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Financial literacy series

Financial literacy leads to better financial health

Planning and saving for our financial future can help bring peace of mind and opportunities as we make our way through life, but it can be hard to know where to start sometimes. At WashU, we know that financial literacy leads to better financial health. That’s why we’re providing this series of education, tools and professional support to employees.

Financial literacy refers to the knowledge to make informed decisions about your own financial situation – from budgeting to investing to saving. It can help us meet our financial needs now and in the future, and increase our ability to choose important and meaningful experiences that can contribute to our well-being.

Bookmark this post and refer back to it each month for a new topic and call to action.


More than just a name

A beneficiary is a person or entity that will receive all or a portion of the proceeds of your account(s) when you die. Naming a beneficiary for each of your financial accounts can eliminate confusion, save time, and help ensure the financial wellness of your loved ones.

Call to action: Review your financial accounts (including savings, retirement, life insurance, etc.) to ensure you have an updated beneficiary assigned. Common WashU accounts include:

  • TIAA retirement account | Log into your account at Under actions, select “Add/edit beneficiaries”
  • Health Savings Account (HSA) | Log into Optum, select the “Tools and Resources” tab, then click on “Beneficiary Designation Form”
  • Life insurance | View plan details and instructions

Dive Deeper

Enrich, WashU’s financial well-being platform, provides an informative overview of the importance of and different types of beneficiaries in Who Gets What? The Importance of Naming Beneficiaries (approx. 4-minute read).


Spring clean your finances

The use of subscription services has been on a meteoric rise. For many digital platforms, a monthly fee is the only way to consume content. These streaming service subscriptions, subscribe-and-save discounts, memberships and of-the-month clubs, coupled with the ease of automatic bill pay, can add up to a lot of recurring costs.

Savvy consumers should conduct periodic audits of automatic subscriptions by reviewing credit and debit card statements and bank accounts or use tools, like credit card services or mobile apps to monitor subscription services. Some credit cards offer helpful features such as requiring cardholder approval before subscriptions renew, but they may not catch a price increase or a free trial conversion to a monthly fee. Subscription manager apps can help you track and/or notify you, but require sensitive information and sometimes require a fee subscription themselves, all for a service you could do yourself.

Call to action
Take inventory of all the memberships and subscriptions you have. If you have memberships or subscriptions you aren’t using, cancel what you no longer want or need, and put that money toward debt reduction or a savings goal.

Additional learning
Check out the Money Matters toolkit for tips to take some of the stress and worry out of financial planning, offered by Work-Life Solutions.

Buy now, pay later

Buy now, pay (and pay, and pay) later

With the prevalence of ‘buy now, pay later’ modalities, in-app purchases, and social shopping opportunities, it can be very easy to spend quite a lot with just the touch of a button. Who hasn’t been tempted by the ease of upgrading an app for a small fee, spreading payments over a period of time, or buying that product you didn’t know you needed until right now?

Buy now, pay later (BNPL) is a type of short-term financing that allows people to make purchases and pay for them over time. Generally, they do not charge interest. As these BNPL platforms become more common, consumers should be sure to read the fine print. This type of financing is not as closely regulated as credit cards, so terms can vary significantly.

Call to action
Read the fine print and prepare for your payments, since being late or missing a payment can result in late fees and damage to your credit score. Parents, talk with your teens about the pros and cons of BNPL, and how it can affect their credit history, report and score.

Additional learning
Work-Life Solutions (WashU’s EAP) provides small steps to securing your financial future.

Retirement Account Maintenance

Plan ahead, retire in style

WashU and TIAA want to make it easy to manage your retirement account. Once you’ve logged into, you can:

  • Change contribution amount | Select Change Contribution Amount from the Retirement section. Update the dollar amount or percentage for your contributions and the date to make your change effective.
  • Change the investment of future contributions | Select Change Your Investments from the Retirement section, then Choose Future Investments, then Make Changes. Choose each account or contract to update, then enter investment instructions.
  • Transfer assets among plan investment options | Select Change Your Investments from the Retirement section, then Exchange, then Make Changes. Choose each account or contract to update, then enter investment instructions.
  • Update your beneficiary designation | Select Add/Edit Beneficiaries from the All Accounts section, and select Add New to make changes to multiple accounts or Edit Existing to update beneficiaries on a specific account.

Call to Action

Take control of your retirement by talking to a TIAA financial consultant (PDF).

Dive Deeper

Take a closer look at the retirement savings benefit offered by WashU and manage your retirement account with the help of TIAA tools and resources (PDF), accessible anytime and anywhere.

Emergency Savings

Prepare for life’s curveballs

Having emergency savings is important to protect yourself from unexpected situations. By consistently saving even a small portion of your income, you can build up a financial safety net to handle expenses like medical bills, car repairs, or job loss. This provides peace of mind and safeguards your overall financial stability without resorting to high-interest borrowing. It’s a smart and responsible approach to handling life’s uncertainties.

Call to Action

Have a look at WashU’s latest financial well-being platform, Enrich. Create an account using your WUSTL key, complete the “Check-Up” and “Money Personality” assessments, and browse through the various online articles, videos, and finance courses on offer.

