Jack Sharry: Hello, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of WealthTech on Deck. Today we will speak with a wealth tech on deck friend veteran. Some was on our podcast about a year ago. She’s going to provide an update on what the American worker is thinking, feeling and wanting and doing. So today we’re joined by Jacque Reardon. Jacque is vice president and head of client experience for retirement insurance 529 and wealth management at Franklin Templeton. Jacque, welcome back to WealthTech on Deck.
Jacquelyn Reardon: Thanks, so great to be back.
Jack Sharry: Good to have you. Jacque, thank you for sending this your survey results from the Franklin Templeton Voice for the American workers study some of the info was not surprising some was very surprising, although it was interesting, especially for those of us who pay attention to or trying to understand the American worker and what they want and need, especially if they have been going through so much as we all have over the past many years. And certainly this year was no different, just different. Let’s set the table by you describing the research you’ve been conducting with the Harris poll for the past three years. So we have an understanding of what y’all study and how you go about it.
Jacquelyn Reardon: Great. So the voice of the American worker research study, as you mentioned, Jack, we conduct in partnership with the Harris Poll. And this is actually the third year, we’ve conducted this research, which was born out of an advisory group that we put together back in 2020, a small group of industry experts, so think retirement plan advisors, ERISA specialists, etc. That really we go to for advice on how, you know, what should we be thinking about, from a solution standpoint? How can we best help the industry and supporting an enhanced and better retirement for everyone in the future, and this is one of the first topics that came out of that advisory group. It’s exciting that now we have three years of research. So we’re able to track some trends. And that was the whole point of this so that we could provide a data set for the industry. I love how you put that there’s some things that are surprising, and some that are not even the things that are not surprising, have long been anecdotes for everyone. Right. So I think it was just important for us to provide some backup and confirmation of some of the things that we’ve been really thinking as an industry that we assume participants feel we assume employees feel important for us to confirm that which I know that we’ll cover today. What’s interesting, too, since we’re three years in, we’re seeing some very evergreen trends. So you know, some of those have been that folks are really, really interested in improving wellbeing across all areas, physical, mental, financial, but there’s still a lot of roadblocks that exists. And we believe based on this research, that employers can really play a huge part in helping them address some of those roadblocks. And then year over year, we still see that financial independence is like such a North Star for everyone. This traditional concept of retirement just doesn’t really jive with folks anymore. And really seeking financial independence, as we all know, is very individualized for everyone. That’s going to mean something different to me something different to you something different to everyone listening today. So how do we really align tools and resources to think about that, and then I think, you know, contextually, it’s been a busy year in the markets economically. Even this week, right? We’ve seen market volatility, we’ve seen market drawdown, we’ve seen inflation at a four decade Hi, you know, we have another program where we track sort of indicators against possible recession, and that’s blinking red. So if you think about the context that participants and employees are sort of like living with on a day to day basis, you can imagine that the findings that we’ll talk about today are really very much rooted in those contexts. And then also, the workforce sort of trends have shifted to so this concept of the great resignation that we talked about so much last year, in our podcast, it’s over. The great resignations over we found that 66% of people said, actually this environment makes me want to stay with my employer. Not only that, we see people going back, so who knows what will kind of deem or tag that trend, the great boomerang as a great return or whatever. But we’re seeing folks go back to their old employer or they see colleagues going back to an old employer. So you know, the market is shifting economically, it’s shifting people’s stress, which we’ll talk about is shifting and the workforce is shifting, but all in all, those evergreen trends remain consistent. People really, really are seeking financial independence and they need some help in addressing all areas of well-being.
Jack Sharry: So we’re going to take a look at those three and just summarize based on what you had send me and what you just said, but we’ll dig into each one of them. And also my senses are very much interrelated. So the first is the current economic climate. What we’ve been going through we’re doing this in mid-March, we’ve just the whole banking crisis that is sweeping the world is underway as we speak. So the current economic climate that could have been a month ago with just a little bit different set of topics, but is accelerating financial distress, people are feeling more stressed and shifting back to what they do about their retirement. The second is that American workers feel the impact of the current economic climate on their retirement plans. And what do I do about it? When do I retire? Do I go back to work? Do I keep working? Do I get a second job? Who knows what well, we’ll ask you to fill us in on that. And the third is that the American workers seeking more personalized support from employers, we’ll talk about all three. And maybe just to dig right in when we talk about the first one. The current economic climate is accelerating financial stress and shifting back milestones like retirement, this is how employees feel. So talk about that if you would.
