The COVID-19 crisis poses a big challenge for employers to rationalize the benefits they offer to employees. With budgets stretched and every dollar scrutinized, tough choices loom on DC plan offerings, in addition to programs like financial wellness.

Strong Financial Wellness Uptake—But Need for a Revamp

About 65% of plan sponsors say they offer a financial wellness program today, much higher than the 43% reported in our previous ongoing survey, Inside the Minds of Plan Sponsors. Among plans with $250 million and more in assets, 74% offer such programs.

The most popular topics: retirement planning and budgeting (66%), retiree healthcare planning (59%), basic investment education (57%) and college saving solutions (57%) (Display). And now more than ever, employees may be open to additional learning about budgeting and saving to create an emergency fund that better prepares them for the future.

Employees are more engaged, too—the median participation rate in financial wellness programs is up to 50% from 30% in our last survey. However, most participants (52%) have accessed financial wellness programs through big, in-person group meetings, which now may prove challenging to do.

These programs are even more meaningful during a crisis, but today’s social distancing requires a revamp that may include online channels, small or individual teleconferencing or videoconferencing, and chatbots (software for online chats). All of this comes when participants may be tiring of lengthy online to-do lists.