Cannabis Companies & 401(k) Plans: Smoking Out the Challenges & Options

Question: In states where it is legal, companies in the cannabis business have legal employees, pay taxes and must comply with numerous regulations but they still struggle to set-up a 401(k) plan?

Jewell Lim Esposito: Yes, many service providers are scared to get involved, unless the DOJ, FINRA and SEC say it is okay to service a cannabis company with respect to a 401(k) plan.  This is the result, when the Internal Revenue Cod and DOL rules actually permit a cannabis/hemp/CBD company to have 401(k) plans.  

You should know, even if a business is illegal (as cannabis is under Schedule 1 of The Controlled Substances Act), the IRS taxes it.  

Even if a business is illegal, it still can access a 401(k) Plan, as IRS and DOL rules allow.  

With Guest
Jewell Lim Esposito, 
Partner, ERISA/Tax
FisherBroyles, LLC

Jewell Lim Esposito offers decades of in-the-trench practical experience in the Employee Benefits/Tax legal world. She further sub-specializes in Title I (Department of Labor fiduciary issues) and Title II (IRS tax qualification issues) under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). Ms. Esposito's strength is understanding the business and demographics of her clients, who are headquartered across the nation. That is, with her practice being federal law, the location of the US client needing ERISA/Tax guidance on tax compliance and fiduciary duties is immaterial.

She advises in "plain English," even when the issues are complex and is able to size up exposure for C-suite executives to help them select an optimal Tax and ERISA strategy. The range of Ms. Esposito's practice extends to work in the areas of government pension plans, Executive Compensation, the Affordable Care Act, COBRA, health and welfare fringe/prevailing wage under the Service Contract Act and Davis-Bacon, and ERISA prohibited transaction exemptions.

In the area of cannabis/hemp/CBD, Ms. Esposito counsels associations, member companies, and growers/distributors/dispensaries/license holders on how Section 280E of the Internal Revenue Code affects their payroll, 401(k), health benefits, and insurance deductions. She currently chairs and coordinates her firm's efforts in showcasing all the legal services already provided to the Cannabis, Hemp, and & CBD industry and in education related to marijuana use to the general workplace.

Ms. Esposito is the editor of and contributing author to the AllThingsERISA blog.

NEW: Episode Transcript

Rick:    Well Bill, welcome back to the podcast. Last year you and I had a really great conversation about high-value, low-cost financial wellness strategies, and during that conversation you were really the first one to bring up to me the concept of caregiver benefits. And I think at that time I said would love to explore that with you a little bit more in the future. So here we are, and I'm looking forward to chatting a little more about that with you today.

 

Bill:    Well, thanks for having me back Rick. I appreciate it.

 

Rick:    So let's just dive in there. What's your sense for, I guess just in the broader market, what the awareness of caregiver benefits are within the employer community? I mean, do you think this is something a lot of people are thinking about or talking about, or is it a little more under the radar screen?

 

Bill:    You know, that really is the question. Number one, it's a very big audience, and so I don't know that people ... let's say financial advisors or even employers know how big the audience is. And then I'll give you some stats on how big it is, and it's growing. But it's also a matter of this audience, just in a sense, doesn't know it's a very complicated course to navigate, but it can actually be simplified if you know just a couple places to start, and then it can really blossom.

 

Bill:    So some perspective, how big is the audience? According to a recent study, one in four U.S. adults or about 61 million people have reported to have some type of special need or disability. So that's huge. That used to be one in five. Now it's one in four. One in five U.S. workers ... now we're just going to talk about the workforce. One in five of U.S. workers has reported that they are a caregiver of a loved one with special needs, and it's probably bigger than most people would think because only 56% of these caregivers report that to their supervisor for fear of maybe a number of things. Maybe it could impede on their advancement within the organization or whatever it might be. But it's a big audience, and you kind of look at that and say, "Well then these caregivers, 9 out of 10 of them receive little to no financial support for taking care of their loved one with special needs."

