How advisors can increase engagement through financial wellness

Providing external motivation is a great way to increase participation as people are unlikely to start something new unless they see immediate benefit. (Photo: freshidea / Adobe Stock)

Consultants who offer a financial wellness program that engages plan participants can differentiate themselves from their competitors and cement long-term relationships with plan sponsors.

Because retirement is only one aspect of overall financial health, the roles of counselors are changing. Plan sponsors are looking for consultants who deliver more value.

Kris Alban Kris Alban is executive vice president of iGrad, a San Diego-based financial technology company that provides financial wellness solutions with artificial intelligence to employers, financial institutions, colleges and universities.

Related Topics: We Can Do Better: Making Financial Wellbeing a Must in the Workplace

Improving participants’ financial health adds value by reducing the financial burden on employees – a proven contribution to absenteeism, health problems and decreased productivity.

Engagement is one of the biggest problems with financial wellness programs. A recent Bank of America survey conducted by Merrill Lynch found that only a third of employees take part in a financial wellness program when it is offered.

Financial wellness programs should include the following components:

Interactive tools

When it comes to personal finance, participants who know the least about the subject often feel they know the most. This effect, known as the Mahn-Krüger effect, occurs when people don’t know what they don’t know.

In other words, if they haven’t heard of compound interest or if they don’t understand how it works in saving for retirement, they don’t know how little they know about it. Only when they can see that they are deficient in an area do they see a need for more information.

A financial wellness program with compelling components such as behavioral assessments will attract and engage participants. Other valuable interactive tools include retirement and home affordability analyzers, student loan snapshots, budgeting tools, and more.

Information as needed

Not only are plan participants unaware that they are running a deficit in a particular financial area, but they are also unlikely to look for information until they need it.

For example, one in four Americans does not have enough emergency savings, and 59% were unable to meet a $ 1,000 emergency with savings. However, studies show that people are unlikely to think about emergency saving until they need it.

To increase engagement, it is important to choose a financial wellness program that can be configured to meet the needs of all plan participants at all levels of financial health and at all stages of life.


Providing external motivation is a great way to increase participation as people are unlikely to start something new unless they see immediate benefit. An incentive like money or prizes is a tangible, immediate benefit.

Commitment to financial wellness programs that offer incentives is significantly higher than for those that do not. An Enrich case study showed that an incentive program significantly increased engagement:

  • Sessions per month: 50% more
  • Page views per month: 258% more
  • Pageviews per session: 139% more
  • Average time per session: 75% more


Studies show that gamification increases participation and motivation, and four in five employees find programs with gamification more attractive.

Incentives and gamification go hand in hand, so finding a financial wellness program that offers both is critical to getting the best possible return on investment for your customers. Look for financial wellness programs with gamification elements like Achievements, Badges, Bonuses, Certificates, Countdowns, Leaderboards, and Points.

Offer what the participants want

One of the biggest difficulties with financial wellness engagement is that plan sponsors don’t always know what the participants want. The 2019 Workplace Benefits Report found that employers want financial wellness programs that focus on budgeting, retirement planning, health insurance, and general benefits.

However, the report found that employees want programs that focus on:

  • Steps to Get Financially Free
  • Save for the future
  • personalization
  • Financial assessments
  • Ability to track and measure progress

If your client’s financial wellness program isn’t focused on the right things, its participants are less likely to get involved.

Consultants can help sponsor planning, define their financial wellness goals, and encourage the use of surveys to determine what participants in a financial wellness program want and need.

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