Request a personal consultation
Need an insurance review or quote? Want to start saving for retirement and wondering where to start? Looking for some clarification on your 403(b) or IRA?
Sign up for a free individual phone consultation with a consultant from Member Benefits. Simply sign up at weabenefits.com/consults and we’ll be in touch at the time you have chosen.
Individual consultations are 30 to 45 minutes long. We look forward to meeting with you!
Behind the screen
It’s been nearly 50 years since we first began serving you. And while 2020 has brought many changes, our mission and our vision remain the same.
- Our mission: To support the values of WEAC by enhancing the financial security of our members with best-of-class benefit programs that are developed and delivered with integrity, sensitivity, and reliability.
- Our vision: Every member financially secure.
Our staff remain as dedicated as ever to all Wisconsin public school employees during this challenging time. We know these are difficult days for you. And if we can help make them a little easier, we are happy to do it.
So we want to share our story with you. And especially during this time when we can’t meet you in person, we thought we would introduce just a few of the people you might talk with on the phone—folks who are ready and willing to get you set up with our retirement savings or insurance programs, provide a financial consultation or financial planning session, and help you with your questions and concerns.
In 1972, we began offering personal insurance coverage to Wisconsin public school employees, and later in the decade we added a low-cost 403(b) program to help them save for retirement. Later, the demand for trusted options to save for the future became apparent, so in the late 1990s we added an IRA program for members and their families.
In 2007, to help our members make informed financial decisions, we began offering financial planning services. And this year we continue to grow, extending our IRA program to certain states beyond Wisconsin for those who meet our eligibility guidelines as well as their families.
Why do we do what we do? Our President and CEO, Dave Kijek, puts it this way: “To be able to work for an organization that has the vision to serve people who are so worthy of our service and allows us the opportunity to care for their insurance and financial services needs is inspirational.”
We love talking to you. We want to help. And we look forward to hearing from you.
- Music: Rap
- Movie: Wedding Crashers
- Restaurant: Fleming’s Steakhouse
- Beverages: Diet Mountain Dew
- Treat: Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup
- How long have you worked at Member Benefits? 2 years
- What do you do at Member Benefits? I am a Personal Insurance Consultant. I work with members to help analyze their insurance needs and provide the best solution I have for their situation.
- What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? Watching college football, walking my dog, playing pinochle.
- What is your “why?” I love this job because I am strangely passionate about financial security. I take great pleasure in helping members understand that insurance is more about protecting their savings and investments than about protecting their car. Being able to advise and counsel members is what I like most.
- Music: Pop/Rap
- Movie: Iron Man
- Restaurant: Salvatore’s Tomato Pies
- Beverages: Mango Juice, Whiskey, Scotch
- Treat: Kit Kat/Ice Cream
- How long have you worked at Member Benefits? 2.5 years
- What do you do at Member Benefits? My title is Retirement and Investment Services Specialist. I am on the phone helping members with their retirement by placing trades and helping members move other retirement accounts to us.
- What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? In my free time I enjoy working out, watching movies, and reading about investments. A hobby of mine is to collect coins from all over the world, something I had done as a child. My father traveled a lot due to his job and would always bring back coins/currency from wherever he went.
- What is your “why?” I have two passions: The first is to help people regardless of the subject, it’s just a part of who I am. The second is investing because it’s just so exciting to me. Being a specialist allows me to combine these two passions in perfect harmony, and I feel extremely lucky to be able to pursue both passions in my current role.
- Music: Christian
- Movie: The Bourne Series
- Restaurant: Texas Roadhouse
- Beverages: Vitamin Water
- Treat: Peanut Butter Cocoa Mounds
- How long have you worked at Member Benefits? 6.33 years
- What do you do at Member Benefits? I am a Member Service Consultant who assists members with changes to their insurance policies and advises them on insurance coverages.
- What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? Going park-hopping with my family, then stopping at a local restaurant in the last town to support local economies.
- What is your “why?” I love to help people and educate those whose forte is not personal insurance. Prior to Member Benefits, I had no insurance knowledge other that what I learned the hard way. We had a different insurance carrier where we bought a policy online, without speaking to anyone, for what their computer algorithm said was good coverage for our family. As it turns out, we were severely underinsured for our auto insurance liability and didn’t know it until it was too late and we needed it. It was a hard life lesson but one worthwhile if I can help others avoid my mistake.
