Men and women think about retirement differently, which means employers need to do a better job of tailoring the message to different segments of their workforce.
OneAmerica conducted a survey of 10,500 plan participants to find out if retirement savings is on their radar or not. It found that men think about retirement more often than women, talk about it more frequently with colleagues and are more educated about the tools needed to better prepare for their retirement years.
“We’ve known for quite some time that men and women don’t just think about retirement differently, they also talk about it differently,” says Marsha Whitehead, vice president of marketing for retirement services for the companies of OneAmerica. “By understanding these differences, plan sponsors can tailor their education programs to increase the influence they have on male and female participants.”
About 71% of men and women say they avoid taking loans or hardship withdrawals and both feel that an employer match on their 401(k) contributions is a high priority, the report found. But, women are more likely to put more emphasis on the employer matching contribution than men and men are more likely to place importance on the investment options offered through the plan, according to Willis Towers Watson.
“We’ve been interested in the difference between men and women for a while and looked at different ways to explore that,” says Kara Clark, director of marketing for OneAmerica Financial Partners. “Partly we want to know how we can help sponsors add value to the retirement planning process and really connect with plan participants.”
If men talk more about retirement at work than women do, the big question is, how can plan sponsors get women into that conversation? Clark asks.
You have to “cater to what women like,” she says. They like meetings and they do like to talk and have face-to-face conversations.
Clark recommends hosting “lunch and learn” opportunities to try and get companies’ female employees involved in the conversation.
“The ultimate goal is you want them to make behavioral changes. They will do that when they see their employer supporting those behavioral changes,” she adds.
OneAmerica works with a man called Peter Dunn or Pete the Planner, a former financial planner, comedian and syndicated newspaper columnist who “has this really great way of making all these complicated retirement, and even beyond retirement, personal financial concepts accessible and easy to understand, approachable,” she says. Dunn works with the company to create guides on different financial topics that get employees laughing and engaged when thinking about these issues.
“Retirement and retirement readiness is a serious topic but it doesn’t need to be something people shy away from; it is absolutely approachable,” Clark says.
She is seeing more and more companies pairing financial wellness with retirement readiness. The main reason most people don’t participate in their workplace retirement plan is because they don’t have a handle on their day-to-day expenses. For many, they are buying a home or car. For others, it is overwhelming student loan debt.
Retirement seems so far off to most people, Clark says. It doesn’t seem like a priority.
“We want to help people address their personal finance issues and see how retirement planning can fit into their budget,” she says.
Financial wellness programs are sprouting up across the country. A few years ago, many employers felt that teaching employees about financial topics was not their role but, now, they see that employees who are stressed out financially can have a negative impact on their bottom line, she says. Employees who are stressed about their finances have a hard time engaging at work and have a lot of absenteeism.
Another repercussion of employees not being ready to retire is that they stay in the workforce longer, which costs employers more money in terms of health care costs and higher salaries. Younger employees also have limited advancement opportunities if older workers never leave their positions.
Plan sponsors play a very important role when it comes to being advocates for a secure retirement, she adds.
“We ultimately want people to understand that our goals and the sponsor’s goal are retirement readiness and wanting workers to be able to retire with dignity,” Clark says.
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