COLLECTED WISDOM™ on Employee Education, Participation, and Communications
This archive contains not only the most current material on the topic, but also older items that are still relevant, provide background, perspective or are germane to the topic.
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With success measurement largely limited to the accumulation phase, participation becomes a major criterion, but helping participants to help themselves requires engagement. How do plan sponsors achieve this level of engagement or action from participants? Are defined contribution participants more likely to respond to messages of fear or encouragement? This 4-page report explores key questions that plan sponsors often ask and offer recent research to help provide answers.
Source: Dciia.org, July 2021
Plan design features that turn employees' inaction into positive savings behavior, like automatic enrollment and automatic escalation, can increase a plan's participation and contribution metrics. But employees who understand the importance of their employer's retirement plan benefits and who are actively engaged in saving for retirement will improve their odds of meeting their retirement income goals. An effective plan participant education strategy can also help workers make informed financial decisions in other areas of their financial lives.
Source: Newportgroup.com, June 2021
Though the use of confusing jargon remains prevalent, new Invesco survey data suggests the financial services industry has made progress in improving understanding of the defined contribution plan system.
Source: Planadviser.com, May 2021
A study on higher education retirement plans from Voya found 43% of plan sponsors say motivating employees to save adequately and invest wisely are top challenges to helping their employees prepare for retirement. Interestingly, a separate study from Transamerica found more than half (59%) of higher education institutions view motivating faculty and staff to save adequately for retirement as their greatest challenge in managing their retirement plan. Forty-seven percent said it was helping participants invest wisely.
Source: Plansponsor.com, April 2021
The popularity of virtual and self-service 401K educational sessions has grown since the start of the pandemic, but apparently that trend was accelerating even before then.
Source: Napa-net.org, April 2021
Does the industry have a clear definition of what the DOL would consider investment education (not advice) in a 401k plan so that a financial advisor would not have to follow the requirements of Prohibited Transaction Exemption 2020-02?
Source: Napa-net.org, April 2021
With the multiemployer relief legislation cleared from Congress' docket, look for policymakers to turn to efforts to expand retirement plan coverage, ARA staff explained during a March 23 NAPA webcast. Will Hansen, Chief Government Affairs Officer at the American Retirement Association, and Andrew Remo, the organization's Director of Legislative Affairs, offered their take on the legislative outlook for the rest of the year, as well as what retirement policy provisions we may see in forthcoming legislation.
Source: Businesswire.com, March 2021
When the DOL finalized a rule in May that permitted default electronic delivery of retirement plan disclosures, recordkeepers, and plan sponsors welcomed the move by saying it will increase participant engagement and cut mailing costs. While those points still hold, since the rule went into effect July 27 there hasn't been much movement to implement default electronic disclosure programs.
Source: Pionline.com, October 2020
There's been a shift in emphasis on retirement plans in the non-profit sector. For the first time, organizations that provide 403b plans reported that retirement planning, rather than increasing participation, was their top focus for employee education, according to the 12th annual 403b Plan Survey from the Plan Sponsor Council of America.
Source: Napa-net.org, October 2020
Communication with employees about benefits is always critical. And now there's an added wrinkle, the pandemic. It's changed the rulebook, at least in some ways, and a recent blog entry offers suggestions on communicating in this upended environment.
Source: Asppa.org, September 2020
Supplement participant conversations about how much to save for retirement with this helpful article regarding the 15% rule of thumb. The article explains how saving at least 15% of gross income (including employer contributions) can allow individuals to save enough for retirement that could last decades. An automated approach to saving regularly ensures it's a priority and helps take the emotion out of investing.
Source: Troweprice.com, August 2020
One of the challenges associated with successfully engaging retirement plan participants is figuring out your audience's preferences. Understanding a participant's behavior is the key to successful engagement. Here are some of my behaviors that are relevant to the engagement process.
Source: Cammackretirement.com, August 2020
The DOL announced final regulations that describe new "safe harbor" procedures for electronic delivery of required ERISA retirement plan disclosures such as Summary Plan Descriptions, quarterly or annual account statements, and other items. The new safe harbor procedures are an addition to the DOL e-disclosure rules that date back to 2002 and represent an improvement on the 2002 rules for employees who are not "wired at work," as defined in those regulations. The safe harbor procedures took effect on July 27, 2020. A plan administrator that relied on the safe harbor before that date wouldn't be subject to enforcement action, the DOL vowed.
