Financial wellness has come to the forefront of employers’ wellbeing priorities. Looking back on previous years of participation in retirement savings programs such as 401(k)s, employers are not satisfied with participation, an Aon study shows.
As few as 15% of employers say they are satisfied with their workers’ current savings rate, according to a new report from Aon Hewitt. In response, employers are focused on increasing savings rates and will look to their advisers to help expand financial wellbeing programs.
Aon surveyed more than 250 U.S. employers representing nearly 9 million workers to determine their priorities and likely changes when it comes to retirement benefits. According to the report, employers plan to emphasize retirement readiness, focusing on financial wellbeing and refining automation as they aim to raise 401(k) savings rates for 2017.
Emphasizing retirement readiness
Nearly all employers, 90%, are concerned with their employees’ level of understanding about how much they need to save to achieve an adequate retirement savings. Those employers who said they were not satisfied with investment levels in past years, 87%, say they plan to take action this year to help workers reach their retirement goals.
“Employers are making retirement readiness one of the important parts of their financial wellbeing strategy by offering tools and modelers to help workers understand, realistically, how much they’re likely to need in order to retire,” says Rob Austin, director of retirement research at Aon Hewitt. “Some of these tools take it a step further and provide education on what specific actions workers can take to help close the savings gap and can help workers understand that even small changes, such as increasing 401(k) contributions by just two percentage points, can impact their long-term savings outlook.”
Focusing on financial wellbeing
While financial wellness has been a growing trend among employers recently, 60% of employers say its importance has increased over the past two years. This year, 92% of employers are likely to focus on the financial wellbeing of workers in a way that extends beyond retirement such as help with managing student loan debt, day-to-day budgeting and even physical and emotional wellbeing.
Currently, 58% of employers have a tool available that covers at least one aspect of financial wellness, but by the end of 2017, that percentage is expected to reach 84%, according to the Aon Hewitt report.
“Financial wellbeing programs have moved from being something that few leading-edge companies were offering to a more mainstream strategy,” Austin says. “Employers realize that offering programs that address the overall wellbeing of their workers can solve for myriad challenges that impact people’s work lives and productivity, including their physical and emotional health, financial stressors and long-term retirement savings.”
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The lessons learned from automatic enrollment are being utilized to increase savings rates. In a separate Aon Hewitt report, more than half of all employees under plans with automatic enrollment default had at or above the company match threshold. Employers are also adding contribution escalation features and enrolling workers who may not have been previously enrolled in the 401(k) plan.
“Employers realize that automatic 401(k) features can be very effective when it comes to increasing participation in the plan,” Austin says. “Now they are taking an automation 2.0 approach to make it easier for workers to save more and invest better.”
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