 

Bill:    So there is a financial burden that's not being satisfied, but yet there is an opportunity there that you and I can talk about. And one last stat/ All right, so they don't have the funding to help out with this. They're also a bit tired that they spend on average 24 hours per week. And I don't know how many people have 24 hours of discretionary time after they come home from work, but they spend 24 hours a week on average taking care of their loved one with special needs. So it's a very underserved community that I think there's a ton of opportunity for us financial professionals to help out.

 

Rick:    And when you say taking care of one with special needs, can you maybe just expand upon that a little bit? And what, I guess, falls into that broader category?

 

Bill:    And that is it because I think a lot of the listeners will say, "Come on. Really? That can't be right." Well, when you look at different types of disabilities or special needs, you start out with what everyone's probably thinking about, and that's congenital, or those that are born with a special need or disability. So that would be down syndrome or maybe on the autism spectrum or even something like a fragile X. But then you can get into a debilitating disease, and that'd be something that comes later in life like a multiple sclerosis, muscular dystrophy, or even now something's becoming more open and in the public, but mental health.

 

Bill:    Then you get into an incident, catastrophic incidents. So that could be a heart attack or stroke or some type of accident. And then you get ... and this is usually when I get the head nods. You move into the aging population, and that is a growing population. In fact, just a stat, 10,000 people turn 65 in the U.S. every day. So when you get into the aging population, now that's Alzheimer's or Parkinson's. So when you categorize all of those, you could say, "Oh, okay. I do get it now. That probably could add up to 61 million Americans."

 

Rick:    Yeah. And as you were describing that, and as you and I were chatting earlier, I was really thinking back to some conversations we've had on the podcast as well about Gen Xers, and you use the word "sandwich generation" earlier when we were talking offline. But that also kind of struck a chord with me. Well, A, I'm a Gen Xer, but B, that was one of the things that I've talked about with some other guests where it's there's a lot of people out there. And especially as you look at the demographics in a workforce, it may or may not apply to you individually. But it is something that is, I would agree, probably more prevalent just demographically these days, especially depending upon maybe the mix of some of the different generations you have in the workforce. It could be much more prevalent in a group than others.

 

Bill:    And you're right. We're all these days talking about wellness programs and how do we expand wellness, and do we really understand the audience within an employer, a plan sponsor. So there's been a lot of attention on millennials, and the wellness things that we're talking about with them would be student loan debt or maybe emergency savings. But the one area ... and I am a Gen Xer as well, and it's hard for us Gen Xers in the sense that we are that sandwich generation. We're raising children, but we also now are taking care of aging parents. And so that is tough because we're also in the prime of our careers. And so from a career advancement and all that, things are getting pretty exciting, pretty intense. But at the same time, we've got this going on at home.

 

Bill:    So when we talk about wellness programs, and then we're designing it for millennials. We're thinking about what their needs are and how do we set aside. There's this other one right here that just we haven't talked about enough yet. And that is, "Okay. Gen Xer, sandwich generation, taking care of kids and parents, what exactly does that mean, and how does that affect your ability to perform at work?" Well, all right. When you go home, and you're spending on average 24 hours per week taking care of a loved one with special needs, by the way, what does that do to you financially?

 

Bill:    Let's say you have a child that was born with special needs. What does that do financially? Now all of a sudden it's starting to get into the wellness program. Number one, it could affect your productivity at work, absenteeism, things like that. But two, [inaudible 00:06:30] if I've got these expenses, does that affect my ability to save for retirement and to be able to stay on track and retire on time and be emotionally and financially prepared? Or did I deviate because I had these other expenses?

 

Bill:    Here's a stat for you. Caregivers of loved ones with special needs, they take out 40% more loans or hardship withdrawal than non-caregivers, 40% more. So the answer is yes, this is effecting their ability to save for retirement. So then that's when we as professionals, and particularly I'm here representing as an example, Voya Financial and what Voya has done, and said, "This is something that really needs some attention. Not only is it just the right thing to do, but it really is in our wheelhouse of we're trying to help Americans stay on track and retire." And this is something that deviates them from the past because it's part of that statement, "Life happens," that we have children. We have aging parents, but we can't lose sight that we as professionals need to keep them on that path. So there's things that we can do, and we're just as a Voya representative, we're trying to be pretty noisy about things to consider, so you can stay on track.

