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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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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