Financial wellness is key for employee productivity

As he often does, SunTrust Banks Inc. CHRO Ken Carrig recently took part in an open forum with a group of SunTrust executives and employees to discuss the Atlanta-based organization’s Financial Fitness for Teammates program.

For Carrig, these periodic meetings — held at least quarterly — offer a way to get a sense of whether the 14-month-old initiative is on its way to accomplishing its overarching goal: to get 100 percent of SunTrust employees on the path to financial well-being by providing them with the time, tools and financial incentives to learn and practice fiscal well-being.

The moment Carrig really started to grasp the program’s true impact, however, came during an impromptu conversation with an operations employee after the aforementioned meeting.

The worker — a single mother with an autistic child — approached Carrig and said, ” ‘I was on vacation today, but when I heard you were having this meeting, I felt compelled to come in,’ ” he recalls. “She wanted to share how she had been struggling to make ends meet, and how the help she was getting through this program had gotten her started toward feeling financially secure.”

Late last year, SunTrust conducted a survey specifically for employees — teammates, in SunTrust parlance — taking part in the Financial Fitness program.

“We found that more than 75 percent of our teammates in the program feel they’re on the path to financial well-being, and they feel significantly better about their financial situations,” says Carrig.

Count the employee described above among them. The program, launched in January 2015, consists of two components designed to help SunTrust employees like her realize their financial aspirations: a learning platform, powered by South Jordan, Utah-based financial education provider 8 Pillars, and a financial contribution from SunTrust designed to help qualifying employees become better prepared for unforeseen financial emergencies.

To qualify for participation, employees must meet requirements in two phases, each of which includes “8 Pillars.” Actions taken during the first phase, for example, include opening an emergency-only savings account with a $100 deposit, creating a workable budget and developing a debt-elimination plan by completing an exercise found in the downloadable 8 Pillars Workbook.

Among other steps, the second phase entails employees taking a financial self-assessment on the SunTrust career-planning site; setting up a $20-per-month automated deposit to the aforementioned emergency savings account; volunteering four hours toward improving the financial well-being of their community; and taking their Day of Purpose, for which participating employees receive an extra paid day off to engage in activities designed to improve their own financial health and/or someone else’s.

One of the program’s chief objectives is to ensure that participating employees establish a $2,000 emergency savings fund. To help teammates hit that milestone, SunTrust contributes a match of $1,000 to teammates completing the program.

Roughly 10,000 of SunTrust’s 26,000 teammates signed up for Financial Fitness when it launched, according to the company, which paid out $3 million to nearly 7,500 eligible teammates who completed steps for the first installment toward their emergency savings accounts in the program’s first four months alone. Enrollment has since climbed to more than 15,000, and follow-up surveys have shown that 73 percent of employees taking part in the program say they now feel more in control of their finances. Such results certainly suggest the program is paying big dividends for SunTrust teammates, and the organization is reaping the benefits as well, in the form of happier, less-stressed and more productive employees.

From Concerned to Confident

Providing teammates with guidance and resources to get a better grip on their personal finances was exactly what SunTrust Chairman and CEO Bill Rogers had in mind when he approached Carrig in 2013 “to look at how we could redefine SunTrust for the future,” Carrig says.

“Bill commissioned a task force of sorts, led by three executives, including me,” he says. Along with the bank’s chief financial officer and head of marketing, Carrig — who became CHRO in June 2011, just weeks after Rogers had taken the reins as CEO — looked to SunTrust teammates to help create what would become the framework for the Financial Fitness initiative.

Carrig and his fellow executive-leadership representatives led the group of more than 20 multi-level teammates across the company “in an effort to capture all of the inputs around SunTrust’s purpose, values and guiding principles,” he says.

In speaking directly with SunTrust teammates and conducting employee surveys, Carrig and company discovered that workers needed assistance in getting their own financial houses in order if they were to properly help customers do the same.