 

Rick:    And Bill before we jump into some of the specifics that I know you have at your fingertips there, one thing I've been trying to do on the podcast is just spend a little bit more time talking about the foundations, or how does an employer go from, "Well, we don't offer this today" to carving out the mental space or creating the need or case for why we should offer this if we're not offering it today? Or why we should head down this path if we're currently not doing that today. So you've certainly obviously shared the number of folks that could potentially be impacted just statistically, but I guess is one thing that a lot of people are really concerned about right now is recruiting and retention just due to the demand and the low unemployment. And it just seems like the number one concern that a lot of folks in the workforce, or a lot of employers have these days is, "Where am I going to get workers?" So is something like caregiver benefits ... is that something that moves the needle when it comes to competing for talent or retaining talent within your workforce?

 

Bill:    Yeah. And that really is that question, especially when have this strong economy, very low unemployment. You really want to retain quality people because it's so expensive to go ahead and replace that individual. There's so many stats on caregivers that had to leave the workplace because their employer either didn't understand or wasn't flexible with their schedule, or they had to leave and spend more time being a caregiver. So there are some things that can be done to where if that employer instead had some level of caregiver benefits that then would provide media concierge type of approach so that that valued employee didn't have to take so much time off or has altered their schedule, whatever it may be. There are things that employers can do to supplement that. There's organizations. Think of it as like a concierge to help do some of these caregiver type of items that would take so long for an individual that doesn't know.

 

Bill:    Take for instance you have an aging parent, and now I need to do some research for an assisted living facility. It would be hard, in particular, if you're out of town, like your parents live in another state. It'd be so difficult to do that type of research remotely, but if you have this concierge or professional that knows how to research, how to negotiate, how to do all of those things, that could really help out.

 

Bill:    I'll give you an example. Voya works with this organization called Wellthy, W-E-L-L-T-H-Y, and employers can contract with Wellthy. And they can either buy a care packages, like X number of them, or they can just cover their entire staff for a discounted per member per month type of a rate. But then each individual caregiver is assigned when they have something come up a care coordinator, and that care coordinator is a licensed social worker that that can do all of that research. And then they've got this personal contact, as well as they can monitor all of it on the dashboard. So that's something right there that kept that individual still employed, still engaged, still very productive. That's just one example.

 

Rick:    Yeah. And since you brought it up, I mean, one question I had was are there any stats, or is it a reality to assume ... I don't know if that's even the right word ... that there are some people that just have to exit the workforce due to the lack of support, or the lack of options that they might either realistically have or perceive they might have around providing care for a family member or someone else that just they perceive they don't have the ability to work anymore, so they have to exit the workforce? I mean is that a reality, or is that something that someone tracks or has stats on?

 

Bill:    There is. And I don't have that stat at my fingertips, but I've seen some stats that really would blow you away. And I think that if there are any HR directors that are listening to this podcast, I bet they would nod their head and said, "Oh, I've had that happen before that someone left because they had to take care of an aging parent or a child." But I have those stats, and I can shoot those over to you.

 

Rick:  Perfect. Yeah, and I can post those on the show page, so that'd be great.

 

Bill:    Yeah.

 

Rick:    One other thing before we delve into a couple of the, "Here's what you do," or "Here are some additional options for you to consider." I'm just going to come back to the Gen X thing a second. Again, that's near and dear to my heart. But I know as I've talked to groups about financial wellness, and as people are thinking about things, I think everyone has been coached or trained over the years to think about the workforce and the generational layers that they have in their workforce. And I think some people talk about, "Well, hey student loan debt" or whatever. And immediately people are like, "Oh, well we don't have a lot of millennials. I don't know if that applies to us." And that's a bigger conversation about student loan debt is more than just millennial stuff.

