MORE FIRMS AID WORKERS WITH FINANCIAL PLANNING

MORE FIRMS AID WORKERS WITH FINANCIAL PLANNING

A growing number of employers are choosing to offer financial planning activities to their employees, according to a survey conducted by Buck Consultants, New York.

Buck queried 411 organizations and found that one in 10 employers offer such programs that may take the form of a workshop, seminar, training course or other group educational experience. The largest group to respond were industrial companies from the Northeast with about 1,000 workers.About 46 of the responding organizations currently offer group-based

financial planning activities, the survey found. Of the organizations that do not offer financial planning, 35 percent intend to do so in the future.

Some experts say that financial planning, once viewed as nice but unnecessary, is reaching the board rooms of companies that once shunned such an idea. These programs, once pushed aside for budgetary reasons, are now at the forefront.

"We are just starting a program that will be open to all employees," said Sally Dudley, manager of policy development and administration at Hewlett- Packard Co., Palo Alto, Calif.

Ms. Dudley said the eight-hour financial planning program is also open to employee spouses. The program can be divided into two four-hour sessions or into one eight-hour session.

''We've had courses for those nearing retirement and decided that everyone needed help in planning their future," Ms. Dudley added.

The survey found that of the respondents that offered planning programs, 34 offered programs to all employees. Seven participants offered programs to salaried employees, three respondents offered programs to managerial employees and two organizations offered programs to "other" employees.

At Gulf State Utilities Co., Beaumont, Texas, any member of the company's management group is eligible to participate in a customized financial planning software program. Gulf State recently completed a pilot program for members of its upper management team, said G. Michael Sealy, manager of employee benefits.

The software, produced by Rouse Cos., a financial education company based in Scottsdale, Ariz., is customized to process savings and retirement information, Mr. Sealy said. Employees can project their future retirement income by inputing their salary, expected pay raises, inflation, expected taxes and outside investments, Mr. Sealy added.

Gulf State officials have completed an instructional video on the software program and hope to offer it next month to its management group at corporate headquarters and to its management staff at its nuclear power plant in Baton Rouge, La., he said.

Rouse Cos.' software program was produced over a seven-year period. Charles Leftkowitz, executive vice president, said his company wanted to make the

financial planning process automatic and easy.

"We wanted the program to be interactive and personal," he added. "Most of its users are in their 20s and 30s."

Financial planning has become the wave of the future, according to Mr. Leftkowitz. Over the past 10 years, the number of employers who see this type of planning as a way to attract and keep employees has more than doubled, he said.