A December 2013 engagement survey, for instance, included questions aimed at gauging how comfortable SunTrust teammates were with their current financial situations, asking employees to gauge their preparedness for a financial emergency of $2,000 or more, for example.

Overall, the poll found just 39 percent of employees reporting they were satisfied with their financial well-being. That figure, says Carrig, was very much in line with national averages, but was also “a bit surprising” for an organization that prides itself on delivering financial counsel to its customers.

“Seeing this [number] inspired our HR team and our total-rewards and engagement team to say, ‘As important as financial health is to our clients, we first need to address it with our own teammates and see what we can do to help them achieve it.’ ”

To nurture and grow the resulting Financial Fitness for Teammates program, however, SunTrust enlisted 8 Pillars, which has assisted organizations such as Intel, Chevrolet and in integrating financial health into their employee-wellness programs.

Through the partnership, SunTrust teammates gain entry to the 8 Pillars University online portal — from home or work — to take advantage of 21 different learning modules, hundreds of money management-related articles and other financial wellness tools such as an “ask the expert” section where employees can submit financial questions. Employees also have access to financial-wellness training — live and in-person as well as through webinars, DVDs, real-time streaming and mobile applications.

In making financial health a prominent part of its overall wellness efforts, SunTrust “was way ahead of the curve,” says Joe Ellis, a senior vice president at CBIZ Benefits & Insurance Services Inc. in Plymouth Meeting, Pa.

“Companies that do wellness programs in general are often looking to solve a specific problem among the workforce — a spike in a particular physical condition or use of a particular medication, for example,” says Ellis, who provides employers with advice and support on all aspects of employee-benefit plans.

“I think that rolling it out with the financial incentive to participate is a key to the success they’ve had,” he says, noting SunTrust’s $1,000 matching contribution to qualifying employees to help grow their emergency savings accounts.

“If I was a CEO or CHRO and came along to tell employees I wanted them to put $1,000 away now and then keep putting $20 away each month, but there was no match, I think a lot of employees would be inclined to say ‘no thanks.’ But here, the company was very clear in how serious it was about this program.”

Indeed, Rogers and Carrig were keen to demonstrate the organization’s resoluteness to improve teammates’ financial health.

For instance, Carrig and his department worked closely with the talent and rewards team to create a video that introduced teammates to the program via the SunTrust intranet system. Known internally as Spotlight, the intranet home page features a quick link to a page dedicated to the Financial Fitness program, where employees are directed to information on 401(k) savings, insurance offerings and other financial resources. The teams also set up a dedicated e-mailbox for employees to send questions about the program as it was being launched.

“Ken and I have also done a number of calls and meetings around the company, stressing the importance of what we were doing with this program,” says Rogers, who, along with Carrig, orchestrated a kick-off event in which they led a conference call with SunTrust’s top 250 leaders to get them up to speed on the program.

“From the start, we’ve wanted to be clear that this isn’t just an HR thing,” Rogers adds. “This is a SunTrust thing, and we expect leaders to get on board, and we expect them to help spread the word. We want to make it very apparent to our teammates that we have a high level of commitment to this program.”

Expanding the Offering

Judging by the early returns, it seems that commitment is paying off.

Retention among the 7,500 SunTrust teammates who completed the initial phase-one requirement, for instance, is more than 10 percentage points higher than their peers, according to the company, which also reports that 90 percent of Financial Fitness participants in customer-facing positions have reported that they apply learnings from the program to better meet the needs of clients “sometimes” or “most of the time.”

The results have been so good, in fact, that SunTrust is spreading the Financial Fitness message outside the company.

In February, the company took to television during the Super Bowl to debut its new “Hold Your Breath” advertisement, led by Chief Marketing Officer Susan Somersille, as a reminder to viewers that “they will miss life’s important moments if they are worried about finances,” according to SunTrust, which is also sharing research findings indicating that those who are more financially confident are three times more likely to be satisfied with their lives.