Source: Eforerisa.wordpress.com, August 2020
On May 27, 2020, the DOL issued a final rule that makes it easier for employers to provide required disclosures to retirement plan participants and beneficiaries. The final rule provides two additional safe harbors for the production of retirement plan disclosures via electronic media: the "Notice and Access" safe harbor and the "Direct Delivery Via Email" safe harbor. Here are the key points that employers should know about the new safe harbors.
Source: Thompsoncoburn.com, August 2020
As employers plan for open enrollment season careful consideration and planning should be given to how to communicate benefits holistically. If shelter in place orders and social distancing practices are still in effect during your enrollment window, it will also impact which communications channels are needed to reach employees.
Source: Voya.com, July 2020
U.S. workers are tired of seeing comparisons broken down by generations when it comes to finances, according to a new survey from Empower Retirement. Employees in the survey say they believe their views are created by personal experiences and characteristics, not by their age group.
Source: Plansponsor.com, July 2020
Recognizing that over the last 20 years, technology and the workplace have changed, the DOL published a new e-delivery safe harbor at the end of May. In it, the DOL allows a plan sponsor to distribute annual notices and required disclosures to participants via a variety of electronic and virtual channels if they initially provide notice of internet availability.
Source: Francisinvco.com, July 2020
While the coronavirus pandemic has put the retirement security of all Americans at risk, there are actions they can take to put themselves in a better position, retirement plan experts say. Many people don’t know as much as they should about retirement and investments. There is no time like the present to learn.
Source: Planadviser.com, June 2020
The Supreme Court held that a participant must have a genuine subjective awareness of information, and, therefore, the mere availability of plan disclosures will not, in itself, establish "actual knowledge" of a potential breach of fiduciary duty under ERISA. In light of this decision and the DOL's recent issuance of a final rule on the new safe harbor for the electronic delivery of retirement plan notices, plan sponsors will want to consider how this safe harbor might help them satisfy the actual knowledge standard.
Source: Huntonlaborblog.com, June 2020
The final regulation will likely provide welcome relief for plan sponsors and administrators frustrated by the limitations of the current DOL safe harbor for employees with work-related computer access or who have consented to electronic delivery. However, there are detailed content, notice, and timing requirements in the new electronic delivery safe harbor that require careful review before implementation.
Source: Erisapracticecenter.com, May 2020
The final regulation establishes a new, voluntary safe harbor for retirement plan administrators who want to use electronic media, as a default, to furnish covered documents to participants and beneficiaries, rather than providing paper documents through mail or hand delivery. The new safe harbor should be welcome news to virtually all employers who sponsor ERISA-covered retirement plans.
Source: Spencerfane.com, May 2020
The new rule dramatically liberalizes DOL's electronic communication rules, which (with certain exceptions) previously required that the individual receiving the electronic communication either had access to the employer/sponsor electronic information system as an integral part of her duties or had affirmatively consented to electronic receipt. This article reviews the final regulation.
Source: Octoberthree.com, May 2020
ERISA gives a plaintiff three years from the date he or she has "actual knowledge" of an alleged breach to file a claim. The Supreme Court held that plaintiffs do not necessarily have "actual knowledge" if they have not read, or cannot recall reading, the information contained in disclosures. Plan sponsors should review how this recent decision raises the bar for defending allegations of fiduciary breach.
Source: Pnc.com, May 2020
Communicating with retirement plan participants is always important. Aside from law and regulation requiring it, such communications can serve participants well and help make a retirement plan more effective and meaningful. But doing so during a pandemic poses challenges and can require adjustments. This article offers ideas on communicating with DC plan participants in times like these.
Source: Asppa.org, May 2020
In this time of heightened market volatility and economic uncertainty, employees are trying to figure out what to do. They have questions about their retirement savings plan accounts and their finances in general. And because employers are a trusted source of information, their natural inclination is to turn to you for answers. Here are three areas to review as you develop your DC plan communications for the remainder of 2020.
Source: Buck.com, May 2020
On April 16th, the Office of Management and Budget received the Department of Labor's long-anticipated final regulation updating and modernizing the rules for using electronic media to furnish ERISA-required disclosures and notices. DOL's existing electronic disclosure rule has been in place for nearly two decades and was developed long before the widespread adoption of many current electronic communications methods. The rule should not only modernize DOL's electronic disclosure standards but also address communication concerns specifically raised by the current health crisis.
