man holding nest with golden eggEncouraging employees to enroll and personally contribute whilematching contributions to retirement accounts is perhaps the mostimportant thing you can do for your employees. (Photo:Getty)

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A retirement crisis is looming for millennialsand Gen Xers now that they are taking the baby boomer’s place atthe heart of the U.S. economy. A diminishing social security budgetcombined with a longer life expectancy for younger generations isleading some politicians to call for the full retirement age toincrease from 66 years old to 68 years. Millennials have alsoreported that they are not saving for retirement, instead spendingtheir income on more short-term goals like paying down all of thatstudent loan debt.

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The stresses of the retirement crisis have created a climate ofuncertainty and fear around the limited possibility of retiringcomfortably, if at all. According to the U.S. Government Accountability Office, nearlyhalf of all baby boomers approaching retirement have nothing savedin a 401(k) or other individual retirement account.

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Related: 10 states with the most workers lacking access toretirement plans

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Stress takes a toll on employee productivity and morale, leading tolost hours of work and less effective work all week long. Worriedemployees take more sick days, quit more often and contribute to anegative climate in the workplace. Employees want to achievepositive outcomes, both for their own wellness and for theircompanies. They just need a little help.

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Wellness and benefits are both critical opportunities foremployers to revitalize their workplaces and give employees neededsupport in an uncertain environment. Helping employees learn aboutand engage with their benefits can limit damaging stress and bringeverybody back into the office refreshed and more positive aboutthe future.

Implement the benefits that will help the most

Benefits are one of the most important tools in an employer’stool belt, whether helping to solve the retirement crisis or forimproving the environment of your workplace. As we have discussed previously, there is a tendency forcompanies to fight the symptom of a negative in-office atmosphereinstead of the problem: employees worried about their potentialinability to ever comfortably retire. Eye-catching perks like pooltables or in-house baristas can certainly make the office seem likea more fun place to go; however, these types of benefits do notaddress the retirement crisis for employees just starting out orthose about to retire.

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Encouraging employees to enroll and personally contribute whilematching contributions to retirement accounts is perhaps the mostimportant thing you can do for your employees. It is a powerfultax-deductible incentive for employees to contribute as much asthey can to their retirement accounts. Advisors suggest a totalcontribution (employee and employer combined) of 12 to 15 percent.It is also a way to find and keep the best talent, as research suggests that retirement benefits area reason that many employees accept job offers and a reason theystay at the companies they are currently working for.

Drive participation and engagement

Neither your employees nor you will be able to reap the rewardsof a benefit program if employees are not participating in them.Particularly for younger employees without as much experience withfiscal responsibility, auto-enrollment and auto-escalation are thewatchwords for bringing down employee retirement stress and raisingtheir productivity.

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There are a few key ways for employers to engage with employeesabout the benefits available to them so they know what theiroptions are and can make educated decisions. These include:

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Benefits Fairs: These serve two very importantpurposes for your employees and your company. First, they are aclear demonstration of the benefits that come from employment atyour company. Benefits Fairs show everyone on the team how much youwant to support the eventual retirement and general wellness ofyour employees. They also give employees an opportunity to learnhow their benefits work straight from the partners giving them.They can sit down one-on-one if they have any questions and requireany additional information. Holding benefits fairs at the same timeevery year, preferably in advance of open-enrollment, can be aneducational experience that leaves all of your employees with theknowledge they need to make an educated plan for themselves.

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Mandatory group meetings: Especially for newemployees, group meetings about benefits and retirement can beincredibly important for employee retirement outcomes later on.Schedule regular quarterly meetings for groups of employees and acompany benefits manager to discuss employee benefits and relatedissues. These discussions will set your employees up for success inaddressing any retirement issues they may have.

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Regular Advisor visits: Checking in is one ofthe most valuable things an employer can do to make sure thatbenefits are having the impact that they need to. These can be ascasual as brief question and answer sessions, or as in-depth as afull breakdown of employee’s retirement accounts and the steps theyare implementing to guarantee their retirement success.

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To ensure this success, advisors may perform a gap analysis.This approach looks at the eligible age of retirement and considersthe actual, optimum age to retire. Among other indicators, anindividual’s account balance will help dictate the most practicaland financially feasible time to retire, or the “allowable” age.For this reason, the optimum age of retirement may not alwayscorrespond with the eligible age of retirement. Advisors can helpclose the gap between the eligible and allowable retirement ages byoffering different investment strategies to achieve an employee’slong-term financial goals.

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Regardless of which option would work best for your company,though, “check-ins” ensure that everyone involved is safe in theknowledge of how they are benefiting their role in that program,and their role in their retirement.

Never stop educating

Educating your employees is another vital way to improveretirement outcomes. A major component of retirement uncertaintycomes from confusion, both about how much money they need in retirement and alsowhat age they might be when they retire. It’s not something that isregularly covered in high school or college, and there is a lot ofconflicting information online.

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As an employer, you can use a wide variety of tools to create awell-informed workforce to end financial illiteracy, includingwebinars, newsletters, group meetings, and one-on-one meetings, notto mention social media apps provided by those that run and adviseon your plans. The benefit is for you both: They become betterequipped to navigate their own retirement savings, and you have amore productive and happy employee.

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The value of engaging with your employees and implementing thesebenefits cannot be overstated. The retirement crisis is real andthe wave is cresting for the vast majority of Gen X and millennialsin the workforce. Through engagement and education, employers havean opportunity to help solve the retirement crisis and create acompetitive advantage for themselves in the process.

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India SuterIndia Suteris the director of business development for AssetStrategy Consultants, Hunt Valley, Maryland. Working directlywith benefits managers, plan sponsors and HR executives, Indianotes that success begins with being a good communicator and abetter listener.


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