- Music: Oldies and newer additions: REO, Billy Joel, Dawes, Decemberists, and Ed Sheeran
- Movie: Anything directed by Aaron Sorkin might land in my top five
- Restaurant: It’s been so long…check back later this year
- Beverages: Whatever fruity cocktail my son chooses for me
- Treat: Homemade fudge and cherry pie
- How long have you worked at Member Benefits? 3 years
- What do you do at Member Benefits? I am a Member Benefits Consultant. I help simplify the process of planning for retirement to create happy future selves.
- What do you enjoy doing when you are not working? Hiking, biking, kayaking on SLOW water, reading, and visiting family (before 2020, I would have added cooking…not so much right now).
- What is your “why?” Every day, someone I speak with feels empowered to change their future with enough financial understanding to begin saving for retirement. Having recently retired, I know this will improve lives.
Financial Literacy: A 21st century survival skill
To say that 2020 was “unconventional” would be a vast understatement. The pandemic hit hard, and what started as a health threat quickly evolved into something bigger, wreaking havoc on our financial health as well. What’s more, it has cast a spotlight on a problem that has plagued the U.S. for decades: the lack of financial literacy.
While this exposure may feel like a “piling on” of the many woes we face in the midst of the pandemic, financial literacy advocates see it as an opportunity to move the needle on our nation’s financial health.
One of those advocates is Patrick Kubeny, a business education teacher in Rhinelander. He may look familiar because his name and face have been on the pages of your$ before.
“Financial literacy is critical for navigating financial decisions…and life,” says Patrick. “It’s a critical survival skill. People’s lives can be monumentally improved if they are financially literate AND if they use that knowledge.”
Without the skill set, he adds, things can deteriorate quickly when events like a pandemic happen—making it increasingly more difficult for those without a solid financial foundation to gain ground.
Lack of knowledge is costly
Patrick has been teaching personal finance for over a decade at Rhinelander High School (RHS), where it is a required course for graduation. And while he is doing his part to instill essential money skills in northern Wisconsin, it’s not a skill we are honing as a nation. In fact, there has been a clear decline in financial literacy over the past nine years—dropping 8 percentage points to 34%.1
Despite having the world’s largest economy, the U.S. is ranked 14th when it comes to the percentage of adults who are considered financially literate, with just over a third of Americans able to answer simple questions about inflation, compound interest, and diversification.2 This lack of knowledge comes with a significant cost as consumers who fail to understand these concepts spend more on transaction fees, run up bigger debts, incur higher interest rates on loans, and save less.
Moving it forward
For Patrick, the solution is simple: more financial education. “Right now, only 1 in 6 students across the nation graduate with a decent financial literacy education,” he says. That’s just 17%.3
The key, he says, is to teach them practical money management skills that will prepare them for adulthood—before they acquire bad habits—and do it in a way that engages them and makes it real. “My favorite way to teach is my favorite way to learn…that’s telling stories. And when the story is true and you can put a name and a face to it, it’s sticky.”
Patrick puts a personal spin on his lesson plans and he does it to a degree that would make most people squirm. “I use my personal finances to support the curriculum as much as possible. I show students my paychecks, Social Security statements, online checking accounts, monthly budget, credit card statements, taxes, and investment accounts. I want the subject matter to be as real as possible because I believe people learn best from examples and real life situations.”
In addition to sharing his finances, Patrick has students take a hard look at their own future financial situation. Students must create a Lifetime Financial Plan that includes their potential earnings, taxes, estimated expenses for housing, transportation, and raising a family. “This exercise shows them what decisions they will have to make and how those decisions will impact their life and financial future.”
Before setting them loose to map their own future, he runs through a scenario that relies on a $10/hr. wage job to illustrate what their bottom line will look like after accounting for real life expenses. “I let them see mathematically what it looks like if they choose to graduate from high school and not pursue a degree or trade. It’s not a pretty picture, but this leads to conversations on education, career paths, and income.” He even addresses the importance of being on the same financial page as your future spouse.
Patrick also coaches RHS teams for the Finance and Investment Challenge Bowl—a program created by Asset Builders. “It’s a fun way for my students to showcase what they’ve learned.” Teams compete in regional tournaments for a spot at the state competition. “Rhinelander teams have done well. I’m very proud of them.”