Jacquelyn Reardon: Great. Yeah. And I think, you know, this week’s been crazy. But last week was crazy. And last month was crazy. So I’m sure even if somebody’s listening to this a month from now, things probably will not have calmed down. Much. So I think really understanding the current climate, and making sure that we put that context to how employees are feeling. Our findings showed that 66% of respondents admitted that they’re feeling the negative effects of the current economic environment. And we wanted to dig in a little bit to what does that mean? How is that showing up for them? They responded by saying, I feel really stressed out about the future, I’m having trouble sleeping. I feel like some of my personal relationships are strained. And I’m feeling distracted at work. And that one, I always think is a really interesting one. So 22% of people admitted to feeling distracted at work that was increased for the youngest generation Gen Z 30%. But those are just the people who are admitting to feeling distracted at work. So I would argue there’s probably more who are feeling that. So that’s where we start to see that this concept of well-being is really all in one. So it’s not that you could feel stressed about your finances and not the silo and you can button that up and leave that at home and then go to work and be totally well balanced person, right? People are bringing that financial stress, which they’re telling us in no uncertain terms that they’re feeling. They’re bringing that with them to work every day, and it’s showing up. So I think it’s important context for employers to think about maybe some feel like, hey, that’s their business. I don’t want to intrude, but it’s becoming everyone’s business, if that stress is kind of bubbling over into other areas. I mentioned earlier, sort of anecdotally, you know, there’s things that we’ve all assumed we wanted to ask them questions to really prove some anecdotes around that sort of spillover.
Jack Sharry: So Jackie, as I talked to so many different people, including two of my adult children this past week, in their 30s in the tech sector, nervous as all get out as we’re speaking here, a lot of stuff going on with Silicon Valley Bank, and all that came off of that and concerned but they had a reductions in force. They were both survivors, but concerned about all that and wondering about their career and what they should do. And that stress you talked about. I also had a conversation with a well-known executive who will go unnamed, but someone we all have read about or heard about, it’s a friend in the business. And his portfolio, He’s now retired, his portfolio got slammed, because he happens to be strong in the financial sector, since that’s what he knows. And that’s where he’s more heavily invested. And he got, because I asked him, How are you doing? Just the normal? How’s it going? And what came back was, oh, I’m doing fine. He’s no, I’m not. I’m doing terrible. You know, he, the habit was, yeah, everything’s fine. Yeah. And he says, no, no, I’m not fine. Thanks. They’re not okay, I just got slammed over the past week or so. So it both ends, whether you’re 30 something or you’re, you know, 50-60 something, and you thought you made it, there’s a lot of uncertainty. So comment on that, if you would just that unsettled. And these are people that are effective, successful, you know, done good, doing well, but also shook.
Jacquelyn Reardon: Exactly, yeah. And I think it just really goes to reconfirm this concept of well-being right. And, you know, I think you and I have talked about in the past that maybe that word is overused, or whatever we see it or not, but it’s a really important concept to think about, especially when you think about the different components of it. And for us, you know, our research, the things that we publish, we always think about it as like your physical well-being, your mental well-being and your financial well-being. And, you know, we know, I think in our own lives, and how we operate, that those things aren’t in silos, and they affect each other. So even if we don’t even talk about finances, and you think about, you know, if you run into a health issue, you’re gonna go to work, it is top of mind and maybe it’s your know you’re thinking about it, or if there’s something going on in your personal life, it’s going to spill into other areas. So I think it’s totally realistic to assume that people are really absorbing what’s happening right now and they’re starting to let that stress spill over into other areas. And I think What, you know, there’s a key opportunity there for employers, even just to check in and say, Hey, we acknowledge what’s happening, we get it, we know you’re probably stressed and say just so you know, we have some resources. Maybe they haven’t been relevant until now. But we have them available to you, and why don’t you leverage them? Let us know what you need. I think sometimes it’s as simple as that and acknowledgement that people are going through that stress versus trying to pretend like, Oh, that’s a different part of your life. I maybe I should just leave that alone.
