I’ve decided to do something about financial support at work and financial wellbeing in general. Not just my own; you only have to look around the office to see how stressed out and worried everyone is. It’s hard to know if they are lying awake at night over their mortgage, or if they are worn out by the demands of their manager. If they are anything like me, it is both. Of course, what would really help our UK employees is a decent pay rise and a proper pension contribution (I am still speaking for myself here), but at least some financial support at work will help make the most of what little there is.
At the last benefits conference, I got chatting to Money Masters, a financial education provider. Now all I’ve got to do is convince Big Bad Boss and the rest of the Higher Beings that it would be a good idea to bring them in. I can often swing this sort of thing by describing the project as ‘self-funding’ or ‘cost-saving’, so I ask the provider to send me the statistics on typical attendance lost due to financial stress. Luckily, Big Bad Boss is seduced enough to get them in to pitch.
Sadly, instead of sending the guy I met at the conference, they’ve sent Ken. Ugh, he’s just a bit too slick for my liking; if I say ‘insurance’, I think you’ll know what I mean. Ken’s presentation, however, is good. He shows Money Masters can offer just what I am looking for, and he’s done enough research on our demographics to impress Big Bad Boss. All we need to do is clarify our objectives around offering financial support at work. We elect to run four courses: basics of managing money, pre-retirement planning, making the most of shares and savings, and a special session for the Higher Beings (our executive management team). Ken can tailor the content to our specific benefit plans and we will run them in house at HQ and by webinar for regional offices. It all sounds great.
Sessions and training
Of course, I sit in on the class-based training, which is run another Money Masters guy called Malcolm. The session on money basics is a bit boring really. Reduce debt first and limit spending to income, they tell us. No kidding. But our employees seem quite engaged in the session; certainly, they are taking the opportunity to ask questions on their real-life issues. To me this is oversharing, but I notice others have no such qualms.
The session on shares and savings is surprisingly useful. I give an overview of how our scheme works and Malcolm talks about the basics of tax on these benefits. He even offers tips to optimise when shares are bought and sold. Although I already know this stuff, it is good to have it laid out so clearly. I’ll be able to recycle some of their slides for our induction programme and for when I get asked tax questions.
It is the pre-retirement session that really winds me up. It was supposed to be about retirement planning for those still some time away from retirement, but it is soon clear Money Masters have their own agenda. They do a whole section on the importance of making a will. In a way I am grateful for this message reinforcement – we have big trouble getting employees to complete expression of wish details for our life insurance and pension plans. However, Money Masters also offer a will-writing service and this service is showcased rather too heavily for my liking. Now I know why they were priced so keenly. We are basically paying them to come in and sell to our employees, never mind the promise of offering financial support at work.
Malcolm goes on to the topic of setting up a Power of Attorney in case of serious illness. One employee states she is single with no dependants so she doesn’t need one, right? Phew, that saves me the embarrassment of asking that question. Malcolm the Money Master shakes his head. In that case, he says, it is all the more important to have protection in place. Really? Why? Well, you’ve guessed it: they offer a service on that too.
Independent financial advice
Eventually we get to the meat of pension planning and we are almost out of time. They quickly cover in summary the types of pension plan we have in place and the approaches to risk that could be taken. They also go into the options available at retirement such as taking cash, buying an annuity, or drawing down over time. Tell me something I don’t know. Before making such decisions, we should consult an independent financial adviser, and yes, Money Masters have an associate company that does just that. So really, we’ve learnt very little. Grr.
Finally, I sit in on the special executive session. Whenever we run training on performance management or diversity, the Higher Beings are far too busy to attend, but today we have almost the full set in the room. If there is one thing guaranteed to focus our executives’ minds, it is their own money. There is nothing particularly new in this session, just a bit more on tax planning and even greater emphasis on getting independent financial advice because executives have so much more money to earn a fee on.
All in all, I am pretty peeved. The training content has not lived up to the Money Masters promise. Worse, it reflects badly on me; although I reviewed the summary training plan and agenda for each session, but I didn’t review the actual slides and I had assumed there would be more useful content around financial support at work in the final draft. Still, Big Bad Boss came out of the executive session happy. I think our Higher Beings just like to be reminded they are special.
Next time… Candid decides on a gender.