Helping employees with healthcare finances

It’s common for people to put off long-term decisions when they feel uncertain about their future.

However, for employees considering starting or growing their family, there is no time like the present to prepare. Becoming a parent can take months if not years of planning and financial preparation. In this session, we’ll cover how to prepare your employees for major life decisions like fertility care and family forming. You’ll learn how money anxiety can follow your employees to the workplace and how, with their mind on expenses and health care costs, their productivity suffers. You’ll leave this program with solid understanding of the resources, digital tools, and expert guidance available to help employees understand the costs associated with starting or growing a family and how best to manage their financial future.

We’ll cover:
- What role does fertility care and financial wellness play in employee health
- How telehealth and virtual programs are working to support a remote workforce
- How to incorporate fertility and financial programs into your employees’ health and benefits experience

Guest Speakers:
Tammy Sun, Co-founder and CEO Carrot Fertility
Rebecca Liebman, Co-founder and CEO LearnLux


Tammy Sun: Well, I'm so excited to do this with you today. I think we just want to give folks maybe just a minute to trickle in. But this is, I think finance, like money, two of the most taboo topics out there. First is money, talking about money, and two is talking about fertility. And I think one of the great things that is happening, and I mean, exemplified by this webinar, is that people are much more comfortable talking about these things at home, at work, with family, friends, colleagues.

And so I'm excited to talk to you today, and learn a little bit more about how you guys are thinking about financial planning. Because for us at Carrot, I mean, we work with employers like you do, to provide fertility benefits and fertility coverage in a way that's flexible. And money is such a big, big part of how we think about providing support to employees, because fertility care is so expensive, and it has often been considered outside the healthcare system, and very much a luxury consumer good. So thanks for doing this today.

Rebecca Liebman: Of course, I'm excited. And I feel like we just keep crossing paths in so many different ways. So it's exciting to do something together.

And I think you're right. We'll give people a couple, a little bit more time to join, but no one used to talk about money or fertility in the workplace. And now it's just becoming the most prominent topics.

Tammy Sun: Yeah, exactly. I think healthcare, and particularly now that we are in this new world of living through a pandemic, what are really, puts into stark view, what are the things that really matter to employees and their productivity, and their overall health and wellness?

So it looks like we have a good group of folks on, and I know we're going to take questions. And I think you can drop questions into the Q&A, and we'll take them as they come in. But just to kick things off, Rebecca, do you want to just do a quick intro of yourself, and tell us a little bit about how you work with companies, and how you started LearnLux?

Rebecca Liebman: Hi, everyone. I'm Rebecca Liebman. I'm the co-founder and CEO of LearnLux. We're a financial wellbeing company. And we started about five years ago. I had just come back from living in Kenya actually, where there was really interesting financial technology taking off. And I got hired to work at this lab at MIT, studying really interesting trends in financial services. And I just became really fascinated with this idea that only 7% of Americans have access to a dedicated financial advisor. And for most people, it's just guessing, and they don't even know if they made the right decision until it's too late. And so we really wanted to break down really difficult topics, holistic financial planning, make it accessible to mass market. And that's what we've been doing for the last couple years.

Because we really wanted to reach people where they were, we've always had this focus on workplace financial wellbeing. Because for most people, the pillars of their financial plan come through their employer, your paycheck, your benefits, your health care insurance. And so that's how we work with employers. We can help with everything from open enrollment and new hires, but we also work as a financial wellness benefit, just helping you understand how to optimize your entire financial life. And because everything is from your employer, it's all right there. So it makes a lot of sense.

Tammy Sun: Yeah. I mean, I think that's like one of the really important things to recognize and understand that's unique, I think, about America, is in the same way that the financial pieces and financial wellness is so tied to your employer, to your company, so is your health and wellness. Because at least in this country, more than half of all Americans get their healthcare through employers, and that's more than, it's 150 million plus people, more than Medicare and Medicaid combined.

So it is super, super important that we help employers really have simple solutions, because there's so much on their plate, in terms of what they're trying to optimize for, and how they're trying to support employees. And I think that leads us to the intersection between what you guys do and what we do, which is finances and fertility care.

Quickly just to touch on Carrot so that folks know what were the two topics that we're talking about and how Carrot works. We essentially work with your company. So we will go to your company, and we will essentially allow them to customize a plan that makes it simple and affordable for them to give employees flexible fertility coverage. So that's essentially financial coverage and money, so that they can decide and choose how they want to proactively or reactively manage their fertility care.

