Aself-proclaimed "401(k) whisperer," Stig Nybo, president, pension sales & distribution, Transamerica Retirement Solutions, wants everyone to hear loud and clear the importance of adequate retirement funds. He aims to get that message across in his book, Transform Tomorrow: Awakening the Super Saver in Pursuit of Retirement Readiness. EBA spoke with Nybo about the book and his hopes for social change on the subject.

 

Why write this book?

It goes back to a conversation I had with my brother, Dag, where we were talking about how we need to broaden the [savings] conversation beyond the normal cast of characters. We really need to ... get it into the mainstream. I firmly believe this is the biggest social crisis of our time, and I wrote it to try and get that discussion going.

I spoke with people that I consider to be incredible minds around this topic. One who deserves to be mentioned first is Ted Benna, who is considered the father of the 401(k). Mark Iwry, he runs retirement policy at the Treasury. He's the person who has, I think, the best insight in Washington about the topic of retirement plans and how to change outcomes. ... That's a small list of the 25 or so that I spoke with at length.

I would love it if every plan sponsor in America read this book. ... It's become very clear that [the 401(k)] is the primary means by which we will retire, and consequently we have to become much more emphatic about the need for people to participate.

 

Describe the book.

We think of retirement as always having been around but really it's only about a 100-year-old concept that people stopped working and retired. You basically used to work until you died. We take a look at that [history] and then we take a look at the state of the union and whether or not we have a vision for how people should save and whether they should retire. Then we look at the rise of the DC plan and this move away from defined benefits toward DC. Then we delve into financial literacy and take a look at how a message might get across to people. That's a big theme of the book. Not ... 'Tell people they have to save X amount and if they save X amount they're going to have this big lump-sum at the end of that.'

The overall idea behind the book is to look back at where we've had meaningful social change and use that as a model for where we can have social change around savings. ... It's really about trying to change how we as a society think about savings. Savings rates have historically been about 3% society wide. That's not enough, and until we change that it's going to be very difficult to change outcomes.

We've found that two things drive behavioral change ... belief and context. That's when you have meaningful social change or meaningful behavioral change. We have to get the belief side of the equation right if we're going to have meaningful change of behavior around savings.

This is ... very much is a book about social responsibility and what all of us can do in order to change outcomes. It's going to take all of us to do that. There are approximately 10,000 people per day retiring - and that will go on for about the next 19 years. The reality is we're not prepared. It's up to all of us that have influence on others to change that.

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