The ad also directed viewers to, where they could pledge to take action to improve their financial well-being, take a “mental-wealth” quiz and receive specific actions, tools and tips tailored to their financial needs. The ad expands on SunTrust’s onUp movement, a group that more than 77,000 consumers have joined in an effort to improve their personal finances as well as share their financial goals and actions with others. (For each individual who joins the movement, SunTrust donates one dollar to Operation HOPE, an organization geared toward financially empowering communities.)

SunTrust is also in the midst of introducing Financial Fitness for Companies, a customizable version of Financial Fitness for Teammates that will be available to the bank’s business clients.

The new program — which Rogers says is currently in the pilot stage with various companies — wasn’t part of the original plan, though.

“We didn’t start with the intention of rolling this out to other companies,” says Rogers. “But the results were so overwhelming that we felt we couldn’t not share this with our communities and our clients.”

Led by SunTrust’s wholesale banking unit, the Companies version was born after the company acquired the intellectual property behind 8 Pillars, hired 8 Pillars founder and expert Brian Ford, and established a team to tailor the program for other companies, offered at no profit to SunTrust.

It’s been “fun to watch” Carrig and HR “look like a Silicon Valley team,” applying what it’s learned in rolling out the Teammates program to helping to design the external offering, says Rogers.

For example, SunTrust employees expressed a desire to see the program’s tools and resources available via mobile device, which they now are.

“And employees of other companies will want to have mobile applications as well. So it would be crazy not to respond to consumer demand,” says Rogers, noting that the Companies program will also include templates for pre- and post-program surveys, to test employees’ financial confidence before and after completing Financial Fitness.

“We want to make it as easy as we can for other employers,” he says. “Improving employees’ financial well-being is already on the minds of CHROs and CEOs. Hopefully, we’re going to help them solve that problem.”

Always Improving

With Financial Fitness for Companies just being brought to market, and the Teammates program “still being refined,” plenty of work remains for Carrig and HR at SunTrust, he says.

Expanding on Financial Fitness’s initial goal of getting SunTrust teammates set up with emergency savings accounts, components and features are always being added and tweaked to bolster the program.

Many of the additions the HR team and total-rewards group are making have been based on employee feedback, says Katherine Brune, financial and physical well-being manager at SunTrust, whose role includes serving as 8 Pillars’ primary point of contact in building the Teammates program.

For example, “after launching the initial program, we heard from teammates that looming debt and student loans were a top concern,” says Brune. “So we created a relationship with a credit-counseling service to provide teammates with free one-on-one counseling sessions.”

In response to employee demand, SunTrust has also created more opportunities to get family members involved, such as introducing four “boot-camp” learning sessions to provide teammates with “an alternate way of learning that also allows them to do deeper dives with their families,” says Brune, noting that each of these sessions ends with an exercise that requires employees and family members to take an immediate course of action toward better financial health.

Program participants are also encouraged to share their success stories “to inspire other teammates,” says Brune. For instance, she recalls a Financial Fitness participant and SunTrust teammate of roughly 15 years, who took the aforementioned course with her fairly free-spending husband.

“He’s spending more wisely now, and they’ve even started a vacation account, to fund fun trips, along with their savings,” says Brune.

Another teammate, who attended one of the boot-camp sessions with her husband, wrote a testimonial describing it as “absolutely what I needed to get refocused on maintaining a stricter budget that I use every day,” adding that she “loved” the option of listening from home, which enabled her spouse to join in.

Teammates submit such testimonials to HR, which the organization disseminates to all employees on a roughly quarterly basis.

Carrig, who has completed 8 Pillars and has also sent his three millennial-age children through the program, has read many similar testimonials, and views them as a sign that Financial Fitness is making progress toward fulfilling its primary purpose.

“Being in HR, I’ve gotten my share of ‘nasty grams’ from teammates over the years,” says Carrig with a laugh. “But, a year in, we continue to get ‘love letters’ from employees saying how much this program has helped them in reaching their financial goals.”

By Mark McGraw from HR Executive Online Magazine

insurance docs

What insurance documents do you need copies of in an emergency?