 

Rick:    But I guess is there a profile? Or as employers are sitting back thinking about it saying, "All right, well is my group may be more susceptible to have people that are providing care or just more caregivers," is there any type of demographic outside of just, "Well, hey if you've got a lot of Gen Xers, then maybe you have more caregivers than you think"? I mean, I'm sure I'm oversimplifying it, but I'm just kind of putting myself in that position of, "Hm, would this really apply to us? Or how do I know if this is really something that we're missing the boat on by not providing?"

 

Bill:    Yeah, and I think you're right. I've heard that a lot when we bring this up when we talk about it that someone's like, "Oh, that doesn't apply to my workforce." But then that's when I share, "Well ..." If I share just kind of globally that it's one out of five of U.S. workers as a caregiver, and only 56% have told their employer, about half of your audience hasn't told their supervisors. So it's probably bigger than you think. And I wouldn't necessarily just zero ... Gen X just kind of comes into mind because not only are they raising children, but they're also taking care of aging parents. If even you have any millennials that have children, or it even could just be spouses, but they certainly could have a child with special needs or a spouse that had some type of event that then created the disability or special needs.

 

Bill:    So oftentimes when they give this presentation, there's an audience of people. I see so many heads nod, and then people almost because you sort of pierce the veil that people then raise their hand and say, "Here's what my situation is, and thank you for bringing this up. And blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Do you know where I could ...?" So I think once you begin talking about it, then they open up, but it becomes a much bigger audience than you think it is. And they're just starving for a resource, a direction. Just kind of start the momentum going, and we can talk about a few of those examples.

 

Rick:    Yeah, and I think that's the perfect transition. So to your point, somebody comes to the realization that this is something that they'd like to offer, or that their workforce would benefit from, et cetera. Where do they go from there? What is the, "Okay, I've made the decision. Now I'm ready to do something"? What does that look like? How does that get started? Et cetera.

 

Bill:    So one could be, for any of the financial advisors that are listening, there is actually a designation that you can go out and get to be a designated special needs advisor, specialist. And so you can do that. I believe that should be American College. They just brought that back. So that's one thing to where the advisor could be this great resource, and then the plan sponsor working with the advisor can say, "What are the things that I should consider? Can we hold some type of resource training just to show where they could go, what they should do, things to consider."

 

Bill:    I'll give some very quick high-level items with some examples, things to consider. There's another that what we've done at Voya, and this is just an example of one record keeper, but one that certainly is very involved in this community is we've made it a pretty intuitive experience. And what I mean by that is that as participants are enrolling into the 401(k) plan or 403(b), 457, when they're designating beneficiaries, we'll have a box that'll pop up and say, "Do any of these beneficiaries have special needs? If so, click here." There's some considerations you got to be aware of, and then we can go into it.

 

Bill:    We have a whole section on our website that we call Voya Cares, and it is really directed towards helping caregivers, as well as people with special needs, with certain considerations. Most of those considerations are financial by nature. Here's things to consider as far as how to accumulate assets if you have an individual special needs, or how to not accumulate assets because it could disqualify you for government benefits. Again, we'll talk about that in a second. Here's some other considerations. Here's some resources to consider. Here's a checklist of items that you should ask along the way when you're just thinking about taking care of a loved one with special needs.

 

Bill:    So there's a lot of those considerations, but those are just resources. We also have trained individuals that you can have conversations with in our call center that can you take that even deeper, and we train advisors as well to go ahead and take that conversation deeper.

 

Rick:    Perfect. And I think you mentioned earlier about obviously someone who's having to provide care. Certainly they're taking a lot of time to do that, but are there things that employers can be doing that might just be more accommodation based, or that might be more speaking the language that would show that they understand some of the challenges that caregivers have? I don't know. I don't know if that kind of is not really out there, but I feel like you hit on that briefly, and I wanted to drill in and see if that was something that I heard right or no.

