Helping Health Care Employees Achieve Retirement Readiness

December 20, 2013 ( - To increase the effectiveness of an organization’s retirement plan offering and drive better retirement outcomes for plan participants, employers must first understand how their workers save for retirement.

This is particularly true among health care organizations, as these workers exhibit important differences from retirement plan participants in other industries including varying degrees of financial literacy, higher ratio of female workers, and around-the-clock schedules.

Characteristics of a Unique Workforce   

A study conducted by Lincoln Financial Group[1] examines the characteristics of health care plan participants and explores how health care organizations can help these individuals save for retirement through their employer-sponsored retirement plans.

Some of the key findings of the study show:

·         Nearly half of health care workers tend to seek input from a wide variety of sources, but have a hard time making decisions such as whether to participate in a plan, how much to defer and how to direct their investments.

·         Positive life events and outlooks motivate health care participants, more so than participants in other industries. Hope influences 93% of health care participants—specifically, the hope of accumulating enough money by the time they retire. Positive life events, such as the birth of a child, getting a raise or bonus, or positive stock market conditions, tend to influence them to make positive changes to their retirement plan savings.

·         Health care workers tend to be more concerned than others about meeting basic financial needs, which limits their ability—or perceived ability—to contribute sufficiently to their plan. In fact, six in 10 workers are concerned about being able to pay for day-to-day expenses, compared to 49% of employees in other industries.

·         Health care workers are more likely to seek information from financial advisers and financial experts, but less likely to interact online or to collect information from reading. When asked which of several options would motivate them to make positive changes in their retirement savings plan, three in five health care workers select a one-on-one, in-person meeting with a financial adviser as their first or second choice. Another two in five select in-person meetings at their workplace.

·         An employer’s matching contribution policy motivates health care workers to save. These workers tend to limit contributions and many do not save beyond their employer match.

[1] Lincoln Retirement Power® Participant Engagement Study, Lincoln Financial Group 2012

An Action Plan for Change 

The characteristics and savings behaviors of today’s health care workforce provide a unique platform for plan sponsors to begin connecting with retirement plan participants in a more meaningful way. There are a number of tactics that can be used to incite change in retirement plan participation, and ultimately, sponsor and participant satisfaction in their selected retirement plan.

·         In-person is key—make it available around-the-clock.  When it comes to retirement plan meetings with health care workers, timing is critical. Plan sponsors should offer meetings during work hours—preferably in a few different time slots. For example, midnight meetings for overnight shifts or lunch and learns. Reaching employees in a convenient way will optimize communications success. Make sure that senior management is present to reinforce the importance of saving. 

·         Optimize plan design. Plan features such as auto enrollment, auto escalation and the company match can be key drivers of higher participation rates, higher participant deferrals and higher levels of participant contributions in general. Health care participants may be less likely to contribute beyond their employer’s match. Creating custom communications that will highlight the benefits of saving beyond this match and taking part in any automatic plan features could help participants more fully understand the benefits of contributing more to their plan. 

·         Communicate with Optimism. Research shows positive messages that speak to emotional needs, not just numbers, tend to have the greatest impact on actions, leading in turn to more effective savings levels. A communications program that goes well beyond facts and figures, and shows participants what higher deferrals can help them achieve, is one that can succeed in helping health care workers achieve their financial goals in retirement.


Some of the same basic principles that support physical health also promote financial health: a personal touch, automating good habits and taking small steps toward big goals. By applying these principles, as well as some of these retirement plan action steps, today’s employers can help health care workers become successful health care retirees. 

To learn more, check out the Lincoln Retirement Power ® Participant Engagement Study white paper, “Seeking Financial Health: How Healthcare Workers Participate inRetirement plans.”


Garry Spence, head of Participant Engagement, Retirement Plan Services, Lincoln Financial Group

Lincoln Financial Group is the Marketing Name for Lincoln National Corporation and its affiliates.


NOTE: This feature is to provide general information only, does not constitute legal advice, and cannot be used or substituted for legal or tax advice.