Source: Groom.com, April 2020
The coronavirus threat people around the world are facing has left plan sponsors in unknown waters, navigating several tactics to connect with their employees. Sources suggest topics to address with retirement plan participants and methods to do so in this environment of limited face-to-face contact.
Source: Plansponsor.com, April 2020
The bear market is challenging DC plan sponsors to reinforce timeless investing principles while also conveying new rules that bring relief to participants. Good communication practices are a key ingredient to achieving success in both these areas. How can DC plan sponsors cut through the anxiety to help participants make informed decisions? Here are ways to communicate with greater impact.
Source: Alliancebernstein.com, April 2020
Common retirement plan terms used by many advisors and plan sponsors score terribly when deployed in participant communications. They are just "mumbo-jumbo" to most plan participants. Here are some of the worst fairing terms in regard to participant engagement.
Source: Cammackretirement.com, January 2020
There have been so many misconceptions that plan sponsors and advisors have had concerning ERISA 404(c) plans. They have this belief that if they just give a mutual fund lineup and some Morningstar profiles to plan participants that they are exempt from liability. ERISA 404(c) protection is about following a process and Morningstar profiles are just not enough education to give to plan participants. You have to provide enough information for participants to make informed investment decisions.
Source: Jdsupra.com, January 2020
Building on research conducted in 2015, this 50-page white paper updates the previous estimate of participant cost savings and further explores the other benefits of electronic communication for plan participants based on current empirical evidence of internet access and technology adoption. In addition, the current research is enhanced by providers experience with electronic delivery to demonstrate the many benefits realized by plan participants from electronic communication.
Source: Sparkinstitute.org, December 2019
Under a new proposed rule, certain required disclosures could be provided electronically to all retirement plan participants, including former employees and beneficiaries. On October 23, 2019, the U.S. Department of Labor issued a proposed rule intended to expand the use of internet technology to furnish ERISA-required disclosures to plan participants, and to reduce printing and mail expenses. The proposed rule cannot be relied on until a final rule is issued, and the final rule will take effect as of the first calendar year following its publication.
Source: Hansonbridgett.com, November 2019
Retirement plan service providers generally support making electronic delivery of documents the default, but print communication industry organizations and some consumer groups say the paper default should remain.
Source: Planadviser.com, October 2019
Confidence and caution are generally sensible characteristics. However, when it comes to retirement planning, an excess of either can be disadvantageous. Further, neither is usually based on a person's true readiness. If recordkeepers, sponsors and employers understood the disconnect between retirement confidence and preparedness and its consequences, they could better identify those who need assistance and provide more targeted outreach.
Source: Corporateinsight.com, October 2019
Advisers say being easily influenced by recent news is the No. 1 investor misstep, a survey found. Understanding these behavior biases can help retirement plan sponsors with communications to retirement plan participants. Recognizing behavioral biases is an important first step to keep emotions in check and avoid missteps that may have a negative impact on long-term financial goals.
Source: Plansponsor.com, September 2019
Educating employees about the power of time on their savings, encouraging them to log into their retirement plan accounts and starting them at a higher deferral rate are some ways employers can help boost employees' retirement savings.
Source: Plansponsor.com, September 2019
Increasing the share of workers who participate in retirement plans has been a primary focus of retirement policy. As the retirement industry and policymakers try to increase participation, it is important to understand which workers currently participate in employer sponsored retirement plans and why certain employers offer, and certain employees desire, compensation in the form of retirement benefits. This 32-page report uses newly available data -- tabulations of administrative tax data published by the IRS Statistics of Income Division -- to analyze participation in employer-sponsored retirement plans.
Source: Myirionline.org, August 2019
A new kind of 401k education program has emerged, one that emphasizes everyday concerns. Plan sponsors increasingly are looking for help in providing financial wellness education and resources. They are looking for retirement plan providers and financial intermediaries to help them offer tools to help employees get a handle on their financial issues and solve them, both in the short- and long-term. Is your employer keeping pace? Here are five topics now being addressed in these 401k meetings.
Source: Forbes.com, July 2019
While many employers offer 403b plans to employees, most do not adequately educate the employees on the importance of retirement savings or promote participation in the 403(b) plan as a valuable employee benefit. Many fail to recognize the correlation between higher participation rates and earlier retirement patterns for older workers.