 

Bill:    You absolutely did, Rick. And thanks for bringing that up. Every employee when they start at Voya, we train them on what they call People First Language. And that is sort of a sensitivity that we want to make sure that when we're speaking to individuals with special needs or their caregivers about the individual special needs, they use People First Language.

 

Bill:    And I'll speak just personally. I am a caregiver. My son William, 18 years old, he has down syndrome. So I speak about my son, first, who has downs syndrome, second. As opposed to sometimes you'll hear people say, "His down son" or "His autistic son." It's his son, people first, who has autism, or who's on the autism spectrum. That community ... that shows I think that you're very sensitive to that is an individual's first almost like, "That is Bill, and he has brown hair" sort of a thing. So it is more of a descriptor after the person.

 

Rick:    Perfect. And are there certain things that employers can do around ... I don't know. I mean, like I said, I heard this in the millennial conversation where it's, "Hey, if a millennial can get their job done, and they just need more flexible hours, but they continue to do the work that you're requiring of them." Speaking in that type of vernacular makes you a little bit more attractive to a millennial who's going to value that type of flexibility in maybe their work schedule or their work week. Have you seen employers contemplate maybe the same things with a caregiver? "Hey, I have requirements that I need to take my mom or take my child to certain appointments or certain things on a regular basis." We get that, and we will accommodate that as someone who is providing caregiver benefits.

 

Bill:    Yeah. Flexible hours, job sharing. And you mentioned something that was very interesting with millennials. Millennials ... If we're just going to go ahead and really generalize here ... but they really like working for employers that they share a common belief, and they love good culture within employers. And if you have an employer that, let's say you're a millennial, and you work next to somebody who is a caregiver. You may not be a caregiver yourself, but boy, you sure love, as a millennial, how this employer has really worked to accommodate this caregiver right here. Whether that be flexible work hours, whether that be job sharing situation, whether it be whatever, that was just a human first type of employer.

 

Bill:    And that's culture that keeps millennials ... which is tough to keep millennials at one organization. They typically, again to generalize, job hop more than say Gen Xers, but if they believe in that organization, love their culture, and these are the kinds things that promote an employers culture, then they'll stay. So not only did you keep that caregiver, but sees everyone who watched how that company took care of that person, that that just makes them that much happier as well.

 

Rick:    And you mentioned there's some specialized training for advisors that's available out there. Are there other professionals that, to the extent, an employer wants to dig in a little deeper or really explore options that they might have available to them in providing caregiver benefits that they should be thinking about or might be available to them in one way, shape, or form?

 

Bill:    One could be ... sides again. From the Voya side, we have a trained team that can go out, and do a lot of that. We do that for our customers when requested, or we offer it up, whenever. But there's also attorneys that specialize in special needs planning. They'll be the ones that help with special needs trusts, which are important in this world of financial planning. They can be a little bit more expensive. So that's why I was thinking that if they'd work on with a financial advisor who is already on retainer and with that employer, and that's just what they do. That's part of their service they provide. That could be a good benefit too. And again, it could ... as far as the financial advice, there aren't many people that do this, so those that specialize in this, I think should really done a good job of serving a community that's underserved, that really needs that help, and differentiating themselves along the way.

 

Rick:    Awesome. And I know that there are a couple very specific things that when you think about some of the financial aspects can make a big difference. So I guess, maybe to jump into a few details, what are a couple of things out there that are important for caregivers to understand around, whether it's designating beneficiaries, and the impact that that might have on their ability to receive needs-based or other type of financial support, that not everybody is aware of or is maybe not as broadly known as it should be?

 

Bill:    Yeah, and that is really an important point. I've had so many friends that are in this area that have not navigated it appropriately and seen the consequences. So there's really two things to consider. Let's just take a situation to where you had a child who was born with special needs. In a sense, there are two different types of government benefits. They're entitlements, so thinking that way of social security. And within this world of special needs and disabilities, that's the social security disability insurance. And so that is really in a sense, social security income that you can receive.

