Tool helps plan sponsors focus on income

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A recent survey of 3,300 working Americans conducted by Putnam Investments reveals that American households are on track to replace only about 64% of their current income in retirement — significantly less than the 75% of income that most financial professionals recommend.

To help address that problem, firms are rolling out tools to help employers help their employees save more. Putnam, a money management firm, announced last week that it is making available to plan sponsors a product called Lifetime Income Score, a tool it says will give employers a way to help boost employees’ retirement savings.

By allowing sponsors to look not just at retirement plans in aggregate, but at participant retirement preparedness broken down by demographic groups and by estimated monthly retirement income, the tool will allow those using the approach to identify participants who are most at risk and empower them to develop “targeted and measurable campaigns to educate and engage least prepared employees.”

The same Putnam study finds that 62% of plan sponsors say their responsibility includes making sure their employees are on course for a comfortable retirement, while just 18% say they had conducted a retirement readiness assessment during the past year.

Many claim the reason for no recent assessment is they lack the tools to conduct such a study.

“What we’re trying to do here is a paradigm shift,” says Edmund F. Murphy III, head of defined contribution at Putnam. “In evaluating plan performance, everyone has been looking at participation rates, and that doesn’t tell the story. Even looking at average account balances doesn’t do it. What matters is income.”

The firm’s research shows that most participants in plans spend no more than 30 seconds looking at their accounts, Murphy says. “They basically check their balance and they leave. We want them to stay longer and look at where they are in terms of retirement income.”

The tool, Murphy says, provides “a new level of analytics and comprehensive reporting to allow [sponsors] to benchmark and track their progress in terms of participant retirement income and to ultimately serve as a basis for taking confident action in strengthening their plans.”

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Financial planning