Here’s the bad news: Generally speaking, Americans aren’t doing enough to save for retirement. But the good news is that many realize they need help with their financial planning. In fact, results from the 2015 FSFE Employee Financial Wellness Survey indicate that 83 percent of employees would be open to meeting with a CFP® professional (if the costs were covered by their employer), and studies by Financial Finesse reveal that 93 percent of employees make finance-related improvements within 30 days of receiving financial education. Clearly, advisors are well-positioned to help increase retirement plan participation.
But how can you work with plan sponsors to drive participant engagement? To help answer this question, I’ve outlined five steps you can take to help increase participation in the plans you manage, as well as improve the overall health of your plans.
Step 1: Educational Campaigns
The first step to consider is an educational outreach campaign. Centered on topics such as saving, investing, and retirement income, these campaigns lay the foundation for financial education: helping participants feel more comfortable with plan terminology and focusing on what they should keep in mind as they begin to plan.
Educational content lends itself well to quarterly outreach. Also, you might leverage components of the campaign (e.g., presentations or worksheets) as stand-alone items to support one-on-one conversations with participants or ad hoc requests.
Step 2: Targeted Messaging
The second step to help boost plan health is to provide targeted messaging by segmenting your outreach and correlating content. Here, you could:
- Send a “retirement checkup” invitation to employees over the age of 50
- Host a webinar on optimizing social security income
One benefit of targeted messaging is that you can align content with plan sponsor goals. For instance, if your plan sponsor wants to ensure that participants are using the available investment options appropriately, launch a campaign targeting participants who may not be using target-date funds as intended or those who are too heavily invested in one fund. Messaging within the targeted outreach will be more effective than broad-based education, and participant engagement rates should reflect that.
Step 3: Multiple Communication Channels
No matter the participant outreach strategy, it’s important to use multiple communication channels. Of course, communication preferences are trending toward electronic media. But print components are needed to reach participants who may not be in front of a computer all day or who like to have something in hand when speaking with a spouse or partner about planning decisions. The goal is to meet participants via their preferred communication channel, whether it’s e-mail, print, phone, or online.