Helping employees save more

Denise Foster

The April issue of Benefits Magazine (subscription required) has an interesting article, “I Know I Could Save More, But….” For those without easy access to the article, which reports the results of a survey ING did with 1,000 workers participating in employee-sponsored 401(k) plans, here are a few highlights:

  • “Of those participants who were not contributing the maximum … nearly nine in ten (87%) admitted that they could afford to increase their annual contribution by 1% of their salary. In fact, 59% of them confessed that they could boost their contribution by 3% of salary.” Employees saw “saving for retirement as a ‘choice’ that is less compelling—or far less urgent—than other ways to spend their money.”
  • “Nearly two-thirds (64%) of those surveyed by ING said that their company plans account for all or most of their retirement portfolios. Nearly half of the plan participants polled (44%) said that if they didn’t have a retirement plan at work, they probably wouldn’t be saving for retirement at all.”
  • “About 77% of respondents with kids at home said that their child is more likely to catch a foul ball in the seats at a baseball game than to cash a Social Security check.”
  • “Nearly two-thirds (65%) determined their contribution rate themselves [without consulting tools or experts], and one in five (21%) admitted that they ‘go by gut feeling.'”
  • “More than half (52%) of survey respondents said their employer plan was the main place they learned about investing. Those polled cited their employers as having the most influence in getting them to start saving for retirement, followed by family and friends.”
  • “Over half (55%) agreed that if their employer provided them with more detailed education, they might contribute more to their plan. And better than seven in ten (72%) wished their company customized information for their personal situation.”

What does this mean for employers?

  • Keep communicating the importance of saving for retirement. It matters.
  • With perceptions of Social Security as less than stable, and many employees with no other savings vehicle, what you do will affect employees’ retirement.
  • Help employees estimate how much they’ll need to save. Just the act of estimating helps them change behaviors when it comes to saving for retirement.
  • Encourage employees to save. Keep reminding them. You may be the only credible source for this important information.
  • Communicate, communicate, communicate. Give employees tools and resources. Even if you have them, employees may not remember. Remind them how the tools work and what value the resources will provide.
  • Personalize the communication. Answer the questions: “What’s my situation?” and “What action could I take to improve it?”

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