University of Rochester


PARTICIPANT EDUCATION: “We want to be sure all employees are on track to be ready to retire, and we recognize a key component of that is education,” says Ellen Scott, associate director of university benefits at the University of Rochester.

With efforts ranging from a collaboration with National Public Radio (NPR) on presenting a campus program about saving for college, a home, retirement and life in general, to the university’s “Planning for Retirement” day—including discussions about investing, Social Security, Medicare and the retirement benefits the university provides—to the interactive workshop “Postcards From the Future: A Woman’s Guide to Financially Ever After,” the University of Rochester educates to overcome employees’ personal finance concerns—many of which relate to retirement.

One barrier that kept the university from delivering the best education for participants was that it used four recordkeeping providers. “Not only was it a challenge for employees to make decisions, but it was a challenge for the university in terms of communication. Vendors started talking about ‘segmentation’ and ‘targeted education,’ but education from one vendor was not necessarily representative of an employee’s entire portfolio,” says Michelle R. Hill, director of university benefits. So, the university consolidated its retirement program—and more than $1 billion in plan assets—under one vendor, TIAA-CREF.

According to Hill, one fear the university had to overcome was that many of its roughly 37,000 403(b) plan participants worried that vendor consolidation would disrupt their current investment strategy. The university saw localized professional advice services from TIAA-CREF as a critical component to help participants navigate the right investment strategy among the available choices.

Rochester employs multiple channels for delivery of education—first-class mail, posters and flyers, email, internal work newsletters, university websites and intranet sites, as well as online electronic games. “Until we have 100% retirement readiness, our job is not done,” Hill says.

One key tool the university will be using to calculate retirement readiness is the TIAA-CREF Plan Outcome Assessment (POA), which measures the degree to which a plan’s participants are on track to retire with sufficient income. The POA also provides a plan-level income replacement ratio and benchmarks to determine how a plan is doing against its peers.

Rochester is focused on education and communication, Hill says. “As technology improves, it gives us more opportunities, and if we continue to tap into new resources, hopefully we will get to that 100% goal,” she adds.

Michelle Barrett, manager of the university retirement program, says, “We have tried to target certain audiences so each group can be ready for retirement at the appropriate time in their lives. Each year, we see more employees taking advantage of our education programs.”

—Rebecca Moore

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