Employees around the country are in need of direct, simple guidance to help them reach their retirement goals, according to a survey released by State Street Global Advisors.

The SSgA Defined Contribution Investor survey was created to reveal employees’ investing behaviors and interactions with their retirement plans and includes more than 1,000 401(k), 403(b), profit sharing and stock purchase plan participants.

The findings emphasize four areas of focus for employers and their participants:

  • Attitudes toward saving for retirement
  • Awareness of automatic features in DC plans
  • Awareness of long-term risks when investing
  • Slight difference among age groups that impact likeliness to save

“Plan participants communicated loud and clear about what they need: simple steps and automated features,” says Kristi Mitchem, senior managing director and head of Global Defined Contribution for SSgA. “One of the most surprising and encouraging findings is the willingness of participants to take 401(k) direction from their employers. The ongoing volatility in the financial markets has increased anxiety amongst plan participants and a significant percentage want simplified and prescriptive guidance in order to make progress toward their retirement goals.”
Seventy five percent of respondents indicate they would be willing to be automatically enrolled in a 10% savings “boot camp” for six months while 54% of participants say they are “very” or “somewhat confident” that their savings are on track.

Other participants have a much less optimistic outlook. Most place the blame on themselves, with 55% indicating they lack confidence because their rate of savings is not high enough and 52% indicating they did not start saving early enough. Others blame the economy or the financial markets, and only a few blame their employer.

“For the first time, DC assets will outnumber traditional defined benefit assets globally in 2012, with DC assets increasing to 52% of all retirement assets,” says Mitchem. “This statistic underscores the importance of improving interactions between DC plan sponsors and plan participants by better understanding the needs and savings behaviors of DC investors. Plan participants typically do not take action for two reasons: lack of knowledge or lack of time. As we design plans and engage employees, the more we know about them, the bolder we can be with solutions that will help them achieve retirement security.”

Automatic features offered by plan sponsors to encourage plan participants to save are preferred with 74% of respondents indicating that by “making me automatically do something like save more or invest in a professionally managed fund” would improve their retirement readiness.

With the struggling economy and financial crisis, the generational differences in attitudes also impact how they save for retirement. Of the youngest workers, ages 18-24, 73% say the recent volatility prompted them to save more, versus 37% of the general population.

“The market volatility has created a new generation of savers,” says Mitchem. “Younger workers are saving more and spending less than their parents, while 66% of those over 50 years of age admit to not saving at an early enough age.”

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Employee Benefit Adviser content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access