What’s most pertinent to Patrick and what really fuels his passion is the impact he can have. “These are important skills that these kids will use for the rest of their lives. And the majority of the students think it is a very important and practical course…they actually want to be financially literate.”
Patrick shares that many of his students report they are already using their knowledge to make spending decisions, navigate credit card offers, and even save for retirement with a Roth IRA. This coincides with findings from a 2018 study that indicated 88% of young adults who took a personal finance course said they were using what they were taught in class.4
He emphasizes to students that they need to be in charge of their personal finances. “They alone are responsible for their financial future. I like to say, ‘No one will ever care about your money more than you will, so the more you can learn about taking care of it, the better off you will be.’ ”
Patrick also hears from countless former students. They stay in touch and thank him. Several are now new teachers in his district where he continues his mentorship as a colleague. “One of my favorite things to do is help my fellow teachers. I hope to continue helping educators build financial security even after I retire.”
Patrick’s course is not only popular with the students, parents like it too. “The coolest thing is that there is this ‘trickle up’ that happens when students take what they learn home to their family. Parents come in for conferences and report that they’re getting schooled on financial matters. ‘Did you know this? You should be doing that…’ Parents are impressed and say they learn something new.”
Many ask if they can take the class and Patrick invites them to work on the modules he assigns alongside their kids. “They can do this on their own as well, and the best part is it’s free,” he says.
While not every district will have the parental support for personal finance courses that Rhinelander enjoys, it seems to be on the uptick. National research conducted in June found that 63% of American adults want financial literacy to be a priority in school—even over health and wellness education.5
The “Gold Standard”
This year, RHS received a $10,000 grant from the nonprofit Next Gen Personal Finance (NGPF) thanks to Patrick’s continued passion and advocacy for financial literacy. “While the topic of personal finance has been taught at Rhinelander High School for decades, we became eligible to receive this award because we recently adopted a policy requiring all students graduating from our school to take and pass a specific one semester personal finance course,” Patrick explains.
NGPF is very supportive of other courses such as economics or consumer education that include financial instruction; however, they only provide grant monies to schools that specifically require a personal finance course. RHS is among 800 school districts in the nation to require a one-semester personal finance course, but one of only 23 high schools in the country to earn the grant and be designated a “Gold Standard” school.
A way ahead for Wisconsin
When it comes to financial literacy statewide, however, Wisconsin as a whole doesn’t fare so well. Wisconsin earned a grade of “F” in a 2017 report on financial literacy from the Champlain College Center (The Center) for Financial Literacy. Every two years, The Center uses national data to grade all 50 states on their efforts to produce financially literate high school graduates.
For the most part, Wisconsin leaves it up to the district to decide if and how they want to do it. The Center is in favor of statewide mandates, but Patrick isn’t sure that’s the optimal way to go. “Some districts would be hard pressed to find the money or the staff qualified to teach personal finance. If you don’t have the ability to do it well, it probably won’t be as effective as having it come from a local, more organic effort.”
He notes that it took years for Rhinelander to make the change. “My predecessor and colleague did a great job getting the course added as an elective, and she advocated from day one for it to be required. Unfortunately, she retired before it was realized, but she was instrumental in getting it done,” he says. Patrick also had solid support for the policy change from his principal and the school board.
Patrick encourages educators to consider teaching or proposing a personal finance class in their district.
“It will change your life and the lives of your students. A fringe benefit of being a personal finance instructor is that you’ll learn how to improve your own finances when you teach this class.”
A great place to start, he says, is NGPF (ngpf.org). NGPF is a resource Patrick uses often in his classroom. They have a library of classroom resources and they offer certification courses. Patrick is about to complete his fourth certification course. “And there is no cost.”
Patrick is at the tail end of his teaching career and he feels fortunate to be winding down in such a positive and satisfying way. “I am just happy to know that when I retire it won’t mean the end for financial literacy in the district. I am very proud of my school district for being progressive and adopting a policy like this. I hope other school districts will be motivated and inspired to do the same thing. I sincerely believe that districts should not be asking themselves how can they justify a mandated policy like this; rather, they should be asking themselves how can they justify NOT doing so.”
