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Call For Essays: Financial Wellness

Society of Actuaries Post Retirement Needs and Risks Committee

Overview

In recent years, there has been increased attention on the concepts of financial literacy and financial wellness. This focus has come from policy-makers, academia and industry. The U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), which was created only five years ago, has produced several reports and is particularly focused on these topics. The CFPB has defined financial well-being as " a state of being wherein you:

  • Have control over day-to-day, month-to-month finances;
  • Have the capacity to absorb a financial shock;
  • Are on track to meet your financial goals; and
  • Have the financial freedom to make the choices that allow you to enjoy life."

A growing number of employers have recognized that financial well-being is a foremost concern for many of their employees. To address this need, many employers have developed and introduced financial wellness programs as part of their employee benefit offerings. Related to financial wellness programs, employers recognize that financial burdens in the working years may impede or delay adequate retirement savings.

Further demonstrating the potential for financial wellness programs, research sponsored by the Society of Actuaries (SOA) has observed that many workers do not plan well for retirement. Planning often tends to be short-term and cash flow focused rather than with comprehensive and long-term risk considerations. This research has also identified significant gaps in the process of financial decision-making and observed that much is done without thorough analysis. This had led the SOA to develop material to help people understand issues that should be considered at the time of retirement. Much of this material is consistent with observations from behavioral finance research studies which explore how decisions are made.

Given its role in preparation for retirement, financial wellness is a new topic that the SOA Committee on Post-Retirement Needs and Risks is interested in exploring for working age individuals (as opposed to children and students). With this in mind, the Committee is issuing this call for essays to gather thoughts and opinions on how to advance the state of knowledge in this area and inform future work.

The following are suggested topics for this call for essays:

Considerations of Financial Wellness

  • What are reasons to encourage awareness of financial wellness concepts? Can the case be made that it is beneficial; why or why not? Are there measures such as return on investment (ROI) to determine this?
  • What are the most important financial decisions, both pre-retirement and post retirement, that should be incorporated into the framework of financial wellness? What are key issues related to these decisions? What are factors that lead to making important decisions without a thorough review and analysis of the options?
  • What are the trade-offs associated with understanding financial decisions? Essays can describe one or more trade-offs and how they should be considered. An example of a trade-off is balancing current housing expenditures against long-term retirement savings.
  • What analysis is necessary to make sound financial decisions? What tools can be created to assist those without the needed analysis skills so they can make sound decisions? Calculation descriptions that would serve as the basis for spreadsheets and tools are encouraged.
  • What are rules of thumb used for making financial decisions and how useful are they? An example rule of thumb is saving 10% of income towards retirement.
  • What are the biggest challenges when you think about financial wellness?

Development and Implementation of Financial Wellness Programs

  • What types of programs are offered and by whom? Which types of financial wellness programs have been shown to be effective and which are not? Are there any practices that you would consider to be "best practices?"
  • What are ideas for communicating financial matters to consumers? What resources can be used to understand and deal with financial risks to improve financial wellness?
  • What is the best setting for providing financial wellness? Compare/contrast the workplace and other settings for providing financial wellness.
  • What do we know about common financial mistakes? What can be done to prevent common mistakes? Is there research to back up information on mistakes?
  • What methods can be used to overcome procrastination and behavioral inertia?
  • What can be done to encourage action on the part of various stakeholders? Ideas may focus on any combination of individuals, employee benefit sponsors, financial service companies and policymakers.
  • How can technology be used to impact/improve financial wellness and what forms would be helpful? How can software tools be evaluated for their effectiveness and suitability for various decisions? How can technology be employed to help those either not knowledgeable or uncomfortable with computers, software, etc.?
  • What are recommendations for improving retirement security in the context of financial wellness? How would these improve retirement security?

Stakeholder Perspectives: Essays may consider an issue from the perspectives of an individual or multiple stakeholders and identify the applicable considerations for each stakeholder. For this call for essays, there is particular interest in the perspective of an individual and how other parties can influence an individual's financial wellness. Examples of key stakeholders include the following entities:

  • government
  • policymakers
  • regulators
  • employers
  • employees

Related to this, discussion of program design for special groups: women, disabled persons, minorities, low income, etc., is also encouraged.


Timeline

September 1, 2016: Call for essays issued
November 1, 2016: Deadline for submission of essays
November-December 2016: Review of essays and selection by December 31, 2016.


Length and Instructions for Submission

Essays must be submitted in English with a length requirement of between 1,000 and 2,500 words. In the event that an essay exceeds 2,500 words, the essay may be declined or returned to the author with a request for further editing and resubmission. There is no requirement for formal or extensive footnoting.

Author information must be submitted with the essay and include name; credentials or designations (if appropriate); title; organization/company; e-mail address; and phone number. Please provide all author information at the beginning of the essay.

Essays will be considered for publication regardless of whether they qualify for or are chosen for an award. Essays that contain any overt political statements, commercial content, and other inappropriate material will not be accepted. Articles must comply with the SOA's antitrust policy.

Please submit your essay via e-mail by November 1, 2016 to:

Barbara Scott, Research Administrator
Society of Actuaries
e-mail: bscott@soa.org


Prizes

$10,000 in prize money has been allocated for this call for essays. The prize committee will select the leading essays and determine how to allocate the prizes. Consideration will be given to creativity, originality and the extent to which an idea could contribute to the further development of solutions.


Publication and Presentation

Depending on how many essays are received and the diversity among the topic areas, a suitable format for electronic publication and dissemination will be selected. Essays may also be presented at an SOA meeting, webcast, or other professional development event.

In addition, other venues for publication or presentation of the ideas outside of the SOA will considered. It is hoped that publication of the collected essays will further knowledge and stimulate discussion about financial wellness as well as promote future efforts in this area.


Rights Granted

The essay authors grant the Society of Actuaries the right to reprint, republish, and repackage their essay.


Questions

Please direct any questions regarding this Call for Essays to:

Steven Siegel, Research Actuary
Society of Actuaries
ph. +1-847-706-3578
e-mail: ssiegel@soa.org