Four Seasons Financial Education Releases Guide to Understanding Financial Wellness Vendors

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New guide meant to help benefits and wellness professionals better understand the various types of financial wellness program vendors

Financial Education Without a Sales Pitch

we're seeing new companies launching vastly different services today, all under the heading of 'financial wellness programs'

As wellness programs continue to become more commonplace in American businesses, so too does the financial wellness component. Today, 70 percent of employers have wellness programs in place*. Among large US employers, 93 percent intend to focus on the financial well-being of their employees^. According to the Four Seasons Financial Education (FSFE) 2015 Financial Wellness Survey, 60 percent of employers that offer wellness programs already have a financial component.

With growing demand for workplace financial wellness programs comes a growing number of vendors that provide such services. However, unlike benefits such as group retirement plans and group health plans, financial wellness programs are less standardized.

"With a 401(k) plan you generally know who does what, such as the TPA, administrator, and plan advisor." says Travis Freeman, president of FSFE. "However, we're seeing new companies launching vastly different services today, all under the heading of 'financial wellness programs'".

FSFE's definition of a financial wellness program vendor is one that "promotes behavior change through the adoption of personal financial planning using a combination of education, motivation and accountability, delivered without bias through technology and/or certified professionals."

According to FSFE, most "financial wellness vendors" fall into one of the following eight categories below. Most do not offer financial wellness programs, but instead offer services that support a financial wellness program.

1) Comprehensive - The traditional financial wellness vendor following the definition above. Focuses on long-term behavior change using both technology and professionals.

2) Technology-only - Typically a web-based vendor with online tools and content for individual users.

3) Professional-only - Typically offer group or individual education for free and are available for hire at a cost to the employee.

4) Financial literacy - Focuses on education, but not necessarily wellness.

5) Hotline - Allows employees to call as-needed for financial guidance. Often included within an employee assistance program. Typically does not include proactive education.

6) Lenders/Banks - May offer education in addition to workplace or institutional lending and banking products.

7) 401(k) Advisors - May either bundle an outside vendor into their services or offer educational programs on topics besides retirement. If bundled, may follow traditional definition.

8) Non-profit - May range from professionals donating time to grant-sponsored education. Note - some non-profits may be a cover to allow professionals easier entry into corporations to sell proprietary products. Caution is advised.

FSFE will continue to monitor and update its vendor guide as new vendors are launched and new developments occur in the industry.

About Four Seasons Financial Education
Four Seasons Financial Education provides workplace financial wellness and education services to companies throughout the US to help them improve their bottom line. Since 1986, we have helped corporate America increase workplace productivity by focusing on the most important asset of the company - the employees. Consulting services provided through RFG Advisory Group, a Registered Investment Adviser.

*SHRM 2015 Employee Benefits Survey.
^2015 Aon Hewitt survey of 250 employers.

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Anna Fruits
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