SOURCES: 1 FINRA: 2018 State of U.S. Financial Capability study / 2 Standard & Poor’s survey / 3 Impact of High School Financial Education-World Bank study / 4 2018 study T. Rowe Price / 5 Charles Schwab Financial Literacy Survey
Professional: Patrick has been a business education teacher at Rhinelander High School since 1993. He is the recipient of the 2020 Excellence in Teaching Award given annually by Economics Wisconsin, a $10,000 grant from NGPF, and was named a 2020 Kohl fellow. Patrick is nationally certified to teach financial literacy and was a 2013 Recipient of the Governor’s Financial Literacy Award.
Personal: His family includes wife Katrina (who teaches 5th grade in Elcho), a daughter (22), and a son (19). His wife, mother, and in-laws all have Roth IRAs with Member Benefits. Patrick is looking to retire in the next couple of years but won’t be at a loss for things to do. He loves to hunt and fish and hopes to continue helping Wisconsin teachers become financially secure.
Financial literacy resources for the classroom
Be sure to read our article, Financial Literacy: A 21st century survival skill.
Wisconsin educator Patrick Kubeny is helping move the needle forward on students’ personal finance know-how and shares how he has built up financial literacy curriculum at his high school—and how you can, too.
Financial literacy resources for the classroom
Next Gen Personal Finance
Moving financial literacy forward by advocating for educators and providing free classroom resources and training.
American Financial Services Association Education Foundation
Patrick also relies on this resource that helps educate consumers of all ages on personal finance concepts.
Statewide organization that offers professional development for elementary and secondary teachers to assist them in educating students about economics.
Wisconsin nonprofit organization promoting financial education and wealth-building strategies to enhance the quality of life of low- and moderate-income youth, families, and communities.
National coalition that raises the importance of financial literacy and the importance of effective financial education.
WEA Member Benefits Don’t Be Jack™ Student Edition
Don’t Be Jack wins again! Member Benefits has received its second EIFLE award, winning the 2020 Game of the Year Award from the Institute for Financial Literacy. The student edition is based on the original game we created as a financial education option to help Wisconsin public school employees learn how to build their financial savvy and security.
Member Benefits worked in collaboration with local teachers and subject matter experts to create the game based on Wisconsin’s Academic Standards for Personal Financial Literacy for grades 9–12.
The format is flexible and allows students to work in teams as they make decisions and learn and discuss different personal financial issues or situations they could encounter in life. The game is available to Wisconsin public high schools for free. Visit our Web site to request it for your classroom.
Member Benefits’ financial literacy resources for you
For participants in our retirement programs, yourMONEY offers a Financial Wellness Center with 24/7 access to an interactive library of multimedia financial wellness resources. See the winter 2021 issue of your$ magazine for details.
We also offer a variety of seminars, eBooks, and personal financial consultations. Plus our various financial planning services can assist you whether you are just starting your career or planning your exit. Call us at 1-800-279-4030 for more information.
Discover your financial chemistry
Download our free PDF to help you talk with your significant other about finances. Use our questions to measure your financial compatibility and discuss similarities and differences. Explore your financial style and personal choices, and get ideas for discussion topics. Then develop a financial strategy.
Come together and compromise—for some things you may end up saying, “I don’t like this, but I can live with it.” The key is to try and understand each other’s expectations and beliefs so you can make better financial decisions together.
Messages to our members about Coronavirus (COVID-19): Updated June 17, 2020
For those who have auto insurance with Member Benefits and are waiting on their premium relief check
WEA Member Benefits remains committed to your financial well-being during this challenging time and is offering a one-time insurance premium reimbursement to our auto insurance members. If you did not elect to receive your reimbursement electronically, you can expect to see a paper check in your mailbox by the end of June.
If you have any questions, or if you don’t receive your check by June 30, 2020, please call us at 1-800-279-4030.
Auto premium relief email from Chase Payments Premium relief for auto insurance customers
**AS A REMINDER: Member Benefits WILL NOT call or contact you asking you for your banking information. Please follow the instructions from the email you received this week.
Auto premium relief payment Instructions were e-mailed to auto insureds on Monday, June 1, with information on how to accept the electronic payment from Chase Payments.
On Wednesday, June 3, you will be receiving an email on our behalf from Chase Payments donotreplyChasePayments@jpmorgan.com, with instructions on how to accept your one-time auto premium relief payment.
You must accept your payment within seven days. If you do not accept the electronic payment within seven days, we will issue a paper check and mail it to you at the address we have on file.
