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When you measure employees’ financial wellness the right way, coverage just fits better

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Today, two out of three workers live paycheck to paycheck.1 Even with health insurance, many face the prospect of unexpected medical expenses they can’t pay. And millions more may be unable to fund their retirement.

While the issues may be clear, the causes are a jumble of economic pressures and personal choices. Some may be carrying college debt, while others may be dealing with unanticipated expenses or health issues. But no matter the cause, the result is a workforce under increasing financial stress. And this despite historically high participation in employer-sponsored benefits plans.2

 

An enormous challenge. An irresistible opportunity.

So as more workers rely on their workplace as a primary source of insurance and savings—35% of workers as of 2015 up from 30% in 20113—employers need to ensure that every employee gets the most from the benefits they have. At the same time, employers recognize that assessing and improving employees’ financial wellness requires a holistic approach.

In late 2013, a team at Prudential Group Insurance responded to the situation by taking a look at it from the employees’ perspective. As Jessica Vanscavish, Prudential VP of Voluntary Products, put it, “We felt if we had a conversation about financial needs up front, we could have a much more productive conversation about solutions later.”

The team started by talking with hundreds of employees about their financial circumstances, far beyond even what their own employers knew about them.

Those detailed surveys quickly gave way to an idea. The team reasoned that if they could quantify the difference between employees’ assets and their obligations, they could index their ability to meet those obligations, especially in the event of a financial shock such as disability, premature death, or outliving their assets. Soon after, the index acquired its name—the Prutection ScoreSM.

 

Turning an idea into reality.

Once the team had the basic idea in mind, they needed to prove it could work. That meant devising an algorithm that was both mathematically accurate and predictive.

Throughout the summer of 2014, the team worked with EY Insurance and Actuarial Advisory Services. Together they refined the Prutection ScoreSM by developing and testing a model. And they fielded a national survey of over 5,000 employees to create benchmarks against the previously identified financial risks.

By the end of that year, the team was ready. It was time to share the Prutection ScoreSM with Benefits professionals.

 

A few surprises. And a lot of changes.

The response? Enthusiasm mixed with relief. For the first time, employers finally had a clearer picture of their own employees’ financial wellness. And while employees certainly knew how financially unprepared they were, they weren’t able to do much about it. But now employers could.

By the end of 2015, over 200 companies had used the Prutection ScoreSM to adjust their benefits and communications strategies to directly address employee needs. A company with a mostly young, single workforce, for instance, might be better served with more robust disability coverage. For another, it might mean protecting against out-of-pocket medical costs for employees, reducing their exposure.

The Prutection ScoreSM offers important advantages for a benefits strategy:

  • Measures how well employees are protected against an unexpected loss of income due to premature death, loss of income due to illness or injury, out-of-pocket medical and non-medical related expenses, and outliving their assets in retirement
  • Quantifies employees’ ability to meet financial obligations should an unexpected event occur
  • Identifies need gaps in employee coverage
  • Allocates benefits resources more efficiently
  • Aligns coverage to fit employee needs

The potential effect on employees and employers alike was enormous. Because, studies have shown that financially secure employees are happier, healthier, and far more productive.4

 

The first of many important steps.

Of course, increasing employee financial security is a complex undertaking. But the current Prutection ScoreSM represents an important first step toward achieving it. In fact, with knowledge gained from the Prutection ScoreSM, many employers have already begun targeting their benefits resources more efficiently and effectively.

While these initial changes can help employees to feel more financially secure, this really is just the beginning. In partnership with our clients, Prudential will continue to find new and innovative ways to enhance and protect employees’ financial wellness.

That includes the Prutection ScoreSM itself. For us, it’s always been a foundation. By building upon it, we can create even more tools for assessing and enhancing financial wellness. As Vishal Jain, VP of Strategic Initiatives for Prudential who led the team said, “It’s going to evolve.”

 

1 “Getting Paid in America,” American Payroll Association (2015).

2 Of all full-time U.S. employees who were offered workplace benefits, 81% participated, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (July 24, 2015).

3 “Ninth Study of Employee Benefits: Today & Beyond,” The Prudential Insurance Company of America (June/July 2015).

4 “Healthy, Wealthy and Wise: Retirement Planning Predicts Employee Health Improvements,” Timothy Gubler / Lamar Pierce, Olin Business School, Washington University in St. Louis (09/2014).

 

The Prutection ScoreSM is a measure of how prepared a group of employees are for the risks of (1) premature death, (2) loss of income due to an illness or injury, (3) out-of-pocket expenses related to an illness or injury, and (4) outliving assets. For each of these risks, the Prutection Score is the ratio of Funds Available to Funds Needed, which are estimated using employee demographic information, Prudential survey data and a variety of credible external industry and government sources. While the first three risks take into account actual coverage amounts employees have to help protect them against those risks (e.g., Life, Disability, CI and Accident Insurance), the Outliving Assets Risk does not (e.g., no actual employee retirement assets and deferral rates). The Outliving Assets risk does not evaluate the sufficiency of employer’s or employee’s retirement plans and does not constitute retirement advice. The Prutection Score is not intended to advise you or any of your employees what their specific financial needs might be or the exact amount of coverage any one individual might need now or in the future. The resulting scores are to be used for an entire group of employees or large demographics within a group. Results are not to be used at an individual level. Individuals should contact a financial professional regarding their personal situation. Prudential is not responsible for uses made of this information inconsistent with the description provided here.

The Prutection Score is a service mark of The Prudential Insurance Company of America, Newark, NJ.

 

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