Plan sponsors: How to keep employees on track for retirement readiness

Guanella-JayPeople get excited about technology. There are hundreds of websites chronicling the next big thing in technology, presenting information about how a device will save you time and money while providing entertainment. Getting people excited about or even acknowledging a retirement plan is much more complex. Over the years, there have been several new features created to help participants by increasing the flexibility of how they fund their retirements. Participant inertia is a large problem and directly relates to the usage of these new features.

As retirement plan professionals we believe having a solid retirement strategy is a no-brainer. For us, it’s a partnership with the plan sponsor that leads to great results by getting them involved and sharing responsibility of communicating and educating the participants. Human resource professionals have direct contact with employees and a great understanding of the best communication mediums and incentives that drive employees to take action.

There are several tools available for participants to project their retirement income. One of them, PlanAhead for Retirement®, enables participants to input additional income sources and variables to project their replacement incomes. Through the PlanAhead for Retirement tool, there is also a retirement readiness report that provides clients a view of the expected retirement outcomes of their participants on a plan level. The retirement readiness report displays where participants fall in relation to their projected replacement income at retirement. The report allows the client to change several variables such as the target of replacement income, return on investment, and changes to employer contributions. This is further broken out by age, service, and participant contribution rate. This interactive report helps the client make the leap from using current data such as participation rate and average deferral rate to projecting the results in the future.

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At a plan sponsor level, using industry-related statistics on participation rate and average contribution rates we can show plan sponsors how they compare to their peers. Any deficiencies in the peer comparison are consulting opportunities. Using their participant demographic data, scenarios can be created to determine how changes to plan design (i.e., adding or increasing employer match) or targeting communication to specific participants encouraging them to take advantage of the benefit provided will improve results.

At an employee level, the medium of communication and the timing of the call to action are also paramount. Coordinating the retirement plan education and enrollment at the same time as other benefit enrollment periods has advantages as the employee is already completing paperwork. Showing an employee general information on plan demographics can also lead to an increase in participation and contribution rates via competition. Inertia is present in all retirement plans. What better way to promote change than to make it a competition, albeit an internal one.

Getting a plan sponsor to act on a retirement plan is just as important as getting the employees to act. As retirement plan professionals, we know that developing a partnership with sponsors can help lead to great results, keeping employees on track and taking steps to more successful retirements—using that flashy new technology that makes it easier for everyone.