>> For instructions on how to accept your payment view this “Quick start guide” from Chase Payments.
Premium relief for auto insurance customers
WEA Member Benefits remains committed to your financial well-being during this time of uncertainty. As a result, we are temporarily revising some of our auto insurance guidelines to help our members who may need assistance during this time.
To that end, Member Benefits is offering a one-time auto insurance premium reimbursement. Auto insurance customers will be reimbursed 15% of premium received during April and May as a result of Governor Evers’ “safer at home” order due to the COVID-19 pandemic. More details will be provided to members via email and mail soon.
If you are an auto insurance customer, please make sure your contact information—including your email address—is up-to-date. Call us at 1-800-279-4030 or log into your account at weabenefits.com/yourinsurance to update your information.
An important message to our members from David Kijek, President/CEO of WEA Member Benefits
On March 24, 2020, Governor Evers announced a “safer at home” order due to the COVID-19 virus. We want you to know that during these uncertain times, WEA Member Benefits remains committed to your financial well-being.
WEA Member Benefits is considered an “essential” business because we provide insurance and financial services to our members. For the safety of our staff, a majority of our employees are working remotely. However, we are continuing our operations as usual without interruption. Please contact us at 1-800-279-4030 if you have questions or need assistance with your retirement savings or personal insurance accounts. Our team is available from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and remains dedicated to serving you. We thank you in advance for your patience as you may experience longer hold times due to increased call volume.
We encourage you to utilize our online account services to access important documents and make changes to your accounts. If you haven’t already done so, please consider setting up your online account access.
- Retirement: Visit yourMONEY. Find instructions on how to log in for the first time, information on funding your 403(b) or IRA account, get statements, change future allocations, request a trade, opt-in to electronic communications, and more.
- Insurance: Visit yourINSURANCE. Create a new login, make policy payments, view and print policy documents, file an insurance claim, change paperless preference, and more.
For over 45 years, WEA Member Benefits has been dedicated to serving our members. We continue to be here for you during these challenging times, and we look forward to serving you and your family for many years to come. Thank you for placing your trust in us.
Even during these uncertain times, we remain committed to your financial well-being. Our team is still available from 7:30am to 5:00pm weekdays and dedicated to serving you. Call us at 1-800-279-4030 if you have questions or need services regarding your retirement account, investments, or personal insurance.
For important updates, continue to visit weabenefits.com.
We recognize this is a challenging time for all, and we remain deeply committed to the safety of our members, their families, and our staff. Our staff is committed to do whatever we can to help keep all our communities healthy.
For your protection and the protection of our staff and their families, we are limiting access to our office to essential people only. For the time being we are not permitting visitors such as members, business partners, groups, guests, and family in the building. We apologize for any inconvenience, but our staff will be available over the phone, email, and in certain situations, video conferencing. You can still access your online accounts (yourMONEY, yourINSURANCE, etc.).
At this time, we are actively monitoring the situation and assessing risks, and will continue to update you in a timely and transparent manner. As a business, we will continue to follow the guidelines and recommendations of the CDC. If our business operations change and/or the office closes, any update(s) will be posted on weabenefits.com.
We appreciate your continued loyalty and support. Please continue to take care of yourselves, your families, and your school communities.
COVID-19 financial updates
Secondly, we want to hear from you if you need assistance with your retirement savings or personal insurance accounts, or if you simply have questions or concerns—it’s what we’re here for. Contact us at 1-800-279-4030 from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays, or send an email to email@example.com. We appreciate your patience during this time and for placing your trust in us.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was signed on March 27, 2020. It is the largest stimulus package in American history. The CARES Act includes several provisions intended to loosen restrictions on, and reduce the tax consequences of, distributions and loans from retirement plans. Also included are rules waiving required minimum distributions from 403(b) plans for the 2020 calendar year and the suspension of student loan payments. In addition to these CARES Act provisions, the 2019 tax deadline was extended to July 15, 2020.
- Required minimum distributions waived for 2020. The CARES Act includes rules waiving required minimum distributions (RMDs) from 403(b) and IRA accounts for the calendar year 2020. If you would like more information about your 2020 RMD and what options are available to you, please contact our Member Service Representatives at 1-800-279-4030, Extension 8567.