So that includes things like egg freezing, sperm freezing, IVF, adoption, surrogacy, etcetera. They have a Carrot app. You can access a high quality network. You can only access care according to our standards and within our network. We also have a really awesome care team of live humans, experts, fertility doctors and nurses, others, who can support you through that journey. And I think that human interaction, probably similar to how your product works, is pretty important to the employee experience. So that's a little bit about how Carrot works.

Can you tell us a little bit about, what are some of the trends, and maybe even, I don't know if fertility is in that, but what are some of the trends that employees are thinking about when they're thinking about managing their financial wellness and managing their money? What are the top things that people are stressed out about? And what are the top things that people need?

Rebecca Liebman: Yeah. So the interesting thing, and I'm sure you see this at companies, is companies have so much diversity of income, employees. And so what's really great, is we built the product to be holistic, to cover all of the financial decisions that you make throughout life. So everything from building emergency savings, and paying off high interest credit card debt, all the way to estate planning, and figuring out retirement. And of course, in the middle of that, is a lot of this life planning, deciding if you want to have kids and how to afford that. And that brings on so many additional financial questions around 529s, insurance, how to plan for short term and long term, and even if you're saving for fertility treatment in general. So there's so many financial decisions that come from that.

I think, because of COVID, people's financial vulnerabilities have been more exposed than ever, and people are asking a lot of questions. It's everything from, will I be able to ever afford a home, to how do I deal with conflicting goals, like paying off debt, but also investing at the same time, and trying to do both of those things in tandem. That's a lot of the questions that people have.

Tammy Sun: In terms of the virtual access, are there traditional ways that people access these types of services? Is it, they just walk into an office, and they meet with somebody face to face? Is that how it's traditionally been done?

Rebecca Liebman: Yes.

Tammy Sun: I know for us, you mentioned COVID. The pandemic has really created, I think, a huge need for more, in our role, telehealth services, so the ability to avoid having to go to a clinic or somewhere in person, if they don't have to. So they can just access more online. What are some of the trends that you're seeing with financial services and financial wellness, and do the virtual appointments take the place of meeting somebody in person?

Rebecca Liebman: Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, typically the financial planning market is so confusing to people, and they don't know how to even find a financial advisor to begin, and they don't know who to trust or what questions to ask, or how they're being charged, or is what this person's telling me actually true or in my best interest? And we really want to put that in a consolidated format for people, and answer all their questions. So we're really clear with employers, and also employees, that we're completely fiduciary, independent. All of our certified financial planners are working in your employees' best interests, so that employees don't have to wonder, am I being told something that's right for me? Most people just never know if they are or not.

And now, the LearnLux product is hugely a tech platform. And on the platform, you have the ability to have a one-on-one call, very similar to this with a certified financial planner. And that person can help you think through your holistic plan, they could help you deep dive into one specific goal that you're saving for. If someone isn't sure they want to have a call yet, they can just start and chat with a certified financial planner. But it really eliminates all of the questions and barriers that people typically have. And in the industry usually, you wouldn't be able to talk to someone anyway, unless you handed over all of your assets. And that's where, similarly to fertility, the price point eliminates this for most people. And so really, I think both of our products create access where most people wouldn't have access to something like this before.

Tammy Sun: I think that's a really good point. The access point, similarly to financial health and wellness, is like, in some cases it's pretty hard to get to a fertility clinic. We have the largest network of high quality clinics in the US, just over 800, almost 900 fertility clinics. But when you compare that to, for example, primary care, that's relatively small. And so it's important, I think, in this new world, particularly as we go into the future, that access to important services, that really determine health and wellbeing and quality of life, is much more accessible through products like this, virtually, so that you don't have to live in a large metropolitan area, or you don't have to live near these services, in order to get the benefits of them.

Rebecca Liebman: Yeah, absolutely. And definitely with remote work, but even before remote work, people never want to raise their hand and say they have a financial question in front of all of their peers. So I think having a digital-first experience, and letting people go at their own pace and on their own time, really is beneficial. They don't have to go to an in-person event and be embarrassed about what they don't know. So again, it just, for both of us, starts to break down those barriers that would naturally stop people from getting help.

