closeup of George Washington on dollar bill (Photo: Shutterstock)

Thomas Paine’s prose may have inspired the American Revolution, but it also offers sage advice when it comes to dealing with any crisis. “THESE are the times that try men’s souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will, in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman.” The wisdom of Paine’s words, however, wasn’t limited to his own times. It marks the fortitude exhibited during all great crises.

And 401(k) plan sponsors may find this time is nigh for them (see “401k Plan Sponsors Fiduciary Duty in Light of Coronavirus Fear,”, March 10, 2020). With nearly everyone absorbed by the current crisis, 401(k) plan participants are in an unusually attentive state.

Plan sponsors must not let this occasion fade away unfulfilled. They must seize this day and pour open the fountain of common sense. (Yes, Thomas Paine wrote Common Sense, too.)

People are worried. And worried people seek answers. Plan sponsors are in a unique position to lend those answers to attentive ears.

Here’s a tip: Don’t have a meeting to do it. Here’s why.

Your first thought might be the usual “stay away from crowds” warning. It applies here, but not for the reasons you think.

People are often afraid to show their fears to others. When you’re in a group situation, you open yourself up to others. That’s a risk many aren’t willing to take.

In fact, people might show a face of bravado, then convince themselves it’s true when it’s not. That makes a meeting counterproductive.

What’s a reasonable and realistic alternative to a meeting? Yes, it could be a virtual meeting, but that again implies this “crowd” thing with everyone attending. A better idea would be one-on-one training. This could be either in person (which it highly inefficient). It could be better accomplished through a series of short training videos.

Think about it. The more videos the merrier. Heck, if you really want to get ambitious, make it into a decision tree journey. And keep score of how many videos you watch.

Who says a plan sponsor’s fiduciary duty can’t have the same impact as a viral YouTube video?

Yes, a crisis can try the soul, but the winter soldier knows how to grab the advantage.