 

Bill:    By the way, I mentioned just in this example of having a child with special needs. This could be anybody. If you had a particular person, let's say, that an individual that got in an accident, and he's 50 years old and that he is a quadriplegic now. That accident now to where he cannot have that same type of job, he would then potentially be eligible for SSDI benefits that would kick in before his typical social security age, and he has already worked enough to go ahead and qualify for that. So he could file for SSDI benefits.

 

Bill:    But back to, let's say you're a caregiver of a child with special needs, there's the other side of it. So that was your entitlement. Think social security. Then there's more of this think of public assistance, and in this situation that would be more like SSI. And SSI is one that says, "All right, do you have financial needs?" And they would define you as not having financial needs if ... and I'll just really simplify this ... if you have more than $2,000 to your name. So apparently if you have more than $2,000, you're fine financially. It's a little antiquated.

 

Rick:    Exactly.

 

Bill:    Right. And it's kind of silly, but that gets into the point of, "Okay, I'm a parent. And I have three children, and I'm going to go

ahead and name my three children each as beneficiary to a third, a third, a third. And that's what it is, but one of those children has special needs. And God forbid, if something were to happen to me that triggered this event, if that one person, my one child, my son who has special needs, we're receiving government benefits. The fact that I passed, and he received my life insurance proceeds could disqualify him for government benefits going forward.

 

Bill:    Now, what you can do instead is name a ... In our situation, we have a special needs trust, and that's where those assets go. They go into the special needs trust, and that is a way to go ahead and protect those assets. The other one is through an able account. An able account is basically a 529 plan. So 529A and that allows an individual with special needs to save money above that $2,000 that you can put money into your able account. Now, there are limits almost like a 401(k), but you can put money into that able account and then draw from it. And you can let that account get up to, but not exceed $100,000.

 

Bill:    So let me give you an example. My son, I said he's 18. When he was 17, the government would look and say, "All right, is there a need? Does he pass that needs-based testing?" And he would not because they would look at my income and my assets and my wife and our income and our assets. However, when he turned 18 they looked at his income and assets while he's a student. So he doesn't have a job, and we don't have any of his assets in his name. We'd have it in a special needs trust. So he would then qualify for Supplemental Security Income, SSI, which is $771 per month, so $9,200 a year.

 

Bill:    So right there, what we could do is go to our social security office, file for this, have that SSI income go right into an able account. We go set up an able account. You go right into have that direct deposited into that able. Go get a debit card, and then whenever we needed to do anything, SSI can be used in needs for food or clothing or shelter or maybe therapy, physical occupational speech therapy that he gets. We can just use the debit card and draw from that able account. We can also, my wife and I, put money into that able account just as long as it doesn't grow, doesn't exceed the annual limits, call it $15,000 or exceed $100,000. You keep drawing it down, so it doesn't exceed that 100,000.

 

Bill:    Now, I'll take that even a step further, Rick, in the sense that my wife worked and had emulated some social security type of benefit accumulation. Another thought could be when she is earliest able to go ahead and draw social security, she should do that because then when she starts drawing social security at the earliest age rather than waiting longer and letting it grow higher, she could go ahead and do that, and then our son would get 50% of what she's eligible for. That would be in a sense his new level of income and have that go right into the able account.

 

Bill:    Then when I've been working longer, then when I'm ready to take social security, I can then start taking it, and it would immediately move from her social security income benefit that he would get to mine. And he gets 50% of mine. Do the same thing, have that go directly into his able account. I get the full benefits. He gets 50% of it. When I pass, he gets about 75% of what I've qualified for. And you can just go into ... and I would recommend everyone because we all used to get our social security benefit statements, but we don't anymore. So we need to go to the social security website, and I recommend that really everyone do that at www.ssa.gov, and then you can go and just take a look at your social security benefit. And it would even go through and tell you, "Here's how much you've accumulated" from an income perspective at the different ages, as well as any type of disability income. "Should you become disabled, here's what your income would be." It gives you a long list of if these scenarios happened.