We received such a positive response to our previous article detailing the medical related items needed in an emergency that we decided to follow it up with a second part: insurance documents needed in case of an unexpected life event. These events range from auto accidents, floods, storms, theft, and death of a loved one, just to name a few. After one of these situations, most people don’t possess their full mental faculty and may even be grieving. The last thing on their minds is dealing with an insurance company. Being prepared now and storing these documents in a safe and easily accessible location will greatly reduce time, headache, and possibly save you money. So, here are some of the most important insurance documents you will need.

  1. Homeowner’s/property insurance: Do you know where your policy is located right now? Have you ever tried to make a claim after a pipe flooded and ruined your electronics or carpet? Some insurance adjusters are better than others and more helpful. Make sure you know what is covered in your policy and what the insurance company is required to do. They will try to limit their exposure and knowing your rights and coverage limits will be critical.
  2. Photos/receipts of your tangible items: This is closely related to your homeowner’s and/or rental policy. Did you have a $3,000 turntable that was destroyed by a fire? How are you going to prove that it was worth that amount? The burden is on you. Again, an adjuster will have to make this determination. The more proof you have, the more likely you will get full reimbursement. If you don’t have a receipt(like me who usually loses them) make sure you take photos and store them in separate and safe location like your DocuVital account. It doesn’t do any good to have copies of your information in the same place you live-i.e-a flood or fire or storm can destroy it just the same. Redundancy of your information is critical, just like a computer engineer backs up her information in a separate cloud location.
  3. Rental insurance policy: See # 1 above. More and more people today, especially Millenials, do not own their homes but prefer the flexibility of renting. Even the same, you will need a rental policy to protect your personal belongings. Your landlord doesn’t cover your items in the event of damage.
  4. Life insurance policy: We cannot state how important it is to store this information in a safe place. If a loved one dies, you will be suffering extreme grief. However, your life will need to go on and you likely will need the financial support from the life insurance policy immediately. Bills don’t stop. Make sure you know where the policy is located, that it is paid and up to date, and that it has sufficient coverage to protect you. These are the basic items that we all should have stored in a secure location that is easily accessible anytime, from anywhere. Your DocuVital account can handle all of this for you. Taking these simple steps now will protect you and your family down the road.
medical docs

What medical items do you need in an emergency?

I frequently get asked the question by people, “What are the most important things I need to have backed up and stored in case of an emergency or unexpected life event?” It is too late to compile the items once you have gone through a medical emergency, storm, fire, flood, theft, accident, death of a loved one, etc. So what are the things you need stored in advance? While the list is too long to discuss here and is unique to each person depending on their age, stage of life, and financial situation, there are some very basic items that almost everyone shares in common. In this article I will focus first on the most important medical related items every person should have stored in a separate, secure location in case of an emergency.

  1. Health Insurance card and ID’s.-You don’t want to get hit with unexpected hospital bills simply because you did not have proof of insurance. As an attorney I have helped far too many clients with erroneous billing issues. It is a nightmare.
  2. List of medications.-In time of a medical crisis, it is crucial that the physicians diagnose and treat you based on all the medical information possible and knowing what medicines you are taking will determine what other medications you can be prescribed.
  3. Copy of living will.-Should you become incapacitated and unable to communicate, the last thing you want is your family to fight over your end of life care and wishes. Make sure your wishes(advance directives) are explicitly spelled out and that this document can be located easily. For example, would you want to be kept alive on a breathing machine? Families have been destroyed over these difficult decisions and ultimately the fate will rest in the hands of a judge, not you, if you did not plan ahead.
  4. Medical history.-Have you had a recent back surgery? Do you have a herniated disc? Do you have diverticulitis? The quicker a doctor can locate this information, the quicker he or she can treat you effectively.
  5. Family members and contact information.-If you have an accident or medical emergency and you are alone, you want the medical professionals to contact your loved ones asap. I recommend keeping a list of those relatives and/or friends who you want to be notified.