Tammy Sun: I'm still curious, because the stigma is such an interesting topic. I know we started talking about this. But we're on this webinar. There's dozens of people that are on this webinar with us. And just how has the stigma around talking about money changed over the past couple of years? I mean, we've seen a huge sea change in the ability to talk about fertility in public, among friends. You're seeing new brands. You're seeing much more public conversation about it, even from celebrities and public officials like Michelle Obama. It's a much more comfortable topic to talk about.

I wonder what you've seen from the money perspective as well. And I'd love to get your thoughts on, do you find that it's more difficult for women to talk about money versus men? And what are some of the tips that you would give people on that front?

Rebecca Liebman: It's definitely changed, but personal finance is just that. It's incredibly personal. And so there's definitely a group of people who are feeling more and more comfortable talking about finance with their friends, or even more publicly. But there's still a lot of information that people don't want to talk about.

I think, it's almost interesting, because for this group of people who went through 2008 and now this, I think they feel such a burden, that they almost feel more comfortable being able to communicate with friends, and talk about the awful experiences that they went through. And they bond over these shared experiences, of how they keep seeing recessions and volatile markets, or trying to figure out how to pay off student loan debt.

I think, a lot of what we talk about, is how do you make finance preventative? And one of the reasons I'm really passionate about this, is because in my family, we never talked about money until it was too late. And really what I would love to do is change people's relationship with money, and get them starting to talk about this. And it could be in a little way, they don't necessarily have to share anything they don't want to share yet, but how do you just start talking? Because if you don't ask any questions, or see what's going on, all of your decisions become reactive, and you go, "Oh, I wish I did that 10 years ago. I just didn't know that existed." And so I think it's important to do something that makes you feel comfortable, but start the conversation, make a plan, do things preventatively, before it's too late, which is how the system's traditionally worked.

Tammy Sun: It's the same thing with fertility. I mean, it's always been centered around this crisis mentality, which is certainly, it feels very crisis driven when you're in it, which is the infertility cases. And that puts you in a very reactive mode. And the world that I would love to see is where there is support for infertility, but there's also a lot more support way, way upstream, when you're thinking about fertility care proactively, and how to manage your fertility health, and optimize future outcomes. I mean, I think that is a huge trend in healthcare overall, and fertility certainly hasn't escaped it.

So we have a few questions here that I just want to be able to quickly make sure that we get to. One question: how do you recommend companies educate employees about benefits when we're all working remotely?

Rebecca, it looks like you're working from home. I'm working from home. This will probably go on for quite some time. And once we head into the fall, we'll be supporting our customers with open enrollment. And I know that we have been thinking a lot about how to make sure that employees get the information that they need virtually and digitally, and that they feel like they can take advantage of our product, even though they're not in the office attending an open enrollment meeting in person. So we have digital launch kits. We have all sorts of materials and digital options that make it super easy for benefit leaders to communicate about Carrot to employees, and encourage them to use the product.

I think one of the things that people, maybe one of the biggest myths about HR and benefits, is that what we have seen, is that they actually want to do what is in the best interest of employees. They want to buy products and services that support the overall employee wellbeing. And so it's important, because this is where the stigma issue becomes important. It's like the more you feel comfortable talking about it, the more you're able to educate these leaders at your company about what is actually meaningful to their workforce.

And so, as we go into this open enrollment season, and as we begin to think about what are the new ways that we can educate employees, I think one of the biggest positive byproducts of doing that well, is the continued de-stigmatization of these topics.

I was talking to the CEO of one of our customers a little while ago. And she was saying that one of the great things that she noticed after the company started using Carrot, was that she'd walk into the kitchen and people would be chatting about egg freezing, which never, never happened before. So I think there's something important about your employer educating you in the imprimatur, the imprint of your employer, that allows you to not just access the services, but do it in a way with much less stigma and shame.

Rebecca Liebman: Absolutely. Absolutely. And I think, I would say, with COVID, I think we're talking about how to communicate benefits in a time like this. As soon as COVID hit, Google reported this really interesting study that, I think, financial help had been Googled over 200% more than usual. And we've seen similar statistics, where more people than ever have had financial questions. It's a lot of financial questions that, a lot of times, employers and HR don't feel comfortable answering. It could be around taxes or withholdings or student debt, or even stock administration. And we want to be able to take that off their plate, and really be able to answer those questions in a good way.

