Presto change-o! Education specialists from Strong Capital Management Inc., Menomonee Falls, Wis., created a defined contribution plan education session for employees of Atlas Material Technology LLC, Chicago, that turned a potentially dry subject into a magical afternoon.
The education specialists interspersed lessons on creating balance sheets and tracking daily expenses with a bit of sleight of hand and other magic tricks.
"It was a break from the humdrum, routine presentations that people were used to, and it broke the mold," said Bob Till, general manager of human resources for Atlas.
Atlas has a $13.5 million profit-sharing plan with a 401(k) feature; it has 100% participation. Although deferral rates had not caused the plan to be top-heavy, Atlas wanted semibundled provider Strong to help increase employees' voluntary contributions to the plan, Mr. Till said. "I was concerned that this is a retirement savings vehicle that was not used to its fullest."
So Strong offered two sessions during working hours to introduce employees to budgeting concepts. The underlying theme was that saving money by budgeting more efficiently allows employees to save more money in their accounts, he said.
After the material was presented, employees were separated into groups to come up with ideas about how to save money on expenses such as college, health care and vacations, he said. Employees also learned to create household balance sheets.
Then there was the magic. In one trick, a rubber band was looped around a folded dollar bill, and paper clips were arranged on opposite ends of the bill. When the educator pulled briskly on the dollar bill - voila! - the paper clips, representing expenses, were left hanging from the rubber band. This, she said, was a way to make ends meet.
"I thought it was received very well," Mr. Till said. The magic tricks "captured and retained their attention so the people could focus on the message."