These are the basic items that we all should have stored in a secure location that is easily accessible anytime, from anywhere.  Your DocuVital account can handle of this for you.  Taking these simple steps now will protect you and your family down the road.

Financial institutions embrace FinTechs

As #FinTech #startups continue to make progress, traditional financial institutions have become more open to working with FinTechs as partners, rather than competitors. According to the Capgemini 2017 World FinTech Report, 76.7% of executives agree that FinTechs provide partnership opportunities.

The “hidden” costs of grief in the workplace

The Grief Recovery Institute conducted a landmark study of the “hidden” annual costs of grief in the workplace in 2003. The findings were quite astonishing. The major causes of employee grief in order of severity are: death of a loved one, divorce, family crisis, financial loss, death of extended family or friends, major lifestyle alteration, loss of a pet, finally all other causes. “Grief is the normal and natural emotional reaction to the change or end in any familiar pattern of behavior. Within those normal reactions exists the possibility of the entire range of human emotions.

Traditional thinking in the workplace is that financial stress is the major cause of grief and stress. However, death of a loved one is by far the greatest issue for employees. All other causes above are far behind in their cost to employers. The total annual cost of employee grief to US employers was $75 billion in 2003 and death of a loved one accounted for $37.6 billion alone. It is more than double the cost of all the other causes of grief combined! When adjusted to 2017 dollars, death of a loved one taxes employers more from $75-$100 billion annually. In fact, the costs of grief are often hidden under the statistics. For example, the Council on Alcoholism estimates that alcohol abuse contributes annual costs to industry in excess of $276 billion. What that statistic omits is the fact that the vast majority of alcohol relapses occur as the direct result of the death of a loved one or a divorce or other romantic break-up. So the cost of losing a loved one likely far exceeds $100 billion per year.

85% of management level decision makers indicate that their decision making ranked from Very Poor to Fair in the weeks or months following the grief incident that affected them. 60% of those responding Fair, Poor or Very Poor, indicate that some of their decisions definitely had direct negative financial impact on their company.

The affect of the grief incident are even much greater among employees with a physical job.  90% of those in physical jobs [i.e. not white collar] indicate a much higher incidence of physical injuries due to reduced concentration in the weeks or months following the grief incident [Compared to their ability to concentrate prior to the major loss.] 91% indicate that the accident or injury could have been avoided if they were better able to concentrate. This will translate into more workplace injuries and thus higher workers’ compensation premiums and settlements, further hurting the company bottom line and the employees, physically.

To a great degree the costs are unnecessary and avoidable. They could be substantially mitigated by heightened awareness and some simple, practical shifts in communication. The reduced cost of grief can be accomplished without great expense. Giving employees tools to plan ahead so that they can deal with their grief more effectively can greatly reduce the effects of their grief. As Human Resource Technology(HRTech) startups develop solutions for employers, it will be incumbent for HR managers to stay abreast of the evolving landscape and select those technologies that can ease the grief for their employees and also help the company’s bottom line.

Majority of world is using a FinTech solution

50.2% of people worldwide have already started using a FinTech provider aside from their traditional financial institution for banking, insurance, payments, or investment management. -Capgemini 2017 World Fintech Report


Financial industry, baby boomers, and fintech, the next step.

No issue looms larger for the financial advice industry than demographics and the aging of the baby boomers.

Over the next several decades, the biggest and wealthiest generation in U.S. history will transfer roughly $30 trillion in assets to their Gen X and millennial children, and if studies are accurate, most of those children will promptly fire their parents’ advisors.  At the peak, between 2031 and 2045, 10 percent of total wealth in the United States will be changing hands every five years. Capitalizing on these intergenerational shifts in wealth will be critical for the long-term success of wealth management firms.

“Studies regularly show that when wealth passes to another generation, in the majority of cases, the heirs change financial advisors,” said Gauthier Vincent, head of Deloitte’s U.S. Wealth Management practice. “The relationship between assets, asset owners and financial advisors is unraveling before our eyes.”

