Communication Key to Improving Retirement Readiness

September 7, 2012 ( – While National 401(k) Day is a good trigger to spur action from sponsors and participants to improve retirement readiness, the efforts should be ongoing.

“It is no secret participants’ retirement confidence and readiness has been shaken by the 2008-2009 economic crisis,” Chris Augelli, vice president of product marketing and business development for ADP’s Retirement Services division, told PLANSPONSOR. “Employers should be aware that this impacts their business as well; with more than two-thirds of employees not feeling confident about retirement, they may not be as productive as they could be.”  

The key is meaningful education, according to Augelli. Plan sponsors should make sure they have targeted messaging. For example, Augelli said, the content ADP is making available to clients and adviser partners for 401(k) day to help employers with onsite education meetings has been broken into age-specific messages. For those in their 20s and 30s, it is about getting started, contributing enough to get match dollars and increasing contributions over time. The campaign also has messages targeted to employees in their 40s, 50s and 60s that relate to where they are on the path to retirement.  

Lisa Margeson, head of marketing for Corporate Markets at ING U.S. Retirement, added that plan sponsors should offer a holistic retirement readiness program that is engaging, personalized and actionable.   “A holistic retirement readiness program helps employees feel confident and in control of their financial life by following a proven process to create a practical, customized approach that builds toward a comfortable and dignified retirement,” she said. “It should begin by helping the employee understand the amount of money they will need to live on in retirement and where their income is going to come from, and follows with help in determining what they need to do today to be on the right track to achieve that plan.”

Margeson also suggested providing multi-media educational tools and resources to reach and engage participants in the method they prefer, on their schedule.  “To have successful savers, we have to change our approach.  Plan sponsors need to look beyond sending general communications to the masses at a point in time – they need to engage participants when and where they want to talk, learn, and act – it could be when they call the customer service center to take an action – and it should be available in the way they want to engage, whether that be through traditional education methods such as enrollment books and flyers or more technology-based approaches through tablets and mobile devices,” she stated.  

According to Augelli, beyond original educational efforts, there should be a continuing pattern of checking with employees, and ongoing dialogues.  He noted that a plan health check report offers plan sponsors gauges for the relative health of their plan as well as retirement readiness of participants. In addition, plan participants can use a health check report to give them an ongoing touch point for their progress in saving adequately, he said.  

Augelli noted that fee disclosures also provide an opportunity for dialogue so plan sponsors can see if they have value added products and services for their plans in place, and for sponsors to educate participants about the value of the plan and investments.  

Beyond communication, Margeson advocated making available to participants an in-plan guaranteed income solution to improve their retirement readiness. “Participants… are looking for solutions to help turn their retirement nest egg into a reliable source of retirement income that doesn’t run out.  Providing access to an in-plan guaranteed income solution automates the decumulation phase to make sure participants’ savings last a lifetime while protecting against unexpected financial pitfalls,” she said.