 

Bill:    So back to the story I said. I have a son that just turned 18, and now he is eligible because we planned it appropriately that he doesn't have assets to his name, so he can receive SSI $771 a month. When my wife reaches that certain age where she's eligible to go and get social security, we could replace that with now getting that income, put that into the able account and then transition over to mine, which would be a larger amount. You could do that. I think these are things that most people don't know. And there's a couple of different moving parts there, but really you boil it down. Just know that here's what you do with your assets. You don't save anything for that individual with special needs. Put it in their name. You put it into a trust, or you put it into an able account so that you can continue to get these benefits.

 

Bill:    Now, think of anyone who's listening and saying ... Let's say they're a single parent earning $40,000, and they heard this and said, "And I just heard a story that now I didn't even know I was eligible for $9,200." That's a nice raise. And then meanwhile, the social security piece of it too. So I think this is just something that people don't know enough about, and it's out there. And if you just plan appropriately some of those little simple steps, what I said earlier, it could prevent them from taking a loan or hardship from their retirement plan.

 

Rick:    I mean, and as you're saying that, that's such good information on my end to have and just such good additional resources at my fingertips. I mean, is this something that you knew all along in working with your son and the planning that you guys had been doing as a family? I mean, how did you come by that knowledge?

 

Bill:    I'm going to come clean with everyone listening here. I have been in the financial services industry for 31 years. I've been a caregiver of my son for 18 years, and I've been really promoting Voya Cares and all of these components that we should consider. And I just learned this two weeks ago, the component on SSI. I knew about the social security income, but I didn't know about SSI, and I was preparing to do a CE course and talking to a subject matter expert who really focuses on this. And I was blown away. I hung up after he provided me some more intensive training and called my wife and said, "Did you know that we're eligible for this?"

 

Bill:    And so I shared that story with our chairman and CEO who is really has put everything behind Voya Cares. And he said, "Bill, that's exactly why we need to get so noisy about this and really promote this because if you didn't know that, think of how many people didn't know that." And so that's part of the passion.

 

Rick:    And that's such a great point because from my perspective, I'm just curious how prevalent ... I guess I don't even know if that's the best word to use, but how aware are people that are providing care of some of these benefits? And I think you just answered that, which is hey, I consider you somebody who's pretty financially sophisticated and savvy. And for you to still be learning things today about what your options are, I think that speaks volumes in terms of what the potential need or what the potential benefit that can be provided by an employer to help educate and provide potentially access to additional resources that their employees didn't know that they could even get access to.

 

Bill:    And imagine if you're an employer, you're the HR director, and you brought in somebody to go ahead and share just a story. And all of a sudden you have five people in the room that maybe they start welling up. Maybe they come up and give you a big hug and said, "I'm eligible for that. Are you telling me I just got a $7,000 raise? Oh my gosh, I can do. And I have these therapies that cost this and some medical equipment that costs this. And oh my gosh, you're my new best friend." I just look at that sort of thing.

 

Bill:    And yeah, when I learned that, I had already been pretty passionate about all these things that I didn't know, and I should know. But I'm in this world, and I didn't know it. That just kind of made the fire grow stronger to say, "All right, I really need to get out there and tell more people about this." Because any of the listeners right now are probably saying, "Well I have friends who have children who have special needs. I wonder if they know about this." I was just telling at the local high school football game, and a bunch of our friends that are in the ILC, and I was telling some parents the story. And one of them looked at me and said, "You and I have to talk. I didn't know about that." She said, "My daughter turns 18 in a few months." And says, "All right. Well, let's talk."

 

Rick:    Now, that's great. And again, I appreciate you sharing your story, but also I appreciate you sharing everything that you have. I guess one or two last things here. In terms of resources or checklists or other information that somebody who's hung with us in this conversation and says, "Wow. Whether it's for me or for a friend," are there any links or anything that I can link to on the website page for this episode that I could steer people towards or that maybe they could get access to on their own that might be helpful?