Jack Sharry: Yeah. Yeah. Actually, we’ll talk some more about this. And your third point, in terms of what as an industry, we need to do whether or not we’ll talk more about that, because that’s I think, I know what Franklin Templeton does, what advisor engine and one of your affiliates does, it’s what LifeYield does, what so many are doing is trying to figure out how to help. But we’ll talk more about that. That’s, I think, vitally important. And we see it across the industry, as I know you do. So the second observation or finding was the American worker, is not only feeling the current economic climate and the impact and all that, but it’s impacting how they view and operate their retirement plan. So tell us about that.
Jacquelyn Reardon: Yeah, I think what’s interesting in our findings is that, you know, we talked about how stress people are affecting all different areas of their life. And you probably wouldn’t judge folks, if they said, I’m going to go hide in the cave and wait for this to be over. But in fact, we’re seeing the opposite. People are actually getting involved, and they’re leaning in, and they, they want to take a more active role. I heard someone say recently, don’t let a good crisis go to waste. And it almost feels like that’s the case. Right? So maybe there’s a key opportunity here for us to take a look at the behaviors that employees and participants are taking, so that we can kind of match and align some of the resources we’ll talk about later. So one of the key things we’re finding is that people are delaying retirement. And we were very specific about how we asked this question we said before the current economic climate that we’re in now, when were you planning to retire? And folks said, 62? And we said, okay, given what’s going on, right? Now, when do you plan to retire? And they said, 65. So, you know, just kind of chatting that stat out, kind of with many different audiences, people have a lot of different ideas and theories about why that might be. But I think all in all, people are saying, actually, it’s probably going to take me longer than I was anticipating to retire. But again, I think the key takeaway here that we really have to, like anchor around is that people are taking a more active role. 71% say, I am leaning in, I’m taking a more active role when it comes to both my day to day finances, and also my retirement finances, you know, managing those, and there’s some really interesting breadcrumbs and the activities they told us that they’re doing for us to think about, you know, one perfect timing around secure 2.0. And many of the things that are now more readily available to employers, but to what are the things that employers can think about evolving? So the quick summary there is that we’re cutting spending, of course, they’re looking for a side hustle, I think is interesting, you know, we live in a gig economy, I get it. But if I’m an employer, and I see that many respondents are saying, I’m looking for a second job, that’s going to perked my ears up. Sure, we’re seeing people continuing to contribute to their retirement accounts, which is good. But we’re also seeing that people are moving money to cash. And we’re also seeing that people are looking to take a loan against their retirement plan. So, you know, I think good behaviors, all in all that people are leaning in, and they want to take a more active role. And maybe they’ve been ignoring that statement, or maybe they’ve been ignoring that checkup tool that comes through and now they’re actually paying attention. But if we think about some of those concerning behaviors, how can we better support and align at the employer level to make sure that they don’t feel like they should be moving money to cash or they’re not going to start taking loans against their retirement accounts.
Jack Sharry: So we’re going to talk a little bit a lot next year coming up next around what firms like yours and ours and wealth management firms and asset management firms and annuity companies are all doing to fill the void or step in to help out but one of the observations I’ve been talking about writing about, we’ve talked to a fair amount about it on on our podcast, is that providing advice to the client, I know a lot of this is oriented toward the participant in a workplace retirement program. But that also, for us, that’s all changing because workplace retirement programs increasingly are attached to wealth management, offerings at firms. So that’s all coming together, as you well know, you may want to comment on that. But the point is that it’s really a more holistic look. And it’s not just about your portfolio, it’s not just about the latest, greatest product, and certainly products or good products should be bought and all that. But it’s the big picture that’s happening. I’m sure you’re seeing that the advice that’s provided by an advisor, by someone with a headset at a workplace, 401k desk or whatever, is becoming more holistic. Talk a little bit about that. What are you seeing there?
