Majority of 401(k) Participants Would Like Online or Financial Professional Help

They want help with calculating how much money to save for retirement, determining how to invest their 401(k) assets, determining the age at which they can retire, and figuring out their expenses in retirement.

While 70% of Americans think their quality of life in retirement will be better than their parents and their children, saving for retirement is their number one source of financial stress, cited by 40%, Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc. learned in a survey.

As for what is getting in their way to save for retirement, Americans say it’s paying for unexpected expenses (40%), being unwilling to sacrifice things that improve their quality of life (34%) and paying down credit card debt (31%). In addition, 64% wish they had spent less in the past, particularly on meals at restaurants, expensive clothes, new cars and vacations. Conversely, they do not regret spending on housing, weddings, student loans and tuition for their children.

Sixty-two percent say they expect their 401(k) to be their largest source of retirement income. Outside of their workplace retirement plan, participants are more likely to use a savings account to prepare for retirement than they are an individual retirement account (IRA) or other investment vehicle.

“The survey shows that if given the chance, many Americans would have spent differently on short-term pleasures, especially compared to spending that supports their families’ long-term happiness and success,” says Steve Anderson, president of Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc. “Moreover, participants understand the value of their 401(k)s and the importance of saving for retirement, but the findings suggest that they need guidance to prioritize their financial obligations and make the most of their assets. While there may be hurdles along the way, having a written financial plan can help workers made decisions today with an eye to the future.”

Eighty-eight percent say the 401(k) is a “must-have” benefit, and 90% say they would think twice about taking a job that didn’t offer one. Sixty-five percent have increased their 401(k) contributions in the past two years, and 80% think their 401(k) is in better shape than ever before. Seventy-two percent feel they are on top of their 401(k) investments.

Fifty-percent are extremely or very confident in their ability to make the right 401(k) investment decisions on their own, but 77% feel they would have that level of confidence if they worked with a financial professional. Fifty-two percent would expect better investment performance with professional advice.

While 71% would like personalized investment advice specific to their 401(k), only 53% think their current financial situation actually warrants professional help. Seventy-three percent say they know what percentage of their salary they should be saving, but only 54% say they know how much money they will need for a comfortable retirement.

Seventy-two percent say they have some extra money at the end of the month after they have paid their bills, but only 19% put it in their 401(k) and just 21% invest it in the markets.

Eighty-eight percent say that if they were offered online tools to help plan for retirement they would use them, and 77% say the same about help from a financial professional to develop a financial plan.

Asked what they would like help with, 43% say calculating how much money to save for retirement, 39% say advice on how to invest their 401(k), 39% say determining the age at which they can retire, and 36% say figuring out their expenses in retirement.

Logica Research conducted the online survey of 1,000 401(k) participants for Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc. in May.