Dive Deeper

Student Loans

Your path to financial freedom

Managing student loans can be overwhelming, but WashU offers a range of valuable resources to help employees consolidate their loans, manage repayment options, and assess eligibility for the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program. Your journey towards better student loan management starts with these resources; use them to alleviate the complexities associated with student loans and pave the way to a more secure financial future.

Call to Action

These resources, available on the financial well-being hub, can significantly ease the process:

  1. Savi: WashU has partnered with Savi and TIAA to provide employees and their family members with the opportunity to explore alternative repayment plans. These plans can substantially lower monthly payments and guide you toward eventual loan forgiveness.
    • SAVE Program: The U.S. Department of Education is offering a new income-driven repayment plan that is personalized for your specific financial situation. This plan can help to reduce financial stress and contribute to reinforcing your overall financial stability. View the SAVE (PDF) for program details, and visit the Savi site for assistance in navigating the program.
  2. Enrich: This new comprehensive platform provides tools, resources, and personalized support. This combination of support can empower you to make well-informed decisions, establish a firm financial foundation, and confidently manage your student loans.

Dive Deeper

  • Take a moment to review the crucial steps outlined in our article on preparing to resume student loan payments.
  • This Enrich course explores how to repay your federal student loans effectively and successfully.
Retirement Resources

Navigating retirement resources | Your guide to a secure future

The world’s population of people aged 65 and over is growing more quickly than any other age group. Population aging is one of the most significant social changes of the 21st century, affecting virtually every sector of society. WashU provides tools and resources to help our employees in or near this age bracket prepare for retirement.

Call to Action

Retirement planning is crucial for your financial well-being in your golden years. As you prepare for this significant life transition, you’ll want to explore the following resources to make informed decisions:

  1. Transitioning to Retirement event | Join John Russell, Ph.D., and the Society of Professors Emeriti for a peer-to-peer discussion on retirement. Learn about healthcare, finances, emeritus status, and the retirement timeline. View event details and register online
  2. TIAA Resources
    • Pre-retiree webinars | Making a switch from saving to spending your retirement money is an important consideration as you think about your retirement goals. Join TIAA Financial Consultant Adam Reutzel to walk through “5 Steps to Creating Your Retirement Income Plan”.
    • Paying for healthcare expenses in retirement: WashU RMSA webinar
      December 6, 2023, at 12 p.m. | Register here.
      During the webinar, TIAA experts will provide information about WashU’s Retiree Medical Savings Account (RMSA) benefit. This will include details about account activation, qualifying expenses, debit card best practices, and recurring reimbursements.
    • Webinar lounge | Employees can access live and on-demand webinars to optimize their retirement strategy. Log in to register and view the full list of webinars, including these upcoming retirement-centered presentations:
      • Nov. 15, 2023, at 12 p.m. | Fine-tuning your retirement strategy: Investing toward a secure future
      • Dec. 12, 2023, at 2 p.m. | Write your next chapter: 5 steps to setting your retirement date
    • 1:1 consultations | Discuss your financial goals with a TIAA Financial Consultant to discuss your financial goals. Schedule online for virtual or in-person meetings.

Dive Deeper

  • This Enrich article explores common retirement savings mistakes and offers practical tips on how to avoid them.
  • The Office of Human Resources provides resources to support your retirement transition, including a “Planning for Retirement guide (PDF)“.
  • The Institute for Public Health presents the Harvey A. Friedman Center for Aging, whose mission is to advance a global society where people of all ages have maximum opportunity for health, security and engagement. Explore topics in aging, find out about events & meetings, or learn about their WashU for Life initiative.
  • Curiosity never retires. The Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at Washington University is a membership community designed for curious learners aged 50+. 
  • Thrive tip for managers | The Awardco platform allows us to create a memory book for retiring employees. It’s a great way to show appreciation for their hard work and dedication while promoting a positive workplace culture that values longevity. Check out a sample memory book and contact for more information.
Benefits Open Enrollment

Elevate your coverage

WashU offers a comprehensive benefits program designed to support your overall well-being, helping you and your family thrive. The annual Benefits Open Enrollment period is your opportunity to make important decisions about your 2024 health, vision, dental, and life insurance benefits, and enroll or re-enroll in a Health Savings Account (HSA) or a Flexible Spending Account (FSA). Open enrollment for your 2024 benefits will take place Nov. 1 – 17, 2023.

Call to Action

Empowering employees to customize their benefits package to suit their changing needs is a top priority. This ensures comprehensive coverage and financial security for both employees and their families. Consider using the following checklist when reviewing your benefits options:

  1. Read through your benefits enrollment guide.
  2. Review the step-by-step Workday enrollment guide.
  3. Consider your dependents and verify they meet eligibility requirements.
  4. Walk through all your options with personalized guidance, using our educational tool, ALEX.
  5. Take time to review your beneficiary designations and update them if necessary:
  6. Log in to Workday and complete your 2024 benefits open enrollment.

