Be Your Best

Calling All Volunteers

By Jon Shuman

As a country and as a society, we depend a great deal on people volunteering. One in four Americans volunteer for causes of their choice, the Corporation for National Community Service1 reports, and donate an average of 32.1 volunteer hours per year.

Whether it’s helping organize a church festival, volunteering at the local pet shelter, serving meals to needy people or supporting another good cause, people are willing to devote their time, energy and their very lives to a cause with which they identify. They just need to understand the need.

There is a parallel in the world of employee benefits: voluntary benefits. While employers are making more benefits available on a voluntary or employee-paid basis, employees are unlikely to voluntarily select and pay for those benefits unless they believe they truly need them. It’s why the take-up rate for some voluntary benefits is often low. Too often, the need is unclear, miscommunicated or all-too-often left to chance.

While most employees identify with the need for benefits such as medical or dental coverage, LIMRA’s 2017 study on voluntary benefits2 shows, many don’t think they need other benefits such as short- or long-term disability insurance, critical illness or accident coverage. It seems that some may not understand the value of these optional benefits.

For instance, 21 percent of study respondents reported that they didn’t need life insurance and 15 percent said it was not worth the money, LIMRA reported. A third didn’t believe they needed short- or long-term disability insurance and more than a quarter said the coverage wasn’t worth the cost. Thirty-nine percent said critical illness didn’t provide good value for the money, a surprising response given how many families are adversely impacted by serious illnesses such as cancer or heart disease.

Although few employees said they didn’t receive enough information about voluntary benefits to make a purchase decision, LIMRA concluded that “the widespread view that these benefits are not needed suggests that a breakdown in benefits communication may be occurring.”

It’s a breakdown that benefits brokers, agents and advisors may be able to fix with some help from providers.

Providers that are serious about the need for voluntary benefits offer a variety of resources to help educate employees. Some providers even offer tools that employees can use to determine their benefit needs. The best tools such as MassMutual’s MapMyBenefitsSM offer recommendations on the best benefit solutions based on a person’s individual financial situation and budget.

MassMutual is ramping up its educational capabilities as more employers focus on the financial wellness of their employees. MassMutual is stepping up its efforts to help educate employees about how insurance benefits may help solve individual financial problems and protect household finances. We’re systematically training dozens of retirement education specialists around the country to educate employees about how insurance benefits may complement their retirement savings and may be used to meet individual financial security needs.

While workplace benefits may help employees feel more financially secure, each employee’s personal financial situation is unique. Employees can build a foundation for financial wellness using employer-subsidized protection benefits such as healthcare insurance and then choose from a menu of additional choices to add coverages that make sense for their individual needs and budget.

Offering the right tools also helps. For instance, MassMutual’s MapMyBenefits is a holistic employee benefits guidance tool designed to help workers become more informed about their financial needs based on their individual circumstances. MapMyBenefits provides guidance to help employees prioritize their health care, protection and retirement benefits, and generally make the most of each benefit dollar based on their life stages, financial goals and financial situations. The tool is designed to help employees prioritize their benefit choices based on their needs as well as their budget.

But it starts with education about overall financial wellness and how voluntary protection benefits can help enhance workers’ financial security. Education helps establish the need and, once that happens, the volunteers will step forward.

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Jon Shuman is leader of the workplace insurance sales team for Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Co. (MassMutual).

 

 

1 Volunteering and Civic Life in America research, 2016, Corporation for National and Community Service (CNCS),https://www.nationalservice.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2016/new-report-service-unites-americans-volunteers-give-service-worth-184

Don’t Look Down, Employees’ Understanding of Benefits and Risk, 2017, https://www.limra.com/Research/Abstracts/PDF/2018/180330-01-DLD.pdf?research_id=10737456141

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