Although the average person may not be able to afford a retirement advisor, smart and innovative plan design on the part of plan sponsors may make having an advisor unnecessary.

On Monday, at the American Society of Pension Professionals and Actuaries’ 401(k) Summit in New Orleans, Sarah Simoneaux of Simoneaux and Stroud Consulting Services addressed the role retirement plan sponsors and vendors can play in helping employees achieve retirement readiness—starting with boosting retirement confidence with comprehensive knowledge about how much money workers will need to retire comfortably.

“In essence we’re telling people, ‘You’ve got this race, so run faster.’ But even when you’re sprinting, you don’t know exactly how long you’re going to go,” Simoneaux said. “How do you adjust if you don’t know where the finish line is? Somehow we have to fill the gap with our knowledge and making these folks feel more confident about retirement.”

She said that recent survey data out about employees’ lack of retirement confidence is an area ripe for growth regarding products that meet people where they are and help enhance retirement understanding and plan options. She also hinted that future legislation or rulings may make it mandatory for plan sponsors to guarantee a safe retirement.

Embracing technology can be a step toward making that guarantee, citing research that in 2010, 39% of Americans conducted banking transactions online. “Why can’t we put out something like that for the 401(k) benefit? I recognize we’re in a relationship business, but we’re in a technology business now. Make it automatic, make it easy.”

Increasing plan participant understanding and plan automation are sound suggestions, yet Simoneaux also acknowledged that advisors and vendors need to be transparent about what adding certain plan options will cost sponsors.

“If you want all participants to be auto-enrolled at 6%, it’s going to cost something to that sponsor; you have to know what it’ll cost,” she said. “[Employers] are going to ask you: If I have to adjust payroll, what will I have to do? Will my employees be willing to give up payroll increases to go toward this?”

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