SURVEY SAYS: What Are You Doing for 401(k) Day?

August 25, 2005 ( - We are just weeks away from "401(k) Day", (September 6 this year) a day set aside to educate employees about the importance of participating in their 401(k) plans and of long-term savings for retirement. This week we asked readers if they had any activities planned, and if so, what they were.

Despite what seems to be an end-of-summer slowing in the response rates, nearly two-thirds (63%) of this week’s respondents had SOMETHING planned, though not always on the actual 401(k) Day.   As one reader noted, “We’re just coming off some major plan changes and educational activities, so this year we will limit to an article in our monthly newsletter.   (Our recent activities resulted in an increase from 76% to 95% participation).”  

For some, the “event” was conveniently coincidental, as one noted, “We don’t do anything specifically for 401 (k) day – but we are going to send out educational material today for our upcoming quarterly enrollment.”

There were, however, “cynics.”   One said, “401(k) Day”?   Really?   (I guess that answers your survey question!.  Another offered, “Good grief!   You mean there is a 401(k) Day? When is it?”  One (that surely deserves an Editor’s Choice runner-up for creativity) noted, “First I have heard of this. Do you have more details? Is participation automatic? Is there a default option?”

But, as noted above, most of this week’s respondents were running with something.   There were some “newcomers” to the concept, including the reader who said, “We plan a one day open house with three staff available to answer questions, do demonstrations and hand out information, food and freebies.   This is our first time doing this.”

And there were, of course, those who had done this before.  “Our recordkeeper’s financial advisors will be on-site with information, trinkets, cookies and door prizes during the lunch hour,” noted one.  “We will send a broadcast e-mail inviting employees to stop by.   Posters will be hung.   We will are also offering a “Retirement Planning” seminar on the 7th.”

Not everyone was enthralled with the superhero theme, however.   One reader noted, I was so excited to use our fancy new color copier to print my posters… until I saw the super hero theme for this year.   If this were a 401(k) for elementary and middle school students I’m sure it would be a hit, but it seems a bit juvenile for a professional organization.   Faster than a speeding bullet, I’m back to the drawing board.”

“…working for a financial services firm I believe the quizzes, word searches and super hero theme is not geared towards my participant base (however my 2nd grade son would love it!)   Has anyone ever looked at the effectiveness of such a campaign?”, wondered another.

Those materials worked just fine for others, however, “We are having shirts made with the 401k shield that is offered by PSCA and those of us involved with the 401k will wear them,” noted an “adopter.”   .

That “shield” was part of this year’s 401(k) Day “theme” revolved around a super hero called Captain 401(k) Day developed by Schwab, who notes that more than 130 of their clients have downloaded materials.   They’ve also received orders for some 37,000 comic books for participants.   The Profit-Sharing 401(k) Council of America notes that there have been nearly 600 downloads of free information and materials from their site so far.  

Other campaign examples included:

“…We have participated for several years in 401(k) Day, and we plan an enterprise wide extensive campaign for next year,” offered another.   For this year we have a campaign that includes articles in employee publications, directing participants to the PSCA website, and email reminders to HR managers in the field about the day.   We are also launching a retirement plans intranet site which will be a repository for retirement and financial education articles available to our various operating companies’ HR and communications’ teams.”

Another campaign was cited by this reader; “We are very excited about participating in 401(k) Day “Picture Your Retirement” 2005.   This year *** plans to do a Vacation Exchange, along with downloading the interactive educational games offered through PSCA and Transamerica.   With the Vacation Exchange, participants will be asked to share experiences of some of   their favorite vacation spots.   This will give everyone ideas of great places to travel or retire to when that glorious day arrives.   It will be something like a Vacation Exchange   “Show and Tell”.    Participants can be as creative as they desire.   Experiences can be shared in the form of home videos, photo albums, dress, or culinary talents.”

My personal favorite was the reader who shared, “This year, we’re scheduled for Monday, September 12, since I’ll be out of the office the week of Labor Day.   Our theme is “Knock Your Socks Off”.   We’re encouraging employees to sock away as much as they can into their 401(k).   So we’re having a sock contest – send in your favorite CLEAN socks, a sock puppet, a story about socks, etc. We’ll then have an employee vote for the favorite over the lunch hour with a prize for the winner (Anyone who votes is registered for a door prize).”   That, along with an information table and plan representatives there to answer questions – and that reader said they typically get about a fifth of their workforce participating in the voting over a 90 minute period.

But this week’s Editor’s Choice goes to the reader who said, “At this workplace every day is 401k day.   I am the biggest cheerleader in the world for the 401k.   I have sincere talks with new people.   I make them watch videos.   I nag my 3 holdouts.   I beg them to take all of our match.   My goal is to have a bunch of rich seniors playing golf in Florida.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our survey!  

As a reminder, PSCA provides materials at no charge to employers who want to host the celebration at their worksite. The materials include free interactive and print 401(k) participant education tools, such as posters, payroll stuffers, crossword and word-find puzzles, and a matching game that educates employees about 401(k) terms and investing.    You’ll find it online  HERE