Educating employees about their 401(k)s, and the choices they have therein, can be a challenge—particularly when employers think employees want one thing and it turns out that employees want something completely different.
But SurveyGizmo and Mark Zoril, founder of PlanVision, got together and conducted a survey of newly eligible employees at client firms--with the survey’s intent “to allow the employee to have more control over how they receive service and guidance on the plan as they enroll.”
The survey, titled “401(k) Education: Giving Employees a Voice,” revealed several interesting insights into what employees think about various aspects of participation in their plans—information that both employers and plan providers can find useful.
As the report said, “Employees can provide information on their experience with employer-based retirement plans, investments and advisors. They can indicate how far away they think they are from retirement and how conservatively or aggressively they would like to invest.”
Here’s a look at five helpful things (or not) that employees said about their 401(k)s.
1. Employees want some help.
Just not necessarily in areas employers focus on.
While 96 percent say they want personal guidance during enrollment--either getting through the process itself, reviewing the investments on offer, or choosing how much to save--they don’t necessarily want that help in choosing investments.
Interestingly, even employees who work with financial advisors—about a third of enrollees—don’t plan on seeking their advisors’ advice on choosing investments; only 33 percent of those who use an advisor would actually ask for help in that area.
So. Explain the offerings to them, and then let them make their own decisions.
2. Forget the seminars, webinars, and classrooms.
Employees know they need to learn more about retirement and how to prepare, but that doesn’t mean they want to learn in a classroom environment.
Or in a webinar. So don’t opt for collective education.
Instead, employees are more in favor of one-on-one training—in fact, 88 percent of them said so.
3. More than half don’t know if they’re on track for retirement.
Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they didn’t know whether they were on track to reach retirement goals, or were afraid they hadn’t saved enough.
And among those, 70 percent said they’d like to run a personalized retirement plan at some point so that they could check their progress.
But maybe not yet--23 percent said it was too soon to know from a retirement plan whether they were actually on track.
4. They think they’re aggressive, but…
A third of investors said they were moderately aggressive, with 49.7 percent classing themselves as “aggressive” and 30.4 percent calling themselves “moderate.”
But that doesn’t necessarily mean they’ve got the stomach for it if the going gets rough.
Six percent of those who characterized themselves as moderate to aggressive investors, according to the report, “indicated that they would either not stay the course or may not stay the course in a market selloff.”
5. About those fees…
Yes, those. The fees participants pay in their plans.
While most observers, according to the study, “would … agree that plan participants have a very limited understanding of fees,” that’s not necessarily true.
In fact, all it takes is an explanation—or so participants say.
In fact, said the study, “if plan participants have their plan fees explained by a service provider in an easy-to-understand way, nearly all of them indicate that they understand the fees.”
Not only that, but, “of those who understand plan fees, the vast majority (95 percent) also understand how fees could impact their long-term returns.”
So, providers, watch what you put into the plan, and keep an eye on those fees.