Jacquelyn Reardon: Yeah, you just mentioned two of my favorite words, advice and holistic and those are, I think two of the biggest thing that came out of our research this year, we saw that 65% of folks said, I really need a plan, I want a more concrete plan for how I’m going to spend my later years. And that trend is actually up 13% Since we started our research, so you know, if you think about a time of crisis, I mentioned people leaning in wanting to take more active role. Now they’re realizing, Oh, I actually, I need some guidance, I need some advice. How do I think about all of these components of my financial life? And how do I sort these out in the best way for me, which I think is important, we talked about financial independence as the ultimate goal. So I want you to give me advice for me not for the collective, I want you to tell me what you know about me, and what makes sense for me in my life. So that I think is such a key component. And then the holistic side of it is so, so huge, we actually found that 70% of respondents said, I am way more interested in holistic support and benefits. We worked with the Harris Poll to really come up with a very specific definition about that, because we knew it would come up. And we came up with the definition of holistic as the ability to assess all of my financial goals in one place. So not just thinking about me as a future retiree. But thinking about me as a multi-dimensional person who has many, many different financial needs and goals and aspirations or considerations. Those are the two things I would say, get a massive underline and a highlight for me in our research is that people need guidance, and they need guidance across all aspects of their financial life.
Jack Sharry: Yeah, I’m seeing that as I talk to people on both sides of the ledger, whether it’s workplace or wealth management, or however you want to break that up. There’s a clear trend going both ways. We’re planning as a centerpiece of what’s going on, we’re seeing a lot more activity, I’m sure you’re seeing the same love your comment on this. Not more planning being recommended, made available on the workplace side, certainly, it’s been talked about forever on the wealth management side. Yet 90% of clients don’t have a plan. So that tells me it’s a it’s more of a talking point than in reality that I think is changing. I haven’t seen research and if you have that specifically on that side, but clearly, there’s an understanding, as we went through COVID, just in the midst of COVID, a lot of people retired early, because they were fat, and they thought this, okay, you know, watching friends and family, that’s a way for better, I think I’m done, and then only to find out a year or two later, and then raging inflation, whoa, I gotta go back to work. And so now there’s that would really call it what’s the not the great resignation, that’s what they did at first boomerang or whatever, it’s just going back to work. And people are unsettled. So when that I think might be important for our listeners, when did you do the survey? Where were we sort of in that sort of market timing? And are you seeing what I’m talking about? Just that you’ve said it, but just maybe go a little further on? What you’re seeing in terms of people really embracing the concept of planning and being nimble? Because it’s going to change? That seems to be what’s coming?
Jacquelyn Reardon: Yes. So we feel that this year’s research at the very end of the last calendar year, so like right before the holidays, and it’s the same exact time that we’ve fielded both of the two previous surveys. What I think is interesting about last year surveys is that it was just right at the time, where inflation was starting to get some headline attention. So we saw a little bit of like, you know, smell a little bit of smoke in last year’s research. And then this year, it was very squarely set within the space that folks are we’re already feeling the pressure, we that we have some staff and call out to exactly that. So this inflationary pressure rising costs 73%, say, that’s actually changing my plans. I was going to retire early, but I’m not now, I was feeling very secure, and what the next, you know, several years were going to look like now I no longer feel secure anymore. But this whole concept of I’m looking for advice. And guidance has been a theme I would say throughout the survey, but not as pronounced as this year. And I think, you know, there’s, you bring up an interesting point about, you know, folks who had a plan or you know, they had some sort of goal in place, or they had some sort of like dotted line perhaps, now, they’re actually thinking like, oh, I have to pay more attention. And I need to sort of take stock of what’s available to me from a resource standpoint in order to tighten this up, which is why I think we see such an increase in this desire for a plan. What’s also interesting, I think, you know, thinking about the workplace and employer, which I agree with you as much as this isn’t a workplace and employee specific. We’re all generally participants and employees, right. So the dotted line to the wealth space, I think is a great point. We also are finding that people are looking to their employer and actually say, I actually count on my employer to tell me how to navigate these times. So 58% and even 68% for millennials, the largest part of the workforce are saying, it’s my employers job, actually, I think to help me with this. So not only do they want to plan, but they want that guidance to come from their employer.