- Coronavirus Related Distributions. Individuals can withdraw up to $100,000 penalty free from IRA and 403(b) retirement plans for coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) even if they are not otherwise eligible for a distribution from their retirement account. If under age 59 ½, the 10% federal penalty for early withdrawal will be waived.
CRDs are defined as any distribution made from an eligible retirement plan on or after January 1, 2020, and before December 31, 2020, by a qualified individual described as:
- An individual who is, or whose spouse or dependents are, diagnosed with the coronavirus or with coronavirus disease (COVID-19) by a test approved by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- An individual who is financially harmed by the coronavirus or coronavirus disease as a result of (i) being laid off, furloughed, receiving reduced work hours, or quarantined, (ii) being unable to work because of a lack of child care, (iii) having to close or reduce the operation hours of a business owned or operated by the individual, or (iv) such other reasons as determined by the Secretary of the Treasury.
Individuals who have made a CRD in 2020 have the option to spread their income tax responsibility over a three year period or pay back their distribution in one or a series of payments within three years of the day after the date of distribution.
Not all 403(b) plans allow the CRD. Contact one of our Member Service Representatives to find out if your plan allows them.
However, for most people, withdrawing money from your 403(b) or IRA account shouldn’t be your first choice. As mentioned above, CRDs are subject to income tax. In addition, withdrawing assets now may make it more difficult for your account to recover from recent stock market losses. Lastly, while most retirement accounts are protected from bankruptcy, once you withdraw assets, that protection is lost.
- Student loan repayments postponed. The stimulus package gives those with federally-held student loans a six-month break from payments from April through September, with no interest or penalties. Borrowers who want to make payments can do so and pay down their balance more quickly without interest. This option does not apply to private student loans (although private lenders may be individually offering relief for borrowers).
For more information on coronavirus-related benefits and resources, visit benefits.gov.
Tax and IRA contribution deadlines extended
The deadline to file taxes and to make an IRA contribution for 2019 has been extended from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. If you wish to make an IRA contribution in 2020 and apply it to 2019, some stipulations apply. Call us for assistance at 1-800-279-4030.
Information current as of 04/09/20, continue to visit our website for updates. Content is for informational purposes only and is not intended to constitute legal, financial, or tax advice. Certain recommendations or guidelines may not be appropriate for everyone. Consult your personal advisor or attorney for advice specific to your unique circumstances before taking action.
The Trustee Custodian for the WEA Member Benefits IRA accounts is Newport Trust Company. Certain state residency requirements may apply.
The 403(b) retirement program is offered by the WEA TSA Trust. TSA program registered representatives are licensed through WEA Investment Services, Inc., member FINRA.
If you choose to invest in the 403(b) or IRA programs, fees will apply. Consider all expenses before investing. Mutual fund management and redemption fees may apply. Securities offered through WEA Investment Services, Inc, member FINRA.
What to leave and what NOT to leave in your car in cold weather
Cold weather is always a good reminder to make sure you have needed emergency items in your car and that your spare tire is in good condition. Ready.gov recommends you keep the following in your vehicle:
- Shovel, scraper, and small broom.
- Flashlight and matches.
- Battery powered radio and extra batteries.
- Water and snack food.
- First aid kit with pocket knife.
- Extra hats, socks, mittens, boots, and blankets.
- Tow chain, rope, and booster cables.
- Road salt and sand.
- Emergency flares and fluorescent distress flag.
But when the temperatures plunge, have you ever thought about what NOT to have in your car? Certain items can break, explode, or otherwise suffer negative effects. Consider excluding these items from your car during chilly temperatures:
Medication: Some medications can lose their effectiveness if they freeze. Liquid medications, like insulin, can separate when they thaw, leading to incorrect or ineffective dosages.
Mobile phones/tablets: These items are susceptible to shutting down in cold weather, preventing the lithium-ion batteries from discharging electricity. They may work again when thawed, or there may be condensation inside the unit that short-circuits the battery. Apple and Samsung both recommend operating devices between about 32 and 95 degrees Fahrenheit.
Drinks/food: Soda, beer, and wine will all expand when they freeze, risking an explosion and a sticky mess—or worse, an unwelcome distraction as you’re driving. Food in cans or glass jars react in a similar manner when left in a freezing car.
Musical instruments: Guitars and other wood instruments can suffer serious damage, which may be difficult or impossible to repair. Warm up instruments gradually if you forget them in a cold car.
