Employees Want More Than Education on Retirement Savings

An Alight Solutions survey finds a common disconnect between what workers believe is crucial to financial education, compared to their employers.

Despite continuous discussions on spiking participant education strategies across the retirement industry, two reports from Alight Solutions reveal a division between what plan sponsors and employees believe are financial needs.


The 2017 Financial Mindset Study and the 2018 Hot Topics in Retirement & Financial Wellbeing reports find distinctions with what workers and employers believe are integral in financial education, and what both groups consider vital past the spectrum of retirement savings and insurance services.


According to the surveys, employees across the board say education on a variety of financial matters is needed, rather than just the limited amount of topics typically offered from employers. Some of these issues included how to obtain life insurance, with 81% of employees voting for more education compared to 68% of employers; and how to obtain disability insurance (84% of workers along with 71% of plan sponsors). Less of a disconnect, employees and employers reached a closer match when considering the need for retirement savings education (88% of employees, compared to 84% of employers).


Outside the land of retirement savings and insurance services, the two groups showed even higher disconnects—especially in consideration with saving for children’s education, student loan finances and setting aside funds for short-term needs. Forty-seven percent of employees want to learn more about saving for a child’s education, while only 24% of plan sponsors believe that help would be fundamental. Also, considering the rising number of student loans and the financial obligations that follow, 46% of employees want more education about paying off or refinancing student loans, yet according to the survey, only 18% of employers understand this topic as a necessity. On education for existing finances and saving for short-term matters, 45% of workers indicated this as a necessity, but just 18% of plan sponsors voted the same.


Other figures show higher numbers of employees voting for more information on a topic, with the number of employers trailing behind significantly. Fifty percent of workers voted for education on obtaining identity protection services, compared to only 24% of employers; more employees (46%) say help with debt management is wanted, with 23% of plan sponsors believing so; 44% of workers want to know how to establish an emergency fund compared to 22% of employers; and 36% of employees would like education on creating or managing a budget, but just 19% of sponsors see its need, according to the surveys.


This isn’t the first time workers have criticized the variety of educational focuses, too. A MassMutual study in 2017 revealed 63% of survey respondents reported feeling “not very” or “not at all” financially secure. Fifty-two percent indicated they wish for employers to offer more educational resources on prioritizing finances, and 51% said they want their employer to do more than just provide retirement savings education.


This demand for more diverse education doesn’t boil down to one group of workers either. A 2017 Prudential survey found Asian-Americans place greater importance in providing college tuition for their children and taking care of their family, so tools and solutions for financial topics including college planning, caretaker planning and long-term care can be a better suit. Another Principal survey discovered specialized education targeted to Hispanics—including addressing cultural influences that may otherwise affect retirement savings and other topics— created better participation rates and awareness.


Says Rob Austin, head of Research at Alight. “While companies have been moving in the right direction by broadening the types of financial wellbeing tools and resources they provide, workers are still asking for more help. Offering help for every financial topic isn’t practical or necessary, but there is an opportunity for companies to determine the financial issues that are most relevant and pressing for their people and provide support in the areas that will be most meaningful.”


The Alight Solutions study can be downloaded from here.