Saving for retirement is the top financial stressor for workers of all ages, even more so than job security, credit card or student loan debt, according to a 401(k) plan participant survey conducted by Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc.
Even millennials are worried about being able to save enough for retirement, with 38% of respondents naming it as a significant source of financial stress. Nearly half of respondents say it is impossible to save enough in their 401(k) plans for a comfortable retirement, while only 43% know how much money they need for a comfortable retirement, the survey found.
“When you think about it, it makes sense because retirement savings can be a bit of an unknown,” says Catherine Golladay, senior vice president of participant services and administration at Schwab Retirement Plan Services. “There is an uncertainty factor around that so it adds to the stress.”
There seems to be less stress around known financial priorities, like paying off monthly bills, mortgage and student loan debt because those are priority-based decisions that have to be met, she says.
It was clear based on the Schwab survey that plan participants value their retirement plan benefits at work just as much as they do their healthcare benefits, but they underutilize them. Schwab research found that one-third of retirement plan participants had not increased or decreased their contribution in the past two years.
Seventy-seven percent of survey respondents consider the ability to save enough for retirement a major policy issue, which could have an effect on the upcoming presidential election, according to Schwab. Fifty-two percent of respondents feel that Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton is the best person to elect when it comes to pocketbook issues, while 48% believe Republican candidate Donald Trump is the best option.
Clinton resonates most with millennials and women, while Trump’s supporters are mainly baby boomers and men, the survey found.
Having access to professional investment advice is something that 70% of respondents said they would be interested in, but only 10% receive professional investment advice, the Schwab survey found.
One way to solve that problem is to get plan sponsors to make professionally managed accounts the default investment of their 401(k) plans, Golladay says. Participant behavior drastically changed once automatic plan design features were introduced. Automatic enrollment, automatic escalation and defaulting employees into a target-date fund have made great strides in boosting the number of individuals taking advantage of their workplace retirement plans.
Golladay believes the same would be true if professional 401(k) advice was also automatic, if employers replaced their target date funds with managed accounts.
Using the opt-in approach, only 10% take advantage of a managed account option, she says, but adds, “if you structure it in a way that it is your default investment, you will get a much higher percentage, 85%.”
Costs can stay low if managed account options include low-cost investments like index mutual funds and exchange-traded funds.
Individuals who take advantage of professional advice save more, are better diversified and are more likely to stay the course, Golladay says. It also helps them stay the course when the stock markets are volatile because of international events, like the UK’s Brexit vote, or the upcoming U.S. presidential election.
Eighty-five percent of survey respondents said they would be interested in a financial wellness program if their employer offered one. Schwab also found that employees already manage their finances from work. Sixty-seven percent said they pay their bills at work, while 62% take care of personal financial issues; 56% manage their 401(k); and 41% check up on their non-retirement investment accounts.
The Schwab survey indicates that employees trust their employers when it comes to imparting financial information.
“People look at retirement savings as part of their overall financial picture,” says Steve Anderson, president, Schwab Retirement Plan Services. “Employers are in a unique position to address the needs of their employees more holistically. An increasing number of employers now recognize that a workplace financial wellness program can not only help alleviate the financial stress employees feel, but it can also increase retention, loyalty and engagement.”
The survey of 1,000 U.S. 401(k) participants was conducted by Koski Research and Schwab Retirement Plan Services in early June.
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