Next year, when IBM freezes its pension and begins offering its 127,000 U.S. workers the option of investing in a 401(k), the firm will also give them financial education and coaching, the Raleigh News & Observer reports.
In fact, IBM expects the education will cost it $50 million over five years, but it’s fully prepared to provide not just online planning tools but also seminars and one-on-one coaching, either in person or over the phone—free of charge to its employees and spouses or domestic partners.
“We’re going to give them the tools and the guidance and the knowledge to make decisions on their own,” said Randy MacDonald, IBM senior vice president of human resources. “We don’t want people to make decisions in a vacuum.”
In fact, the program will go beyond retirement planning to encompass college savings, debt, wills, trusts, taxes, insurance and healthcare. Ayco Co. and Fidelity will administer the educational program.
IBM said it will review employee participation in the program after two years. If few take part in it, it might eliminate it.
Nonetheless, IBM has high hopes for the program, MacDonald said. “We believe this establishes a new benchmark for retirement programs in this country.”
IBM began cutting back on its pension in the past few years. Then, last year, some of its employees filed an age-discrimination lawsuit. IBM won the case, and again on appeal in the Supreme Court in January.
Although medium and large employers are increasingly offering financial education, only a handful offer one-on-one counseling, said Tom Garman, a professor emeritus at Virginia Tech. The program could inspire other employers to follow suit, said Ed Ferrigno, vice president of Washington affairs at the Profit Sharing/401(k) Council of America. “IBM is a bellwether company, and certainly a lot of others follow the lead of IBM, so it’s a very positive sign.”