Most of us care about what others think of us—we want to be liked, to be held in high regard, and to be spoken of in a positive manner. Member Benefits is no different. As the 2018 calendar year was about to end, Member Benefits surveyed its members to get an idea of how they felt about us and what their perceptions were of the organization based on their experiences.
This survey was different than the customer satisfaction surveys we send to those who call or stop in to transact business. For one, it was sent randomly to 10,000 members regardless of when we last engaged with them.
The survey covered things like first impressions of Member Benefits, the products and services that stand out, overall level of satisfaction, and how likely recipients would be to recommend Member Benefits to a colleague or family member.
Admittedly, we were a little anxious about what the study might reveal. Are we really doing as well as we think we are? Are we serving members in the best way possible? What are we missing?
What follows are some of the statistically significant results of the survey as well as a Q&A with Dave Kijek, President and CEO of WEA Member Benefits. We believe it’s good practice to let our members know how we’re doing and how we plan to use their feedback to better serve them.
When asked, what’s the first thing that comes to mind when thinking about WEA Member Benefits? Your responses indicated that what sets Member Benefits apart from other providers are the products offered, our customer service, and retirement planning. The customer service comments indicated that service, trust, quality, and value of the organization come to mind first.
“All inclusive. The most comprehensive offerings and benefits in the industry.”
“Quality service at a reasonable price…a unique and opportune benefit for Wisconsin public educators.”
“I am never concerned about calling and asking a question. I have always been given an answer to my question by a kind, gracious, and knowledgeable person.”
A brand simply tells the story of what an organization is all about. The perception of a brand is what others say about you when you’re not in the room.
For a brand to be effective, people need to believe it. Members were asked about Member Benefits’ reputation and their perceptions. They were also asked about the degree to which Member Benefits met or exceeded their expectations, as well as how our company lives up to its brand promise.
Respondents overwhelmingly agree that the reputation of Member Benefits is very good or excellent (85%).
“You have an outstanding reputation backed up by integrity and success through my many years in education. I wish everyone had access to such a responsible organization.”
60% agree that Member Benefits exceeds or somewhat exceeds their expectations.
“My parents were both educators and spoke highly of Member Benefits because of the help they received in planning for retirement.”
Ninety-one percent feel that Member Benefits lives up to their brand promise often or always.
“No matter how many times I call to ask a question or gain clarification on something, I ALWAYS feel valued and that I am a priority.”
Most members indicate they are very satisfied with Member Benefits (89%).
Member Benefits is committed to providing outstanding customer service. Our team makes members their priority and strives to provide a great experience.
Another method for measuring customer satisfaction is net promoter score (NPS), which uses a scale of 0–10 and assesses the likelihood members would recommend Member Benefits to others. It is worth pointing out that more than half of all respondents scored WEA Member Benefits a 10!
The average NPS in our industry is in the low 30’s, which is considered a very good score. In comparison, we scored 49.
The most important part of the NPS questioning is why someone gives the score they do. Overall, members said they selected their rating because of the good service and experiences they have had with Member Benefits (57%).
Responses that explain the rationale of likely detractors included:
- Not having enough information about Member Benefits to offer a recommendation.
- Lack of opportunity to recommend the organization.
- Dissatisfaction with earnings, service, or pricing.
“I call WEA now and then…and the phone is always answered promptly and in a friendly, interested manner. This means a lot to me.”
“When I was a new teacher, other teachers recommended it to me.”
Every Member Financially Secure is Member Benefits’ vision, so it was important to find out how we were doing on that front. We asked several questions around financial security, such as what members’ biggest financial issues were for the next year and how financially secure they feel. Members indicated their significant financial concerns included:
- Preparing for the future (34%).
- Paying off bills and debt (21%).
- Buying/selling a home (9%).
- The economy, tax reform, and current political climate (8%).
- Insurance (8%).
- Major life event like marriage or career change (5%).
- Purchasing a car (4%).
- Tuition (3%).
When it comes to financial security, most members feel like they are almost there or extremely secure (68%). Only 8% felt they need some work or are not secure at all.
Member Benefits is constantly looking for ways to do things better. Getting advice from our members is perfect, because that is who we are serving, and there’s no better source for advice and feedback than from those we serve.