Visit the 2024 Open Enrollment website to review the complete checklist and access the guides, resources, tutorials, and walk-through options with our educational tool, ALEX.

Dive Deeper

Enrich is WashU’s new financial well-being platform that offers interactive finance courses, hundreds of articles, videos and tools, as well as the option to work one-on-one with a financial coach. Get started with Enrich here, and check out these specialized courses:

  • This Enrich course helps you make the most out of your health savings account and boost your financial health for the long term.
  • This Enrich course helps you learn how health insurance protects you both medically and financially and develop the knowledge to assess your personal needs in a healthcare plan.
Estate Planning

Secure their tomorrow

Thinking about what happens to your assets when you die can be overwhelming or difficult to think about, but having an estate plan makes sure the things you worked hard for go to the people or organizations you care about. To get started, let’s break down the different documents you may want to consider starting or updating.

Estate Plan Overview

An estate plan serves as the legal framework through which your assets are managed and distributed after your death. A comprehensive estate plan typically includes:

  • Last Will and Testament | A document specifying how your estate is distributed among your chosen beneficiaries.
  • Living Will (Health Care Directive) | This document outlines your medical treatment preferences in circumstances in which you are no longer able to express informed consent.
  • Trust | A legal entity holding asset ownership for designated individuals, bypassing probate and providing specific instructions for distribution.

Financial Tools and WashU Benefits

Supplementing your estate plan, consider these essential financial tools available through WashU’s employee Life and Income Protection benefits:

  • Life Insurance | A safeguard ensuring financial support for your dependents in the event of your passing, offering security and stability.
  • Long-term Care Insurance | Assisting in covering expenses linked to long-term care needs, serving as a protective measure against potential healthcare costs.

Call to action

  • Think about your goals for any assets you plan to distribute, then put pen to paper. Work-Life Solutions offers discounts and resources for employees who wish to draft a last and/or living will.
  • Review your financial accounts (including savings, retirement, life insurance, etc.) to ensure you have an updated beneficiary assigned. Common WashU accounts include:
    • TIAA retirement account | Log into your account at Under actions, select “Add/edit beneficiaries”
    • Health Savings Account (HSA) | Log into Optum, select the “Tools and Resources” tab, then click on “Beneficiary Designation Form”
    • Life insurance | View plan details and instructions

Dive Deeper

Explore Enrich, WashU’s financial well-being platform, offering interactive finance courses, informative articles, videos and access to financial coaches. Log in to Enrich to access articles and videos (3-5 minutes each) covering estate planning and wills, and discover specific resources related to estate planning:

  • Everything You Need to Know to Get Started with Estate Planning | Enrich’s comprehensive guide on estate planning tailored to your unique circumstances.
  • Preparing an Estate Plan | This course explores the estate planning process and the role an estate plan plays in helping people prepare for the unexpected.
Back to Basics

Financially prepare for the new year

As we begin a new year, it’s a great opportunity to evaluate your financial habits and gain valuable insights by conducting an annual budget review. If you’ve ever been curious about where your money goes or struggled to reach your financial objectives, there are resources available that can help you. A financial journal can be a powerful tool in this regard, allowing you to gain a better understanding of your spending habits and identify areas for improvement. By utilizing budgeting tools and developing a clear understanding of your finances, you can set practical and attainable goals that align with your long-term financial objectives.

Call to action

Dive Deeper

Whether you’re looking to save for the future, tackle debt, or have other financial goals, the Enrich platform has you covered with personalized recommendations, interactive tools, and self-paced courses on a wide range of financial topics.

Information shared in Enrich is confidential. WashU never receives your personal financial information.

Navigate Tax Season

Demystifying Tax Prep

As the tax season looms closer, it’s time to ensure you have the knowledge and tools necessary to tackle tax preparation with confidence. Tax preparation is a crucial aspect of personal finance, regardless of your income level. It involves gathering all the necessary documents, understanding tax laws, and maximizing deductions to ensure compliance and potentially reduce tax liability. Proper tax preparation helps individuals fulfill their legal obligations and empowers them to make informed financial decisions, ultimately contributing to their long-term financial well-being. Whether you’re filing independently or seeking professional assistance, preparing for tax season is essential for financial success.

Call to action

Take charge of your financial future by proactively engaging in tax preparation now. Not only will you alleviate the stress of last-minute scrambling, but you’ll also potentially uncover valuable deductions and credits, putting more money back in your pocket come tax time.

Dive Deeper

WashU employees can take advantage of a comprehensive online course provided by Enrich, which aims to simplify the tax filing process and equip you with the knowledge you need. Discover how to navigate tax season like a pro with the Enrich course, which covers topics like:

  • Learn important tax terms and definitions.
  • Identify your taxable income with ease.
  • Understand different tax forms and their purposes.
  • Gain tips for avoiding common filing mistakes.

The best part is that Enrich saves your progress as you go, allowing you to work at your own pace and pick up right where you left off.

Information shared in Enrich is confidential. WashU never receives your personal financial information.

Explore the financial well-being hub for additional tools and resources.