This tidal wave is approaching like a tsunami sitting hundreds of miles offshore. You know it’s out there but many in the financial industry have not taken sufficient steps yet to weather this storm. Understandably, most are focused on generating revenue now and servicing higher net worth clients like the baby boomers. The financial advisory sector has already seen significant disruption from the fintech startups dominating the “robo advisory” space. Companies like Betterment, Wise Banyan, and LearnVest have been targeting the GenX and Millenials who were traditionally avoided by the more established advisory companies.

“Indeed, firms in all corners of the industry — from banks and wire-house brokerages to asset managers and even insurance companies — have seen the light. They are either building out digital-advice platforms, as Charles Schwab and Vanguard have done, buying them like BlackRock and Northwest Mutual Insurance did, or partnering with online advisors, as UBS recently did with SigFig. The RIAs, most of whom can’t make the investments, are accessing the fintech tools through custodians such as Schwab, Fidelity and TD Ameritrade.”

Those companies that don’t embrace fintech technology to attract the next generation of clients will likely fall behind and not survive as the last of the baby boomer clients pass away. Finding innovative ways to stay ahead of this generation wealth transfer will be paramount to succeeding. Creating engagement and value for the adult heirs of the baby boomers is critical to keeping them as clients. I do think the best way for large and often slow moving financial service firms to accomplish this is to actively work with fintech companies who are far more effective adapting to the consumer needs and putting products in the marketplace.

Tools that allow the parent and adult children to interact via an online or mobile application where the heirs see the value of what the advisor is providing to the family.  For example, DocuVital stores critical documents and information that the children will need when wrapping up the affairs of their parents. White labeled or co-branded solutions will insure the advisors stay in the mind of the consumer when they are using the products.

Inaction and indecisiveness by the financial advisory sector will surely cause significant damage and some companies will not survive if they fail to proactively mitigate the wealth transfer issue.

employee benefits

What’s ahead for 2017 and employee benefits?

Predicting or forecasting about uncertain events isn’t based on extrasensory perception or an informed guess. And it’s usually not a scientific explanation. Most of the time, predicting trends is based on experience or knowledge. In the case of employee benefits, it’s more about understanding the industry and what the players in the industry — including the workforce, employers, brokers and providers — are saying and doing.

Today’s diverse workforce, coupled with employees’ desire to choose benefits that are important to them, means that companies are recognizing the role that nontraditional benefits can play in distinguishing their employee benefits package. There’s no doubt that traditional voluntary benefits that supplement core benefits are important. However, with a workforce dominated by millennials — who clearly want it ‘their way’ — the availability of nontraditional benefits provide a way for employers to engage employees in all generations.  In broaden the horizons of wellness, employers need to focus plans not only on the physical and nutritional aspects, but also to expand into mental soundness and financial stability.

Craig Schmidt, senior wellness consultant at EPIC, has seen a strong focus around three main areas: mindfulness, stress and financial wellness.

“This is a different trend than what has been done in the past with regard to traditional wellness programs where the industry would identify a chronic disease risk and focus their efforts solely on nutrition, activity and … avoiding a chronic condition, instead of living a healthy lifestyle and improving healthy behaviors,” Schmidt says.

This year, wellness consultants maintained a growing focus on financial wellbeing. Some approached these programs by offering debt assistance programs, many directed toward assisting with student loan debt. This approach not only helps the employee with paying off a loan that could very well last decades, but it also increases retention of millennial employees who have been known not to stay with a single company for long periods of time.

Financial wellness and college debt “is a growing concern and employers want to assist and help employees be better fiscally, but at this time its uncharted territory that we don’t know what the results of the programs are or what employees are looking for on an individual basis,” Schmidt says.

Expanding mental wellness

In an attempt to break the stereotypes and stigmas around mental health, many wellness consultants are making a push to encourage the use of mental and social assistance programs like EAPs, in the workplace. Emily Noll, national director of wellness solutions at CBIZ, says more employers are seeking mindfulness and resiliency programs on a regular basis to reduce stress and improve employee engagement.