I think, on top of that, we've been able to really help people prepare for open enrollment. And so a lot of companies have been stressed out thinking through remote open enrollment, and how to communicate benefits information. And like I mentioned at the beginning, a huge part of financial wellbeing is benefits education around 401k, HSA, FSA, health insurance plans, making sure that you're optimizing your paycheck. And you can do that by using pretax products, you can use for fertility care, you can use for childcare.

And so we've actually been helping a lot of companies create their remote open enrollment strategy. And on our product, they use the benefit's portal, and they link all of their benefits, and they use the benefit's education, and it can be custom to their company. So I think it's been really an interesting time to say, this is what the future of work is going to look like, and how do we just have a product that can communicate everything to employees with benefit equity. Everyone knows they're having the same experience.

Tammy Sun: Yeah. We have a very similar point of view and perspective. One question that came in, which I think is a very direct question, and it's really probably important for us to address and to answer, which is like, budgets are tight right now. All of this sounds great, but how do you convince your CEO to add these programs, essentially, when budgets are tight? And this is important. So I'll talk a little bit about what we've seen as being successful, and you might see some patterns in this as well. Again, they want to do what is in the best interest of their employees and wellbeing. And I think where we've seen a lot of success, is when employees actually speak up, either individually or in groups.

So employee resource groups, or ERGs, where you can bring an idea to a women's ERG, or an LGBTQ+ ERG, and introduce it to the group. And then the group can formally present it to the VP of Benefits, or whoever is the benefits' leader in the org, and say, "This is why a more flexible, inclusive fertility benefit is important, for example, single-intending parents, or same sex couples. And this is why, for example, our insurance product doesn't cut it, or it doesn't go all the way." And when employers hear that from employees, it's actually, it lands much differently. And it's a much different experience than when, for example, they would hear it from me, or from somebody at Carrot, because it's in your workforce. And so that's number one.

Number two, I tell people this all the time, when people ask me, how do you talk to your employer? I think, for people who are directly affected, and who are directly in need of coverage for fertility care and support for fertility care, if you feel safe and you feel comfortable, certainly speak out, and go talk to your benefits' leader. But I would also encourage folks who maybe see somebody in their organization who is struggling, either with infertility or thinking about fertility care proactively, and they themselves are not going to need the product, but to really help and be an ally to that person, to say, "Hey, this isn't something that I need, but this is something that I'm noticing that my friends and colleagues across the organization could really benefit from." And they don't feel comfortable coming here and asking for it themselves, either for privacy reasons, which are totally legitimate. So I'm here speaking on their behalf, and we've seen that be really, really successful as well.

And so it does take some level of engagement, and speaking up, from employees, in some cases. But I think there are ways to do that without compromising your own privacy, which is certainly important. And that privacy piece is obviously important, as you mentioned, around finances as well. I mean, a lot of people don't want to talk about their personal debt or financial situation with employers. What have you seen be successful?

Rebecca Liebman: Yeah. Yeah. I mean, I would say right now, there's so many employers who want to offer financial wellbeing, and many times, they're working with their CFO or leadership maybe to create a line item. And so a lot of times it's helping them understand the business case. And a lot of companies already see it, large, large employers usually come to us, and they say, "We're losing employees to companies that are giving them nominal raises. And if we could just explain to them that if they were actually utilizing the benefits we offer, they would be taking home more than if they changed jobs with a small raise, but we can't explain it to them."

And so, I think that's one big thing, is just helping people, again, optimize their paycheck, understand these pre-tax benefits, and really take home the most amount of money. In different ways, you can make your money work for you. And I think, the other really big thing that's interesting, that not everyone knows about is, if you help your employees use products like HSA and FSA, and pick the right plans, you, as an employer, can actually save millions of dollars, because of payroll taxes. And so if you have one employee max out their FSA, you're typically saving about $228 per year. If that's a thousand employees, that's a quarter of a million dollars. And so with scale, it becomes more and more of an actual cash ROI, that companies can see, just by helping employees utilize the right benefits. And so I help them put together those cases for their workforce.

Tammy Sun: That's really smart. We also, depending on what the company's priorities are, is it talent retention? Is it reducing the medical costs? Is it a more inclusive workplace? We'll partner with the benefits' leader, and figure out, what is the right business case to bring to either the CFO, or to this question and the CEO. And I just want to read a comment that we got in the feed. 'Cause I think it's really important. Jeff says, "I'm the leader of my company's LGBT ERG, and I'm doing exactly what you recommend regarding bringing these ideas to our head of benefits. It's a tough conversation, and it's spanning multiple months, and it will continue longer. But it's worth it. My company is dealing with a lot of benefit requests. So I continue to build the case to increase our family planning benefits and resources.

