. “Today, the vast majority of people are dealing with their daily financial stresses and cannot worry about putting aside money for retirement.”

Smith said the goal for Edge 401(k) Funds is to help people not only save for retirement but also with their everyday financial security.

Insurance Office of America , one of the nation’s largest independent commercial risk and benefit managers, turned to Smith and Ruggie to develop a program to upgrade retirement plans for IOA clients. Now, they’ve turned it into a separate business and companies in Jacksonville and beyond are reaping the benefits.

Smith said years of research led them to three reasons that traditional 401(k) plans don’t work: the fees are too high, employee do-it-yourself investing doesn’t work, and employee education is futile.

“We realized that traditional 401(k) plans don’t do much to engage participants in helping them reach their financial goals,” Smith said. “The fancy brochures and extensive presentations don’t help the average American to become financially healthier.”

Edge 401(k) Funds’ goal is to engage customers through a financial wellness plan within a mutual fund. The plan teams up the client with a personal finance coach to help them to establish a budget, decrease credit card debt and essentially have more money that they are able to put aside for retirement. And Smith said it’s at no extra cost to the employee.

“The fee is embedded inside of the mutual fund so that there is no additional cost to the employee or the employer,” he said.

Smith believes financial wellness leads to a healthier individual overall, decreasing the cost that a company spends on wellness benefits each year.

“This is one of the highest costs to a company every year,” Smith said. “Companies are always trying to learn about what will make their employees healthier and more productive.”

A Society for Human Resource Management study found that personal financial challenges have a large impact on employee performance and are most negatively affected by personal financial challenges.

“Employees who enjoy peace of mind regarding their personal finances are more inclined to be happy, productive associates who transfer the quality of their employment experience into everything they do,” Smith said.

He hopes companies will start to take a closer look at how they are helping employees navigate their financial stability and said the demand is growing.

Ninety-two percent of employers indicate they are very likely to create or expand their focus on financial wellness in 2015, according to Aon Hewitt ‘s 2015 Hot Topics in Retirement.

“By giving someone the tools that they need to become more financially healthy,” Smith said, “you’re decreasing their stress level and contributing to an overall healthier lifestyle.”

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Firm Offers Financial Wellness via Investment Menu

Now available on more than 20 retirement plan platforms, the Edge Collective Fund Series brings financial wellness services to plan participants directly through the investment menu.

The new fund series is described by provider Edge 401k Funds as the only offering of its kind where financial wellness services are offered directly through the 401(k) plan investment menu and paid for by the funds’ expense ratios. The firm says the fund series can be added to an existing plan or included as part of a new 401(k) plan.

Edge 401k Funds is a trade name of RWM Asset Management. Edge 401k Funds’ founders Tom Ruggie and Michael Case Smith say they developed the concept in response to the large number of retirement investors who are “uninvolved 401(k) plan participants who have a great need for proactive financial assistance in many aspects of their lives, beyond the 401(k) and including budgeting, taxes, estate planning and more.”

The series consists of three separate funds similar to asset allocation funds—conservative, moderate and growth—that are collective trusts managed through Alta Trust, Ruggie tells PLANSPONSOR. The company uses a questionnaire which puts participants in one of nine allocations that could be a blend of funds. According to Ruggie, the funds mimic Morningstar indexes for conservative, moderate and growth portfolios, with minor tactical tweaks. “For example, our conservative portfolio is adjusted to prepare for rising interest rate environment,” he says.

“As more businesses recognize the importance of wellness initiatives as part of a healthy workforce and overall employee productivity, we believe our innovative approach will help solve concerns and reduce hard costs related to financial-related stress,” Ruggie adds.

Participants allocating to the Edge funds inside their 401(k) will be proactively contacted by qualified customer relationship managers from Edge 401k Funds three times a year, who will then schedule time for those participants to speak with a financial coach regarding their overall financial wellness needs.

Topics for discussion include overall budgeting, debt management, funding education, and overall savings plans. Participants will also be encouraged to reach out to Edge 401k Fund’s financial coaches with questions, the firm says.

According to Ruggie, when bringing in a new client, his firm will hold an onboarding session, during which it meets with new participants to explain the funds and financial wellness services. At that time, the firm will get contact information and ask participants what is their preferred method for being contacted. “We will contact them in the best way for them,” he notes.

The funds have already been made available on more than 20 platforms including many large insurance companies, the Charles Schwab Trust, Fidelity Trust, and TD Ameritrade and Trust. The related investment fee for the funds is similar to certain target-date funds and generally less than the typical actively-managed fund found in retirement plans, according to the firm. In addition to covering the cost of professional investment management, the related fees also cover the cost of the financial wellness services delivered. In many cases overall fees can be actually lowered, Ruggie and Case Smith contend.