Jack Sharry: You may have comments or thoughts on this. But what I find interesting is I’m seeing the shift, I’ve seen the data seen it just conversation is that before you look, if you had an advisor, you look to your advisor to tell you what to do, or you didn’t have an advisor, you just sort of talk to friends or whatever. And now it seems like your employer is your advisor, right? For all intents and purposes that technically, but with all the services, we’re going to talk about those services in a moment, but that seems to be the shift is an if I’m an advisor, I got to be a little bit concerned, because I’m being replaced by that trusted place where they get their paycheck.
Jacquelyn Reardon: Yeah, or there’s a key opportunity for the employer to say, let’s actually make access to an advisor all benefit. So instead of sort of like thinking about this as Oh, I’m the employer, I don’t know, how am I going to give them guidance? How do they actually just think about total benefit in a very holistic manner? And actually just say, I, we’re going to partner with this advisory firm, and you have access to them to give you guidance, and that’s part of the total benefit package I’m offering you as an employee.
Jack Sharry: Interesting. Interesting. Yeah. I love progress. So the third, the third item that you highlighted in the research was amid this economic uncertainty, American workers turned to employers for potential solutions. This is what employees’ employers, employees, I should say, want and need. So talk about that. And if you would talk about this trend that Franklin Templeton advisor engine, LifeYield, Riskalyze, and 100. Other firms are all trying to figure out how can we help people make better choices, those vary their FinTech tools? Certainly we’re seeing at big wealth management firms like Morgan Stanley, and JP Morgan, and so many more, they’re trying to figure out how to how to provide so it seems that the solutions are desired, how will they be delivered? What do you see there we see emerging?
Jacquelyn Reardon: So we talked about the desire for holistic benefits and to sort of, you know, manage across the full spectrum, not just thinking about someone as a retiree, but also all the other areas, tax, guidance, debt, pay down all those things. Some of the things we asked this year around those types of benefits was around personalization. So Jack, you know us well enough to know that we believe very deeply in personalization. So we asked him questions.
Jack Sharry: Define what that means. Because I think that’s one of those words, people said, they kind of nod like, What do you mean by that? Right?
Jacquelyn Reardon: Yeah, no, great point for us personalization is really taking into account what are your individual goals? And then how do we manage to those goals, versus managing to the wider range of other things that you could manage to volatility, market happenings, etc. Let’s really think about your goals, first and foremost. And then if we have to filter in other considerations, let’s do that. But let’s really figure out what you’re trying to accomplish, and then give you a solution and a strategy that makes sense in that way. So we wanted to really just, again, confirm that there’s an appetite for that and just really figure out what the pulse is for how that might improve participant outcomes, because that’s ultimately what we our hypothesis is, is that a more personalized approach will improve participant outcomes. 78% of respondents said, I would be very interested in a personalized solution as one of my 401 K options. 79% said it would actually motivate me and provide an incentive to contribute more. And also, you know, actually get start participating in general. We did just based on some of the solutions that we have in market two also wanted to confirm the Manage Account question too. And we found that 75% said, if I did have some sort of personalized managed account options within my 401k, that would actually incentivize me to stay in the plan longer even if I left the firm or I retired. So if you remember, last year, we asked a lot of questions around comfort level with data, because personalization is great, but you often need more information from the participants and employees. And on a whole we really found that most people said I am comfortable sharing more information. I want to be able to be recommended solutions that makes sense for me and my goals versus just sort of the one size fits all. Here’s what everyone gets, and good luck type of approach.
Jack Sharry: So Jacque, this has been great. One of the things I’d love to hear more about I’ve been a real student of what Franklin Templeton has been doing really doing very smart things. I’m hugely impressed with their CEO Jenny Johnson. I think she’s just one of the top executives that are in our industry, not only for now but where I think where the world is going. So talk a little bit about some of the stuff that Franklin Templeton is doing advisor engine has an example of your building capabilities. He bought some other asset managers for certain areas of the market. Alton, what have you You’re doing a whole bunch of work in the workplace retirement space. So you’re doing all sorts of smart stuff from my standpoint. So talk a little bit about what you’re doing, why you’re doing. How’s that going? All that?