And I think, one of the things that is resonating with me, as I read that, is that these can take multiple months. The implementation and the decision to buy new benefits can take many months, in some cases, depending on the size of your company, it can take six to nine months, or potentially up to a year.

But what I love about that comment, is I can guarantee you that your leadership from the ERG perspective, and the voices of your colleagues from the LGBTQ ERG, has already accelerated that process. Because again, depending on what the business case is for the employer, this fertility benefits and more family-forming resources, can be a really, really important part of how companies achieve their business goals. So just kudos to you for leading that effort. And I can tell you that it's definitely worth it, and it has already sped up the process.

There's another comment that I'll just read out loud, here from Marcelina. Thank you. Here's a tip to some of my leaders here. Some of your benefit plan vendors offer wellness dollars. Actually, we've heard of this as well. I'm sure you have as well. You can help your workforce with webinars, financial training, implementing programs like Carrot, or student loan repayment. That's really cool. We've heard of wellness dollars, and have seen a little bit of how those can be applied. Haven't seen a ton. What have you seen on that front?

Rebecca Liebman: I've seen wellness dollars again at larger companies. A lot of times, even the employees have a budget for that. And the other interesting thing is, for financial products specifically, there's some budgets that you can pull from. So there's something called ERISA, and so you can pull from that. If you have certain 401k plans, they'll sponsor financial wellbeing, or there's a budget in there for retirement administration, education. So there's some other budgets, but it definitely varies on the type of company and the industry.

Tammy Sun: She says EAP programs as well, which is a great point.

Rebecca Liebman: Definitely.

Tammy Sun: One final question. I just want to make sure we get to it, and I want to be respectful of your time as well. So is it possible to roll out benefits at times other than open enrollment? We were talking about open enrollment before, and for those who don't know, I'm sure everyone does, open enrollment typically happens in the fall, so around October/November. So is it possible to roll these out in a period other than open enrollment? My OE is not until is not until November, but I think it could be useful now. Yeah. So for us, we partner with employers to roll out programs on their schedule, and the best way that they think is most optimal for their company. But Carrot can go anytime.

So we've done lots of Go Lives in June, for example, to celebrate, and recognize, and commemorate LGBTQ+ Pride Month, so a much more inclusive benefit that covers more people. So we will go throughout the year, but typically to support the benefit leaders, and to go with their flow. We do go mostly in the back half of the year. What about you guys?

Rebecca Liebman: We're throughout the year. And I think, I mentioned open enrollment, but right before tax season, a lot of people roll out early in the year, January/February, and then they can use us to help their employees plan for taxes and withholdings, and all of that. And even now, I mean, tax day was delayed. And so during COVID, a lot of people were really interested in ... It's just a really hard topic that affects everyone. But I mean, financial questions come up at all times. People have financial difficulties throughout the year. And we're not attached to only being able to roll out at open enrollment. So I would say definitely throughout the year. And it's really helpful right before big financial decisions.

Tammy Sun: I didn't even think about tax season. I'm sure that that's a big spike for you guys, because I definitely know that I need all the help that I can get when it comes to putting my taxes together, and getting all my deductions in order.

Rebecca Liebman: Yes. Products like 401k and HSA and FSA also parallel tax season. You can contribute to these products up until tax day, not just the end of the fiscal year. And so that's what's really cool, is you can really help someone optimize their paycheck, and there's seasonality to that.

Tammy Sun: That makes a lot of sense. Well, we're over time at this point. So I want to thank everyone for joining our discussion today, and for asking such smart and awesome questions.

Thank you, Rebecca, for your time as well, and for joining me. Tell people where they can find more information about LearnLux.

Rebecca Liebman: LearnLux.com, you can get a little bit more information, and all of our digital handles are @LearnLux. And you can request demos there, if you're interested more in the product. And we would be happy to have conversations. And obviously, thanks so much for inviting me to be here today.

Tammy Sun: My pleasure. And you can find more information about Carrot at CarrotFertility.com. And we should definitely do this again. I know there's probably so much more to talk about. So thank you so much for your time today, everyone. And thank you, Rebecca, especially.

Rebecca Liebman: Have a great day, everyone.

Tammy Sun: Bye.


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