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7 Rules of Employee Retirement Education Every Plan Sponsor Should Know

Retirement plan sponsors have a daunting task of educating participants about the importance of saving for retirement. It seems strange that it could be so difficult to get people to do things to help themselves, but in the end, human nature prevails. The fact is we don’t always do what is right for ourselves.  Employee Retirement Education takes some skill, planning…and a few helpful tricks of the trade.

At industry training events I speak with hundreds of plan sponsors about what works with regard to employee retirement education programs.


We know that generational differences influence how employees react to educational information and how they best process that information. Millennials respond best to electronic communication, while baby-boomers still like old-fashion brochures, paper and in-person interaction. Low-wage workers have different concerns than higher-paid workers, and so on.

However, with a simple retirement education checklist, plan sponsors can enhance the value and effectiveness of education programs with a few tricks and tips that have a universal appeal.

  1. Give your employees an incentive to learn. When conducting an educational event, consider holding the session in a fun, exciting venue, perhaps off-site. Cater a lunch for the day or consider giving away a novel gadget such as a cell phone charger or other inexpensive or useful favor for those who register and attend and bring their most recent account statement. Tell them they will get a personal review of that account.
  2. Bring your company plan advisor to speak directly to employees. Employees of all generations will appreciate an opportunity to listen and interact with someone who can give them definitive answers about their retirement accounts.
  3. Go beyond the company plan and dedicate some time to general finance topics. Education is empowering and motivating. If you teach a segment on the power of compound interest over time, your employees will see the benefit of retirement savings in a positive way.
  4. Make your presentation interactive and visual. Nothing helps people understand new concepts like visual display of quantitative data and participating in exercises using the information being learned. Combine the two to hold the attention of the audience and help them retain the information.
  5. Consider segmenting your audience by age groups. Younger workers have vastly different retirement objectives and needs than older workers. Compelling a 60 year-old employee to listen to a segment on target date funds and the time value of money will likely be wasted time for that person. Conversely, speaking to Millennials about catch-up strategies (for those 50 years and older) is not likely going to be of interest to Millennials.
  6. Ask for program feedback. What better way to improve education than asking the employees if they learned anything. You may want to poll the group to see how many would be inclined to increase contributions after the program.

Schedule/Conduct private Advisor Consultations. Use the event to either conduct one-on-one advisor sessions to answer any questions while the information is still fresh.

Timothy Kelly
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