“CEOs and CFOs are paying attention to the data on the benefits of meditation practice, yoga and other techniques that yield better focus, more creativity and make their employees better equipped to solve problems and avoid workplace conflict,” Noll says. “One HR director told me that when she boarded the train to head home in the evenings she would doze off, but after participating in a weekly at-work mindfulness program, she felt more energized during her work day and was alert even on her commute home.”

Looking ahead to 2017

When Schmidt looks ahead to the coming year, he predicts there will be more focus on mental, emotional and mindfulness in the workplace. “I see there being a focus on engaging employees in their work, and mindfulness will play a large role,” Schmidt says.

On top of an increased awareness of mental and emotional need, Schmidt says there will be more attention on corporate culture, with companies focusing on creating an environment where employees want to be at work.

“Millennials are known to be the job hoppers and millennials now make up a large portion of the workforce. Retention of these employees is going to be an important focus in the battle for talent,” he says. “Wellness will be a difference-maker to this group, as worth, value and well-being is an important focus for millennials.”

Noll agrees with Schmidt’s prediction of an emphasis on corporate culture, saying companies will need to provide more training for leaders and managers on how to improve culture, well-being and engagement. “Managers have a significant influence on their employees and developing high performing teams — team members need to be well to perform at their best,” Noll says.

Are you ready for 2017??


Why Millenials need a plan too…

Much has been made of the challenges of managing the different generations in the workplace, from baby boomers to Gen-X’ers to millenials. Without going into all the stereotypes usually associated I wanted to address one stereotype I found prevalent as I began working in the human resource space with DocuVital: that millenials don’t have very many possessions to worry about and thus they don’t need to plan ahead in case of an emergency or death.

For example, as I meet millenials they commonly state that since they don’t own a house, have little, if any, in a 401k, don’t own a car(think UBER), and have no other significant assets, that they don’t need to make a will or do any type of end of life planning. When I dig a little deeper into the conversation with them and their life, it becomes readily apparent that they have much more than they realized.

Millenials are more mobile than previous generations. A new study by LinkedIn found that young people really do change jobs a lot more than their parents did. The new normal is for millennials to jump jobs four times in their first decade out of college. That’s nearly double the bouncing around the generation before them did. What does this mean? If they acquired any benefits such as 401k, life insurance, company equity, etc., this needs to be well documented with a third party source so that if something happens to this person, their family can easily find these benefits. Otherwise significant assets can be lost and end up in state coffers.

Millenials are not just more mobile with jobs but also with travel. Millennials can afford to add extra time to their business trips, and an Expedia study found that Millennials are 62% more likely than older employees to extend a business trip into a holiday. Others may turn their business trip into a “bleisure” holiday by making the most of any downtime, using it for leisure activities or simply seeking local culture. More travel means that having secure and independent backup of documents such as passports, immigration/visa papers, wills, identifications photos, etc., becomes even more important. Imagine being stuck in a foreign country losing a passport? Having access to backup copies in an online solution can greatly reduce your problems in this situation.

Millenials are less likely to be homeowners, car owners or parents than their predecessors, but they do lead in one category: Pets. Three-fourths of Americans in their 30s have dogs, while 51 percent have cats, according to a survey released by research firm Mintel. That compares to 50 percent of the overall population with dogs, and 35 percent with cats. What does this mean? In case of an emergency or death, someone needs to be able to take care of the pets either temporarily or permanently. Millenials are obsessed with their furry loved ones and thus the need to protect them when they are gone is very strong although my experience has shown few have done anything about that. Just like the conversation parents must have to decide who will take care of their children, millenials who are pet owners must be educated to do the same. After all, most millenials consider their pets as their children.

There are many other non traditional benefits also that millenials have accrued in large numbers such as credit card rewards, airline miles, hotel points, etc. These all need to be documented and stored so that they can be passed on to loved ones. Helping your millenial employees or clients with these issues will have a big impact on their life.