 

Bill:    Yeah, and if you go to voya.com/voyacares, then you will be able to see a lot of our resources. We provide a lot of these resources pre-firewall, and so if you just type that in, you'll be able to see checklists and things to consider and so on. When you are a customer of ours, that's when we integrate a lot of the thinking and to be a little bit more intuitive. Like I shared that story about the enrollment experience that left questions about when you're designating beneficiaries, but before you get there and you go to voya.com/voyacares, you'll be able to see a lot of planning and advice, different things to consider, all of that.

 

Rick:    Perfect. Last question. Just I guess as you think back to your journey that you've been on, as you think back to maybe some things that you've experienced or been part of with Voya Cares, is there anything that we haven't talked about that would be helpful to share, or that might be impactful that could help employers or individuals or others that are just thinking about caregivers and what they can do for them?

 

Bill:    You know, I think it's always you don't have to be an expert. I think so many people are afraid and say, "Well Bill, I just listened to you, and you've been in this business for 31 years. And you're a caregiver, and you know this," but I just shared that I didn't know this. And I was fine not knowing it and asking a lot of questions. If you are a plan administrator and HR director, I would just ask the questions. Don't be afraid to talk about it. If you're a financial advisor and you're saying, "I don't know that I can go that deep into it," don't worry about it. Just know that it's a very large audience. They love to talk about it to somebody who will listen and direct them to some resources, and then know where to go like I gave you one resource with the voya.com/voyacares.

 

Bill:    But just be willing to ask and have a couple of resources available at your fingertips. Again, there's a great checklist that says, "Here are things to consider as a caregiver." I think that the audience would just love that someone is here trying to help guiding them on different resources and just start the dialogue. I think there's so many people that are just afraid of getting a little over their skis and don't worry about it. It's soft snow. You know what? Everyone's going to go ahead and have a nice conversation.

 

Rick:    Yeah, no, I agree. And I think you said it very well. Just steer into it. Lean into it. Have the conversation, and I think to your point, if you don't position yourself as, "I'm the absolute authority on this," I think you can have a great conversation, and see where it goes from there whether, again, you're an employer, whether you're a service partner out in the community, whatever it might be. That was one of the reasons I was excited to have you back. I've seen a lot of what you guys had been doing. I think it's really important as wellness continues to evolve in what it means and how employers are looking at it. I think this is just something that that makes a ton of sense to to continue or try to keep front and center with people that are contemplating or looking at what they can potentially include in a wellness type of offering.

 

Bill:    Well, thank you very much for this opportunity, Rick. I really appreciate it, and thank you for doing these podcasts. They're very informational. And whether it's on this topic or others, there's just so much out there for people to consider, so I'm glad you're using this platform to do that. Thank you.

 

Rick:    Absolutely. Thank you. And certainly, until next time, I look forward to following what you guys are doing and would love to have you back down the road to talk a little more about this or certainly other topics that you guys are passionate about. So thanks again for being here, and you know I'll find you again.

 

Bill:    Absolutely. I look forward to it. Thanks Rick.

Recap, Highlights, and Thoughts

When we get to tackle new topics and shed some light where there is confusion, that get’s me really excited. Regardless of what state you live in, this is timely and relevant as we tackle cannabis companies and their unique challenge of setting up 401(k) plans.  My guest, Jewell Lim Esposito an ERISA Attorney with FisherBroyles has specific hands on experience working with companies in the cannabis, hemp, cbd space.  She shares some of the challenges they face in setting up 401(k) plans for their employees, why various service providers have been hesitant to enter the space and what cannabis and other similar companies can do to provide a 401(k) plan to their employees. Also, if you are like me and are a little confused on the difference between marijuana, cannabis, hemp and cbd is, we discuss that as well.  Really great conversation and a ton of information for employers and retirement service partners who are trying to figure out what to do.  

 

During our conversation Jewell references supporting material from her blog All Things ERISA

Thanks for listening!​​

Sincerely Your Host, 

Rick Unser

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