Delivering Robust Retirement Communication and Education on a Budget

Clear goals help to maximize the impact of retirement plan participant education and communication.

Plan sponsors can get creative to deliver effective, low-cost retirement communication and education to plan participants.

“You can have these great tools, but we have to engage people to use them,” says Jason Chepenik, senior vice president of retirement and wealth at OneDigital. “There are ways to deliver effective communication without having to spend any money.”

Minding the budget—and aided by trusted plan sponsor partners—employers can take advantage of interesting ideas to communicate with and educate participants for maximum impact, he adds. “Challenge each of your employees to do a video of what retirement looks like to them. If everybody made a one-to-two-minute video and submitted it, that costs you nothing, and you engaged your entire workforce,” Chepenik offers as an example.

Plan sponsors should also consider texting employees or having lunch meetings to talk retirement or any other financial topic, he adds. He says connecting with employees outside of the regular rhythm of the working day can also be effective.

“It comes down to being innovative, pushing the envelope and trying different things to see what works,” Chepenik says. “Another idea that’s easy to make happen at a low cost is to celebrate a milestone, [for example] when somebody turns age 30 or 40 or 50 or 60.” He explains that a plan sponsor could mark the employees’ milestones with books, resources and education targeted to life circumstances at 30, 40 or 50. “It might be about practicing retirement or what life might look like when they stop working full-time,” he says. “That’s a very inexpensive way to connect with people and it’s outside your normal cadence for talking about stocks or bonds or budgeting.”

Keeping It Simple

Plan sponsors must be careful that participant communications do not become a clutter, says Megan Yost, engagement strategist and senior vice president at Segal Benz. Quality is much more important than quantity, she says.  

One challenge for plan sponsors is trying to do too much all at once, without staying focused on a particular area of engagement or education. “Plan sponsors should be intentional about three things: The goals they are trying to accomplish, how they’re going to prioritize those goals, and the resources they can leverage to achieve those goals,” Yost says.

She advises plan sponsors to begin by setting some goals to isolate objectives, because different goals require distinct tactics. For example, an employer might want to boost overall plan participation or participation in health savings accounts, or to get participants to increase the amount they are saving. Particularly for small plan sponsors that don’t have a huge budget, intentional goals “will help them identify what’s most important, and then how to prioritize the outreach and communication to participants,” Yost says.

In addition, changes made to the plan—switching investment offerings or recordkeepers, for example—offer a chance to engage with participants. “That’s a prime opportunity not just to send compliance notices about what’s happening, but to help people understand the broader goal of what you’re trying to do, why you’re making this change and why it could help them,” Yost says.

The most effective communications to participants use jargon-free language, she adds. “Keep the language simple and always remember that most people aren’t trained financial professionals,” Yost says. “It’s easy to let jargon seep into communications. Thinking about how you can simplify the message and use visuals like infographics to make the information more accessible is important because one of the biggest barriers to engagement can simply be the accessibility of the information.”

To measure the success of communications and education, plan sponsors can track participants’ progress toward retirement goals to hold them accountable after they have been engaged with, Chepenik says.