Religion and end of life…Do your doctors know your decisions?

Talking about death is an emotionally fraught and daunting topic, and we applaud the growing number of congregations that are giving their members tools and resources to have such conversations with their families and loved ones around end-of-life preferences.

But as important as these discussions are for families, they are only half the story when it comes to end-of-life planning.

It is also crucial that health care providers are prepared to have end-of-life conversations with their patients, especially when religion plays a role in the patient’s health care decision-making.

To be sure, the “faith factor” is not uncommon. In the United States, a country where 89 percent of people believe in God and 78 percent say that religion is important to their lives, religion will inevitably emerge in health care.

In fact, one study has actually found that 41 percent of patients can think of a time when religion influenced one of their health care decisions. The impact of religion on medical treatment can involve anything from patients’ need to have a kosher, halal or vegetarian meal when in the hospital, to their requests to coordinate medical procedures around prayer times.

The most profound intersection between religion and health care, however, may be in end-of-life care.

The truth is that religion can influence the procedures patients want to receive, or reject. Are they comfortable starting artificial nutrition, hydration and respiration, for example? Or removing these supports once they are in place? Do they accept brain stem death as the moment of death? Or do they want a religious figure to be involved in the end-of-life decision-making process?

Religious beliefs may affect patients’ beliefs about the afterlife and help frame their illness in a context that medical professionals need to understand.

And yet, health care providers are often ill-equipped to discuss religion when it does come up, with one study finding that 20 percent of medical residents reported being unprepared to care for patients whose religious beliefs affected their treatment.

This discomfort, coupled with doctors’ lack of training around end-of-life care, means that important conversations about how religion affects patients’ end-of-life decisions simply never happen.

Take, for instance, the story of Mohammad Kochi, a Muslim who immigrated to the U.S. from Afghanistan. Kochi was diagnosed with gastric cancer and his doctors recommended a continuous infusion pump for chemotherapy. When Kochi refused the continuous infusion pump, his doctors never asked why; instead, they assumed that his religious beliefs had led him to decline all medical treatment because he believed it was his time to die.

In reality, Kochi refused the pump because he wouldn’t be able to follow his practice of praying five times a day if something broke his skin, which the pump would do. (In some cases, religious authorities say that an open cut or bleeding can impede a Muslim’s fitness to pray.)

He would have accepted other kinds of chemotherapy, but they were not offered. This miscommunication, and the health care team’s failure to ask Kochi how his beliefs influenced his decision-making, led to a significant and costly delay in his care.

It doesn’t have to be this way. But it can only change if systematic, preparatory training is provided to medical students and residents, to nurses and nurses’ aides — training that goes beyond a one-off course in cultural competence.

They need expertise in taking a spiritual history — i.e., asking patients appropriate questions about whether they have religious or spiritual beliefs or practices that may impact their care — as a routine part of taking a patient’s history.

Even when patients don’t know right away what their care might entail or how religion may be relevant for them, asking these initial questions can open the door to further conversations and make the patient more comfortable voicing their beliefs if and when they become relevant. The result can lead to better care every day, and certainly as life draws to a close.

But clinicians need to learn even more. Like recognizing signs of spiritual distress so they can refer patients to pastoral care for spiritual support and guidance.

These should be skill sets that we expect from our providers, skill sets they are trained to execute, without ever imposing their own beliefs on their patients.

Today, we do see more and more organizations and communities, including religious communities, promote open, honest and proactive conversations around end-of-life preferences.

As that trend continues, it is important to make sure that health care providers are also prepared. They need the training and resources to ask about a dimension of many people’s lives that influences their health care choices, and then incorporate their patients’ religious beliefs and practices into a plan for care.

As patients and family members of patients, we should expect nothing less.

Great piece from:(Eliza Blanchard is assistant director for Workplace and Health Care Programs at the Tanenbaum Center for Interreligious Understanding)