Jacquelyn Reardon: Well, Jenny’s wonderful. And I think she really sets a great example for all of us to really think outside the box and really think about where the year point where the industry is headed. What are the solutions of tomorrow, so we can sort of fit the groundwork on them today. I think a lot of the innovation falls in a couple of key categories, one being democratization. So Jenny talks about this a lot. How do we make sure that there are asset classes that may not have been traditionally available to the masses and make sure that they become available so that more people can benefit from, you know, improved financial outcomes, because of that access within the workplace base, we’ve also made a lot of strides in personalized managed account options in plan. And we continue to really push that forward, not only from a solution standpoint, but also from a messaging standpoint, as you know, you know, that’s not something that somebody oftentimes will just, you know, pick off a shelf, we have to really think about the narrative within our industry, we really want to be a thought leader, they’re talking about personalization, the benefits of that, you know, taking a more gold based approach. And then we’re really working very, very hard to think about the retirement income problem, I would say, and what is the best solution there, I know that that’s been something that the industry has really been scratching their head around. But we’ve done a fairly good job, I think of really convincing people that they have to save for retirement. But now, they’re sort of, again, on the guidance topics coming back to us and saying, Well, how do I spend this? How do I make sure that I have security, we were just with our advisory group a couple of weeks ago, and always so energizing to be with those that were very philosophically aligned. And you know, I would say, the advisors who really embrace that future state of our industry, and so many of them have, you know, we’re talking about value proposition. And they said, I just want to be able to provide certainty to more people, you know, more people in our country that we can provide certainty, allow them to sleep well at night, then I know that we’ve created, you know, the best types of solutions. So I think that that’s really, for us a guiding light.
Jack Sharry: That’s great, terrific. And in keeping with us being not overly commercial, but not afraid to do commercials, we’re doing some work with your goals optimization engine, which from what where we sit, we work with many of the leading wealth management firms, probably the premier offering around putting a plan to implementation to improved outcome from a accumulation standpoint, because of tax minimization, and then income retirement income. So it’s still being developed, it will be fully out in the next quarter or so are working together on that. But that’s an example of among many that I see a Franklin Templeton that is ahead of the pack and really good work. So we are very pleased to be partnering with you guys. So Jackie, this has been we’ve covered a lot of ground, we probably could keep going for hours, but we’ll have to call it at this point. So as we look to wrap up, what are three key takeaways you’d like to share with our audience as we looked closer compensation.
Jacquelyn Reardon: So number one is the stress that participants and employees are feeling today, I think it’s really important to acknowledge how much this current environment is really putting them under stress, and you have to figure out how best to support them. Number two, is that thankfully, the masses are leaning in and taking a more active role. And there’s so much that we can learn from the things that they’re doing both good and bad, to better support them as an industry. And then number three, we really have to, as an industry, embrace people holistically and think about our solutions, not just in one bucket. So it can’t just be about retirement, it has to be how do we fully support folks across the full spectrum of needs so that we can improve all areas of well-being?
Jack Sharry: So this has been a lot of fun, just like we did about a year ago. I’m sure we’ll be doing again, in a year from now, if not before. So great to spend some time together. Thanks for the conversation. And as we do it, each of our podcasts my favorite question, What is something you do outside of work that you’re excited or passionate about, that people might find interesting or surprising?
Jacquelyn Reardon: Well, I know last year, we talked about all the concerts I go to so I have a lot on the calendar. But it was I’ve also gotten involved with I sit on the board of my high school alma mater track and cross-country fundraising group. So that’s been really exciting and just kind of thinking about how best to engage with alumni and really staying close to the kids. We’re trying to raise the money now for poll volt polls, which I didn’t realize were unbelievably expensive. An eye opener for me and a lot of fun.
Jack Sharry: That is great. Good for you. A lot of our guests are giving back to whether it’s an alma mater or some volunteer organization that’s near and dear to them. So terrific on that. So, Jackie, thank you. This has been a great conversation. As always, for our audience. If you’ve enjoyed our podcasts, please rate review, subscribe and share what we’re doing here at Wealthtech on Deck. We’re available wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you again, Jackie. It’s been a real pleasure.