“Broken Eggs Film: The Looming Retirement Crisis in America” is currently compiling content through its website, seeking feedback in both video and text form. The film’s executive producer, and certified financial planner, Chad Parks, told PLANSPONSOR the genesis for what he calls “the world’s first interactive documentary” was that the company he founded, The Online 401(k), had just gotten a new marketing director and the company wanted to humanize its brand. “We thought, why not take a road trip to go out and meet our customers,” Parks said. “As time went on, we starting saying, there’s a lot more here.”
The statistics about how ill-prepared people are for retirement are alarming by themselves, but Parks said The Online 401(k) decided to do a big picture overview like no one had done before and get what people’s perceptions about the issues really are. At a certain point, it became something more than a marketing campaign or an ad for the company; it became a look at the past, present and future of retirement.
Parks would like the website to act as a hub, where people can talk about this issue and see the information posted there. “We also want people to realize that this is a national thing, which you can see with the maps and other content on the website,” he noted. “And we’re compiling people’s stories about retirement there, which I think makes the site, in combination with the film, the world’s first interactive documentary.”
"If you think about it, our modern retirement system is relatively new," Parks stated. "It’s only been around since about World War II." He noted that over the last three generations, people have been living longer and that needs to be incorporated into retirement planning. "I think we are happy that government resources and information are out there, but I think the challenge is putting that information into terms that people will understand and be able to use effectively for their own retirement planning," he said.
According to Parks, when they started the film, they anticipated a lack of awareness about the retirement savings issue, but it turned out people were aware of the problems; there is a lack of action. "[It's] the whole deer-in-the-headlights thing," Parks said. "Many people are saying they’ll worry about it later and wing it."
Parks pointed out that the approach to the retirement savings crisis in America is not going to be the same for all age groups. While people in their 60s and 70s may be thinking about their pension payments, for people in their 40s, pensions are not even on their radar. Individuals in their 20s are just out of school and worrying about student loan debt.
"We really should be paying attention to those even younger than their 20s," Parks contended. "Letting them know what tools they have for retirement savings and planning. Teaching them the basics of financial literacy so that they develop good skills for saving."
"We also need to factor in the macro conditions that are going on around them. It’s not just about 401(k)s and pensions and Social Security. It’s about being about to afford rent or keep your house. In an effort to save more, we could see more multi-generational housing," Parks said. He noted that age 65 used to be the magic number for retirement, but that is no longer the case. "We’re going to have to redefine retirement in general."
He mused: "Who knows, parents may one day start contributing to a retirement fund for their kids before they’re even in kindergarten."
When asked what level of interaction with the film and its website will be necessary to spark meaningful change and reform to the American retirement system, Parks said it would be great to get 10,000 people participating in the effort. "I definitely think this issue has a life of its own and will outlive the film and the site," he said.
Parks hopes that at some point, major financial institutions will leverage the film and the site content for use with their own clients as a resource for retirement planning, and that other groups with similar ideas about retirement planning will tie their efforts into his.
The film is currently scheduled for a summer 2013 release and Parks will be taking a multi-pronged distribution approach. "It would be fantastic to get it onto screens through the film festival circuit," he said. "We’re definitely looking at making available online as digital downloads. We’re also in talks with outlets such as cable networks, as well as Netflix and Hulu." Parks would also like to make it available for free to universities and high schools, so that their students can watch it and learn something, and perhaps even contribute to a solution.