6 steps clients can take to enhance financial literacy across five generations

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Having a multi-generational workforce is a distinct advantage, but it poses a challenge to an organization’s benefits and compensation leadership team to understand the needs and wants of all of its employees.

The University of Pittsburgh recently underwent a multi-year initiative to transform how we communicate about our retirement plan and boost financial literacy. Traditionally, we had placed an emphasis on those faculty and staff who were closer to retirement.

But with five generations within our workforce, we realized this initiative would provide an opportunity to demonstrate how the features of the retirement savings plan could help our faculty and staff address the financial needs and goals of their specific life stage and provide a meaningful and relevant financial educational experience for all.

We worked closely with our provider, TIAA, to design a customized program. What follows are six key lessons from our experience in how to increase financial literacy and employee participation:

Create working groups and conduct surveys to confirm areas of need or interest.
Our initiative benefitted from a cross-functional group of men and women who met on a quarterly basis. One of our professors emphasized the importance of financial literacy, which inspired us to stretch our thinking about how the goal of financial literacy could fit into the retirement program metrics.

Stress the availability and access to complementary financial advice.
The ability to meet with a TIAA financial consultant for an individual advice session is one of the key benefits of the retirement savings plan. To ensure faculty and staff would take advantage of this benefit, we conducted surveys to learn what financial topics would be most helpful, their preferred communication methods and desired topics for workshops. The survey response rate was 73%. More than 750 one-on-one sessions were requested and attended, which marked a 54% increase as compared to the same time period in the prior year.

Use personal stories, where possible.
One thing we are really proud of that was very effective, was using real life stories in the campaign. For the transition guide, we interviewed faculty and staff to learn about their passions, goals and what drives them. The answers were surprising and the personal stories really resonated with people. We posted a story from a woman who was a custodian and recently retired. Her testimony was impactful. More than 2,000 participants increased their contribution within the first six months. It was also important to use photographs of our faculty and staff — this was not the typical older couple on the beach. We wanted to make sure the imagery was in line with the generational diversity we have so that younger people would see themselves in the picture.

Illustrate the value of benefits and related key financial concepts, like compound interest.
University of Pittsburgh has a very generous retirement benefit, but we were not sure it was entirely appreciated by those who would benefit the most. As one example, the university matches contributions at 150% once faculty and staff are vested. So, if an employee puts in 8%, the university puts in 12%, adding up to a total of 20%. It’s important for people to know they are leaving real money on the table, and how it impacts their financial picture over time.

Ensure you can measure the impact of your campaign.
We wanted to make sure we were increasing the rate of faculty and staff participating in the plan, so it was important for us to be able to measure our efforts. If we hosted a workshop, we made sure we identified and assessed the learning outcomes. We also knew that if we put in measurements focused on understanding financial concepts, we could learn if we were making an impact on the financial knowledge of our staff and faculty.

Use multiple channels to inform and engage employees.
Numerous channels were utilized to communicate to current and former employees, including human resources’ website, Facebook, Twitter, television screens across campus, the employee intranet portal, our internal email system, mail, webinars, and in-person presentations.

Taking the time to understand the financial needs and goals of employees and creating a customized program is an investment, but we found it could improve plan participation and ensure our employees are confident in their retirement and future security, which was well worth the effort.

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