Human Resources News & Insights

Are you kidding? Employees want savings advice, but won’t use it

If you didn’t already know it, this research proves it: Employees are a strange breed.

When it comes to their 401(k) plans, only 47% of employees say they are very confident when it comes to making investment decisions.

Another 53% said they find their retirement plans more confusing than healthcare benefits.

As a result, 55% said they would use free, personalized guidance if their employer made it available to them. So far, it all makes sense, right?

Sure — until some investigative work by the investment experts at Charles Schwab found that fewer than 10% of people with access to investment advice and tools actually use them.

The data came from Schwab’s study the New Rules of Engagement for 401(k) Success, which looked into the actions and opinions of 1,000 retirement plan participants.

A separate study by Longfellow Benefits in Boston even confirmed Schwab’s findings. Longfellow’s study found that utilization rates for online advice tools tend to be lower than 5%.

So what gives?

The situation is extremely frustrating for HR/Benefits pros who have worked tirelessly to provide the education tools employees have said they wanted to boost retirement savings.

Why aren’t employees drinking the water you’ve lead them to? Financial experts have kicked several opinions, including:

  • people are financially illiterate and don’t want to be embarrassed when asking for help, and
  • only older employees — those nearing retirement — really want the advice.

But the employees themselves tell a different story. According to the explanations employees gave in Schwab’s study:

  • 49% want to have more than $100,000 saved before getting advice
  • 27% say they get advice elsewhere
  • 26% say they have more pressing concerns, like day-to-day finances, and
  • 23% don’t think they’ve saved enough to warrant getting help.

Now what?

Does this mean employers should only target older workers, or those that have a large next egg? Probably not.

Remember, as this research has proven, employees are a fickle group. Take away resources — even if they’re not using them — and they may think you don’t care about their future. Just knowing help is there is “a nice thing to have” for employees.

But you certainly don’t want these resources going to waste. Here’s a stat from Schwab that could spark more usage of your company’s education tools: 70% of 401(k) participants who receive advice make changes to their deferral rates, and their savings nearly double as a result — spiking from 5% to 10% of pay on average.

Schwab also recommends that employers:

  • Offer one-on-one consultations — 51% of employees studied say they prefer a personalized touch (only 23% prefer online tools), and
  • Prove it’ll help — 65% said they need extra motivation to seek advice, and 34% say they’d need proof their savings would grow before seeking advice.
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