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Is Your Retirement Plan Meeting Your Employees' Objectives?

09/23/2019

Are your company's employees saving enough for retirement?

Maybe not, according to a report from the National Institute on Retirement Security, which states that four out of five Americans have less than a year's income saved for retirement.1

Additionally, and perhaps more concerning, 77% of Americans aren’t on track to achieve adequate retirement savings if they retire at 67.

While those numbers differ by organization, age, life stage and numerous other factors, it’s clear that saving for retirement is no easy feat.

As an influencer of your company's retirement plan, you know how critical it is to offer comprehensive and competitive retirement plan options. But for many organizations, it's a challenge to keep employees engaged.

Within this post, we hope you'll acquire tools to bolster plan involvement, which is good for both employees and your employer.

Employees and organizations benefit from retirement plan participation

Let's consider the following based on research cited in one of our previous posts.

  1. Employees who feel secure in their retirement planning are going to be less stressed about their short- and long- term finances.
  2. Employees who are less stressed about their finances are generally more productive in the workplace.

These statements alone should encourage you to take your retirement plan seriously for the benefit of your employees.

Your organization has the option to offer numerous benefits on top of salary alone. While some, such as tuition reimbursement and paid parking aren't available everywhere, a 401(k) offering is as much of a table stake benefit as healthcare and paid time off.

And when you enhance it with education, communication and active engagement opportunities combined with an appropriate match, you can get the most out of the benefit and stand out from the competition.

Teaching employees about the comprehensive compensation package is crucial. Some – especially those new to the workforce – may not fully understand the plan’s value when employer match amounts are calculated into their compensation.

The bottom line: helping employees achieve their retirement goals creates financial freedom, education and awareness of the benefit’s capability. When employees participate to the fullest extent of the plan, everyone wins.

How to better understand your retirement plan participants

It's important to listen to employees and gather their feedback as frequently as possible. Employees themselves are the only ones who truly know how they're using the plan, and even then, some may not know if they are leveraging the plan to its full potential.

As an influencer of your company’s retirement plan, you have direct access to your company’s retirement plan data, within which you can look for organizational trends and advise employees accordingly. 

Examine your data regularly to analyze:

  • Participation rate
  • Average account balance
  • Average deferral rate
  • Deferral rate increases

Create progress reports

Projecting plan balances for employees when they reach typical retirement age is a simple exercise that shows if your plan is performing as it should.

Another way to analyze your plan is to project how many employees could, at their current rate, replace 30-40% of their income with assets from the plan. Completing this analysis can help tell you if employees are using the benefit appropriately or indicate they need specific education related to retirement planning.

Be proactive

Employees have a lot to think about when signing up for your retirement plan. Each has his or her own goals to pursue - both personal and professional - and won't necessarily come to you with questions.

Use the data at your fingertips to communicate key considerations employees should address when planning for retirement. Namely:

  • What they can save right now
  • Traditional vs. Roth accounts (if your company offers both)
  • Investment approach (conservative vs. aggressive)
  • How much they should budget over time

Nobody knows exactly when they'll retire or how much they'll need to do so comfortably. Because it's impossible to see what the future holds, your objective should be to leverage the data to provide information that will help employees manage what they can control.

How do employers measure plan success?

Retirement plan priorities vary among organizations and industries, but most will gauge their success by measuring enrollment participation rates, deferral rates and investment allocations.

To further judge effectiveness, companies should study their "close to retirement age" employees to see whether they are maximizing the plan's benefits, as well as other tenured employees that are not close to retirement to get an accurate reading of your plan's success rate.

However you decide to measure, remember that the overall purpose is to help your employees map their way to a successful retirement.

Three easy steps to increase employee retirement plan engagement

1. Communicate with clarity

It's important to implement targeted messaging strategies for employees approaching organizational milestones, including:

  • New hires
  • Employees earning raises or promotions
  • Employees nearing retirement

There’s no shortage of opportunities to reach employees who don’t fall into those categories – especially those underutilizing the plan or who are not enrolled at all.

For the greatest impact, each group should receive highly targeted messages that address their unique needs.

At the same time, do your best to keep communication simple. Most employees don't spend their days immersed in retirement language like you do. Whenever possible, break down complex concepts and focus on the core principles they can easily understand: what they can save, what they should budget, when they can potentially plan to retire, etc.

Here's a resource you can use to develop an effective communication plan.

2. Rethink your plan design

What is your company working to achieve through its retirement plan? Based on your specific objectives, you may want to consider the following in reference to plan design:

  • Are you utilizing automatic features, such as automatic enrollment or automatic escalation? If not, could they be viable options?
  • Consider an ongoing communication strategy targeting employees not participating in the plan or those contributing less than the match. You may be surprised how many employees have not adjusted their contribution rate since they were first hired. They might be in a better position to participate and take advantage of the plan's benefit.

3. Review the data often

Track your participants as accurately as possible. There are numerous data points you can monitor, but the trick is learning to interpret what each one tells you and then acting based on employee need.

Avoid analyzing static data that doesn't paint a full picture. Dig into specific cohorts and filter. For example, it may not make sense to compare the progress of employees whose tenure, compensation and age can differ greatly.

Priorities will also change from cohort to cohort. An older employee nearing retirement is likely to contribute differently than a younger individual starting a family and saving for a down payment on a house.

Thought it may be difficult for some to contribute at an optimal level - especially early in their careers - provide them with educational materials that explain the importance of long-term planning.

When analyzed carefully, data can be a powerful tool.

Increasing participant success

As part of your role in ensuring retirement plan success, it's your responsibility to equip employees with the information they need to make smart retirement planning decisions. Keep in mind, active participation can lead to a more productive workplace, which ultimately fuels your organization's bottom-line success.

But you don’t have to do it alone. And you shouldn’t, either. There’s strength in numbers, and multiple perspectives can generate better ideas. 

Consider forming an internal committee to assess your program's data and improve the employee experience. Gather together on a regular basis and discuss the latest developments and trends surrounding investments, expenses and financial services.

When more in-depth knowledge is needed, consult a retirement expert who can help you take strategic steps that will mutually benefit both your company and the employees you serve.


1https://www.pbs.org/newshour/economy/making-sense/report-4-out-of-5-americans-have-less-than-a-years-income-saved-for-retirement

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