Source: Ntsa-net.org, May 2019
An effective education program can help bridge the knowledge gap by teaching employees how to make the most of their workplace 401k plan. Such a program may improve participant engagement with the plan, along with improving participation and savings rates. Moreover, you can increase your education program's effectiveness by partnering with a financial advisor who can support your employees in making critical financial decisions and help them achieve better retirement outcomes. If you believe your participant education program isn't serving your participants, it may be time to consider making some changes.
Source: Brightscope.com, May 2019
As consultants and HR professionals, we live and breathe benefits, so it's easy to forget that just outside this circle of "jargoneers" is our audience: Employees who don't think about benefits except maybe during open enrollment or when there's a claim problem. Most employees are not native benefits speakers; they don't want to be, and they don't need to be. As communicators, we need to respect that and meet them where they are.
Source: Buck.com, May 2019
Factors that can contribute to the success of a 401k plan come from a variety of sources. This includes a strong message from the CEO concerning the importance of saving for retirement and delivering a regular and consistent message. Learn how a strong leadership team with good communication skills and a quality retirement plan can make for a successful 401k plan.
Source: 401ktv.com, April 2019
Words have the potential to inform, encourage and empower. But the wrong words can be powerful in negative ways, leaving people uncomfortable, overwhelmed or confused. Using the right words is especially critical in financial matters. Employees need to understand their retirement plan options so they can make the best decisions for their future, but the general public often misunderstands words that are commonly used by financial providers, employers and others in the retirement planning industry.
Source: Plansponsor.com, March 2019
Overwhelming. That's normally the first response plan participants give as to why they didn't start saving for retirement. HR professionals and retirement consultants have heard it before, "Too many options; too many decisions; I wasn't sure what these words even meant." Effectively helping plan participants prepare for retirement takes designing the message in a different way.
Source: Findley.com, March 2019
Many 401k plan sponsors seek to reduce their potential fiduciary liability by electing to be a Section 404(c) plan. One of the requirements in the DOL regulation is that the fiduciary provide the participant with sufficient information to make an informed investment decision. While it is important to make sure that participants get sufficient information, it may be more critical to make sure that they are able to understand, and act based on that information. This column takes a closer look at the plan sponsor’s mission of providing understandable plan and investment information.
Source: Blr.com, March 2019
Surprising results from a survey from the founders of an AI-focused 401k firm. The authors discovered a large disconnect between the way 401k plans are designed and the average American's knowledge of financial terminology.
Source: Marketwatch.com, February 2019
Communicating with employees is one of the most important aspects of any retirement plan. A plan may be carefully designed to help participants achieve their retirement objectives, but if the plan sponsor does not effectively communicate the key information, the participants may not have the understanding they need to succeed in reaching their goals. For communication to be effective, it needs to be delivered in an appealing format with a message that resonates with the individual. While it is impossible to control all the potential variables in pushing the meaning and importance of a communication piece through to their employees, there are some steps which a plan sponsor can take to help.
Source: Cammackretirement.com, January 2019
Sponsors know too well that a lot of planning and consideration goes into the design and maintenance of a retirement plan. But much of that hard work is futile without employee participation. Employees need to understand the benefits of the plan and how to use it in order to recognize its value. A robust employee education program can play a significant role in improving plan participation rates and will reinforce the value of the plan to employees.
Source: Planpilot.com, January 2019
Obtaining data on participants from retirement readiness tools, recordkeepers and aggregation tools is important in order to tailor effective communications.
Source: Planadviser.com, October 2018
Targeting recent college graduates, Fidelity's new Five Money Musts program incorporates gamification and personal finance education strategies to jump start the next generation of investors. The game lets users make financial decisions as a recent graduate, including which job offer to take, where to live, how much to contribute to a 401k versus student loans and whether to apply for a credit card.
Source: Corporateinsight.com, September 2018
In basic 401k information, investment jargon needs to be eliminated or clearly defined repeatedly. If employees don't understand the words in 401k meetings or materials, not much learning will ensure. So, what about employees who don’t understand the math your 401k educator is using? Math illiteracy might be a greater learning obstacle in 401k education than jargon.
Source: Dennisackley.com, September 2018
Much 401k education remains heavily investment-weighted and jargon-infested. It was never designed for young, non-numbers-loving people who are yet-to-be-motivated to learn about something they believe they can put off 20 or 30 years. And still today, virtually no learning experts or cognitive scientists have been involved in improving 401k education. This has contributed to making 401k education the largest failure ever of adult education.