We plan to conduct this survey annually to help us measure progress and shape our plans for the future.
Q: Why did Member Benefits decide to do a perception survey?
Dave: We wanted to get an idea of where members stand in their relationship with Member Benefits—how do they feel about us? For years, we have been surveying members after they transact business with us, such as after they call to make a change to an insurance policy or retirement account. But if they didn’t call us, we had no idea how they felt other than the fact that they still had an account with us. The perception survey gave us an opportunity to reach out to a broader demographic and to ask members questions that measure their perception of our organization.
Q. In the open ended questions, one common theme was the perception that Member Benefits doesn’t offer advice on investments. Can you address this?
Dave: We actually do provide advice on investments through our financial planning services, but that hasn’t always been the case. Historically, Member Benefits did not give advice on specific investments because of industry regulations and licensure requirements. What we offered (and still do) is financial education to empower members to make sound financial decisions. We were pioneers in this area, promoting financial literacy when no one else was doing it.
Today we have financial planners available to advise members through a whole host of services.
Q. There were also some comments regarding the recent 403(b) fee cap change. Can you explain the change?
Dave: The fee structure of our retirement accounts stayed the same for nine years, but the costs to operate the program have increased. Member Benefits is very conscious of the fees members pay for their retirement savings accounts, and we have taken many steps to decrease our costs. But it’s not realistic to think that fees will never change. We did an extensive analysis to find the most appropriate and fair way to distribute the increasing business costs, and we concluded that raising the fee cap was the fairest.
I think there is a misunderstanding that the fee cap is a fee. It’s not. The fee (0.35%), which remains the same, pays the program’s operating cost. The cap is the maximum cost a member may pay during a year.
Q. Another issue that surfaced was why insurance premiums are higher with a member organization. Shouldn’t they be less expensive?
Dave: Insurance premiums are unique to each individual situation, so it’s difficult to generalize about price. We may not always be the lowest price for everyone, but a lot of members say we’re the better deal. Our board members are active or retired educators and advocate for the membership. That has a substantial impact on how we set rates and how we treat members when they have a claim.
Q. Does Member Benefits have an identity problem? Some of the comments were about health insurance or union issues.
Dave: The history of organizations with the letters WEA in their name is complicated, and there is some confusion about who does what. WEA Inc., created all the WEA organizations to serve educators. We all come from the same place but we operate separately and do different things. WEA Member Benefits was set up to provide individual insurance and financial products and services. WEA Trust provides the group products like health and life insurance. Member awareness and understanding of Member Benefits has come a long way, but it takes time.
Q. The survey asked Members how financially secure they felt. Why did you ask this question, and how do you feel about the responses?
Dave: Every Member Financially Secure is our vision and ultimate goal of our organization, so it was important for us to know how our members are feeling and to establish a benchmark. Sixty-eight percent of our members feel they are heading in the right direction. It bodes well for what we do for members, but we can do better. Things measured are things improved, and now we have a benchmark that will help us measure our success.
Q. Members overwhelmingly want more face time with Member Benefits staff in schools around the state. Any plans for that?
Dave: Increasing opportunities for personal interaction with members is a priority for us. It would be wonderful to have representatives in every school district, but it’s cost prohibitive. Our financial planners meet with members throughout the state. We also continue to add Member Benefits Consultants, retired educators who work part-time serving specific school districts. They allow us to have greater reach and more personal contact with our members. In addition, we are exploring mobile technology and chat capabilities to offer even more options for members to connect with us.
Q. One thing that came through in the comments was the high level of trust members have in Member Benefits. What does that mean to you?
Dave: I love hearing that! The reason members trust us so much is because we deliver on our promises and were created to serve Wisconsin public school employees and their families. We were not created to serve just anybody. And as we have grown through the years, that has never changed. We are proud of that fact.
Q. Lots of companies struggle to maintain a high level of customer service. What’s your secret?
Dave: We hire exceptional people who believe in our mission—that’s most important. It’s also important to retain good employees. We are fortunate to have been voted one of the Best Places to Work in Madison on numerous occasions. We believe that if we treat our employees exceptionally well, they will serve our members exceptionally well.
Q. What’s the biggest take away from the survey results?
Dave: We would like to believe that people like us and trust us, but getting the reassurance that they do means a lot to me. The fact that members trust us with their financial security is an honor and one that we don’t take lightly.
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