SURVEY SAYS: Targeted Financial and Retirement Savings Messaging to Employees

Targeted, or personalized, messaging to employees—encouraging employees to save for retirement, to save more or addressing other financial issues they may be facing—has been touted as a way to improve employee financial security and their ability to save adequately for retirement.

However, a recent survey found 57% of employees do not want their employer to send personalized messages to people facing important financial decisions, and 50% do not think it is the role of an employer to send personalized messages to people who are not saving enough for retirement.


Last week, I asked NewsDash readers, “Does your company use targeted financial and retirement savings messaging to employees, and if so, is it helping to improve employee retirement savings?”


Seventy-two percent of respondents work in a plan sponsor role; 16% are advisers/consultants; 8% are TPAs/recordkeepers/investment managers; and 4% are attorneys.


More than half of responding readers (57.7%) said their company uses targeted financial and retirement savings messaging to employees. Nearly four in ten (38.5%) reported that they do, and 3.8% indicated they don’t know. However, nearly half (47.1%) said they don’t know if the targeted messaging is helping to improve employee retirement savings, and 29.4% reported it is not. Only 23.5% indicated their targeted messaging is helping to improve employee retirement savings.


In verbatim comments, a number of readers expressed that targeted messaging is invasive or not the responsibility of plan sponsors, with one going so far as saying, “It’s just CREEEEEPY!” Others shared stories of how their efforts have helped get more participants to save, while a few mentioned that—just like other plan communications—employees just do not read them.. A few mentioned that it is their recordkeeper that provides targeted messaging, and a few said provide access to a financial adviser is a better idea. Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “Everything in moderation!”


A big thank you to all who responded to the survey.



I love the comment from an earlier article that says Gen Xers, not saving for retirement, think “everything will just work out” – yeah, good luck with that! Maybe these are the same people who answered this survey!

We don’t use targeted “messages” but have done targeted letter campaigns for employees who were not participating in the 401(k) plans. Those letters included a “savings wheel” that showed – in a nifty format – the substantial impact that 401(k) savings over a period of years could result in for a retirement nest egg. That campaign was very successful in getting about 20% of the non-participating group to enroll in the 401(k) plan.

It is not my job to micromanage the lives of my employees. We provide them with lots resources in various ways to help them. Some people just don’t want to be bothered, and we can’t force it on them.

At the end of each year, each employee is presented with their retirement portfolio for the previous year to show them their gains/losses. Along with that is a scenario based on their age of their probable retirement value. It shows this value in several different ways: different average percentage earnings and deferrals at the max or with no deferrals at all and just based on company contribution. We find this to be very helpful for our employees in making their decisions to contribute. In our small company, only one person is not making contributions.

There is a lot of resentment regarding personalized messages. Employees feel that it is overly intrusive and oversteps the proper role of the employer. Some have said the employer does not know all of the factors that affect their retirement/savings decisions (e.g., their own illness, or that of a family member), and they don’t feel comfortable sharing that information with the employer.

Some years back we sent directed communications to those under-participating. It didn’t seem to move the needle. We haven’t since then, but you could consider our Financial Engines annual campaign to be targeted communications. The same survey referred to in this survey says about 81% of respondents live paycheck to paycheck. That being the case, it’s not surprising that over half of the respondents don’t want to be told to contribute more to their retirement vehicle.

Our 401k company (Mass Mutual) uses the targeted messaging. Our company does not do it ourselves. (Disclaimer on my answer to #2.)

They have planning tools available to them on the website. We do not have their full financial picture so are not qualified to assess. Besides, it seems rather Big Brotherish to me.

It is difficult to know what is appropriate for targeted messaging. It is a delicate balance between educating employees and harassing them.

My company has cut back on the employer match, frozen the DB plan and eliminated raises for many of its employee. Its message is sink or swim on your own.

Our 401(k) provider offers free financial planning to all our employees. Many have taken advantage of it & they are happy they did.

I do think it’s important for sponsors to remind employees about missed opportunities like company match and eligibility for catch-up contributions. We do not use life event data to drive communications such as encouraging a beneficiary change if we see a change in marital status.

Our targeted messaging consists of postcards mailed to certain employees. The postcard allows them to enroll or increase their contribution and has had positive results.

Everything in moderation!

Our recordkeeper does targeted messaging on our behalf. Employees are hit with so much required notices in the 401(k) space, though, that it ends up in the same filing cabinet…the trash can. Employees want advice. They know when they aren’t saving enough but they don’t know how to change it. They want someone to take the reins for them which is just something we can provide safely.

Seems to be a solid idea, but like most companies, our participants don’t read what is sent now.

All the messages about saving more for retirement have helped some of our employees. However, the biggest catalyst to increase savings was our increase of our match. Kinda like putting your money where your mouth is!

Personalized statements are often missing too many variables to be worthwhile for any real planning.

I personally think it is the way to go and should become an industry best practice…now, if we could only convince the data privacy police that this isn’t an invasion we could make a real impact!

Big Brother is watching you and your money!!! If an Employer promotes its retirement plan, employees are well educated on how to participate, and the financial adviser for plan is providing education and enrollment meetings, then Employer has met its obligation. I don’t want my Employer in my financial life.

It’s just CREEEEEPY!



NOTE: Responses reflect the opinions of individual readers and not necessarily the stance of Strategic Insight or its affiliates.