Source: Dennisackley.com, September 2018
Participant communication programs do take a lot of data into account when attempting to meet the needs of multiple audiences within the employee population. But what they fail to take into account, according to a Cogent Report, is intent, i.e., whether the participant him- or herself actually intends to make a change to a retirement plan account.
Source: Benefitspro.com, August 2018
Defined contribution plan executives, providers, tech firms, and academics are all giving "gamification" techniques a closer look in hopes of driving participant engagement, financial literacy, and finding ways to get more employees thinking about and preparing for their financial future.
Source: Pionline.com, August 2018
One facet many participant communication professionals don't consider is intent, whether the individual participant is planning to make a change to his or her retirement plan account. Depending on their level of intent, participants will either require more specific information to inform their upcoming decision, or content that validates their current retirement saving strategies or motivates necessary changes.
Source: Marketstrategies.com, August 2018
Retirement communications have reached a tipping point and leading plan providers are looking to embrace a new path. One that enables powerful and empowering participant experiences. Leaders see five converging trends. Any one of them would be challenging to manage. Taken together, they require fresh perspectives to find opportunities.
Source: Broadridge.com, July 2018
Plan participants often lack a solid understanding of what drives the success of their retirement savings, and increasingly, their unawareness is leaving them unprepared to leave work. Participant education is a crucial component of accountable sponsorship. This article discusses how to begin a consistent, effective program of participant education.
Source: Planpilot.com, July 2018
This 40-page paper presents the results of an experiment that is designed to examine how information presentation and complexity impact retirement-savings behavior. The hypothesis is that providing concise information with helpful recommendations would improve choices over providing lengthy and detailed information. However, the data suggest that simplifying the presentation of 401k plan information to employees is unlikely to result in vastly improved retirement-planning choices.
Source: Iza.org, July 2018
This 17-page white paper examines best practices for a plan sponsor in designing education and engagement programs to improve participants' financial wellness and long-term retirement outcomes. Whether plan sponsors are working alone or with an education provider, the paper offers guidance on how to build and implement a successful program that reaches their employees.
Source: Arnerichmassena.com, June 2018
Traditional methods of educating the workforce about the value of saving money for the future are not entirely sufficient. Levels of understanding about investment concepts are not homogeneous. One approach does not work for everyone. So, efforts to improve education for those eligible to participate needs to reach out to them at their level through engaging, relevant and useful information that drives change.
Source: Planpilot.com, April 2018
Many experts don't believe that 401k employee education works. The challenges of educating adults, who may not be excited to learn more about their 401k plan, are sometimes difficult to overcome. What can plan sponsors do to make their 401k employee education sessions more effective?
Source: Lawtonrpc.com, March 2018
This TIAA Institute study identified the behaviors that influence employees' decisions regarding their retirement plans.. In opt-in plans, efforts to get employees to increase their savings above the default rate are likely to be fruitful if they focus on improving financial literacy and understanding of exponential growth. While in automatic enrollment environments, efforts targeted at procrastination tendencies are likely to be particularly effective.
Source: Tiaainstitute.org, February 2018
Poor savings rates, high debt levels, and the frequent incidence of living paycheck-to-paycheck are among the ingredients in the recipe for financial stress. Financial education can be an antidote, but not in the traditional ways it is provided suggests a recent study.
Source: Asppa.org, February 2018
For the past two years there has been an industry-wide focus on employee retirement and financial wellness education, and the first weeks of 2018 indicate this trend will continue.
Source: Corporateinsight.com, February 2018
While the industry is consistently innovating on participant education and communication -- moving to mobile platforms, creating easier-to-digest video content, and bringing financial wellness to the fore -- we have gotten caught in a rather habitual, one-dimensional way of helping participants understand why and how to save for the future.
Source: 401ktv.com, January 2018
Despite efforts to bolster their employee's retirement savings, many plan sponsors realize something is missing. While enrollment rates have improved in recent years, there are still plenty of employees who fail to enroll in the company 401k. When asked about the reasons for not saving into the plan, 28% of plan sponsors reported that a "lack of awareness or understanding" was the primary reason employees did not participate in their plans.
Source: Forusall.com, October 2017
Education in its current form does not work and a radically new approach is needed. An approach that incorporates behavioral economics and visually disruptive and intuitive design.
Source: Investmentnews.com (registration may be required), August 2017
Whether witty, entertaining, simplistic, or dramatic, plan sponsors should take steps to ensure their retirement communication is engaging for participants. Otherwise, the message, no matter how well-constructed, will be lost.
Source: Cammackretirement.com, August 2017
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