“It’s an opt-in situation, so the rationale would be that participants are opting in to make the financial wellness services available to them,” Ruggie explains. “However, we realize there will be certain people that will not respond to our contact and utilize the financial wellness services, but we will keep contacting them.” He says the firm predicts it will really make a difference for participants at certain life events, such as the birth of a child, marriage, or even when they realize they really need to start getting serious about saving for retirement. For this reason, he says, the firm anticipates a higher percentage of participants using the financial wellness services will develop over time.

“While saving for retirement is often touted as the most important financial objective, it is far from the only financial concern many individuals struggle with,” says Case Smith, managing director of Edge 401k Funds. “Individuals may not have the expertise or desire to choose investments on their own, but they are concerned with gaining stronger financial footing.”

Ruggie, who is president of Edge 401k Funds, notes the biggest stress for employees is financial stress; having a coach will help them deal with that stress, so they will be healthier and better able to put money away for retirement. He compares it to a health wellness program, which statistics show reduces the cost of health care and improves employee productivity.

“One of the hurdles we get is employers are concerned that it’s a new fund,” Ruggie says. “But I explain that we replicate Morningstar indexes and our funds will be in the range of those.” He notes that statistics show participants’ behavioral patterns are more likely the reason for poor performance, not a lack of good investment choices. “People who have a financial coach tend to put more in retirement plans and tend to have better performance because they not making emotional decisions in good or bad markets.”

Ruggie also points out that, other than perhaps a small cost to add the funds to their plans, there is no additional cost to the employer for offering financial wellness services. “The response from existing and potential clients has been very strong,” he says.

More information is available at http://edge401kfunds.com.

—John Manganaro and Rebecca Moore

THOMAS RUGGIE, ChFC®, CFP® NAMED TO BARRON’S 1200 TOP FINANCIAL ADVISORS

9887 Tom Ruggie in front of RcroppedCentral Florida-based Ruggie Wealth Management’s Founder & CEO Named for Third Time

Ruggie Wealth Management Founder and CEO Tom Ruggie, has been named to Barron’s list of America’s Top 1,200 Advisors: 2015. This is the third time he has made the list expanded from the Top 1,000 advisors, having also received the distinction in 2009 and 2013.

Barron’s publishes its Top 1200 Advisors by State compilation every February to recognize advisors demonstrating exceptional performance, professionalism, client service and community involvement. Among the factors the “Barron’s Top 1,200 Advisors” ranking takes into consideration are quality of practice, assets under management, revenues, and philanthropic work.

“It’s an honor to be counted among Barron’s Top Advisors,” said Tom, of the prestigious listing which recognizes both an elite group of independent financial professionals and large wirehouses.

“Ruggie Wealth Management is an independent, fee-only Registered Investment Advisory firm that takes the time to understand our clients and their needs. We manage individual and corporate wealth, as well as the assets of select endowments and foundations, and take our fiduciary responsibility very seriously. Our team makes decisions with our client’s best interests in mind, and we are committed to serving each one with the highest standards of integrity and care. As the flagship company of Ruggie Capital Group, we offer a broad range of services and products to help clients achieve their goals.”

Ruggie Wealth Management has offices in Tavares, Winter Park, and The Villages.

Ruggie Named to Barron’s Top 1200 Financial Advisors for Sixth Time

We’re excited that Ruggie Wealth Management Founder and CEO Tom Ruggie, ChFC®, CFP®, has been named to Barron’s 2018 list of America’s Top 1,200 Advisors, the sixth time he has earned this distinction, and fourth in a row.

Barron’s publishes its annual Top 1200 Advisors by State compilation to recognize advisors demonstrating exceptional performance, professionalism, client service and community involvement, and the ranking recognizes both an elite group of independent financial professionals and large wirehouses.

Among the factors the ranking takes into consideration are quality of practice, assets under management, revenues, and philanthropic work.

“Competition is steep to be selected for this list, and those who make the cut represent a very high level of achievement in serving their clients’ wealth management needs,” said Ruggie of the ranking which recognizes both an elite group of independent financial professionals and large wirehouses. “I believe our clients turn to us because of our dedication to placing their interests above ours, and for the strength of our processes and collective wisdom of our team. To once again be named among Barron’s Top Advisors is an honor that reinforces we are doing what we set out to do on our clients’ behalf.”

Tom is the only Barron’s recognized advisor in Lake, Sumter and Marion Counties.

Rankings and/or recognition by unaffiliated rating services and/or publications should not be construed by a client or prospective client as a guarantee that he/she will experience a certain level of results if Ruggie Wealth Management is engaged, or continues to be engaged, to provide investment advisory services, nor should it be construed as a current or past endorsement of Ruggie Wealth Management by any of its clients.  Rankings published by magazines, and others, may base their selections on information prepared and/or submitted by the recognized adviser.

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