Next week, Feb. 22 through 27, is America Saves Week, an annual event to help more Americans learn about good savings behaviors and make a commitment to an important cause: their own financial security.

The fact is, we’re living longer and saving less. It’s not uncommon today for retirement to last 20 or 30 years. And yet, more than half of all working-age households are inadequately prepared for retirement, and the number is climbing, according to EBRI data.

For many, this isn’t news. We have more financial information, education and planning tools available to us today than at any time in history. But despite the steady drumbeat of headlines about retirement planning, we’re still not getting it right. Why is it so difficult to right the retirement ship?

[Image credit: Bloomberg]
[Image credit: Bloomberg]

Surprisingly, the answer may lie in how our brains are wired to respond to our environment. In effect, we need to outsmart ourselves, because the odds are already stacked against us.

And here’s why – Prudential research shows us there are five inherent behavioral biases that make employees their own worst enemy when it comes to saving for retirement. They are:

· Not being aware of increasing life spans (longevity disconnect)

· Putting off difficult or time-consuming tasks (procrastination)

· Thinking that bad things only happen to other people (optimism bias)

· Making decisions based on what other people are doing (herd mentality)

· Putting today’s wants ahead of tomorrow’s needs (instant gratification)

Our primitive brains were developed for the here and now, with a primary mission of keeping us alive each and every day. In contrast, our contemporary life demands that we plan for multiple scenarios and contingencies, often with effects that could shape our lives far into the future.

So where do we start? The first key to overcoming our biases is to recognize them. The second is to understand their power: These inclinations are strong, so anything we can do to simplify our savings decisions or make savings happen automatically, in ways where it would be impossible for our biases to intervene, is more likely to be successful.

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"The fact is, we’re living longer and saving less."

Over the course of the coming week, let’s all commit to taking small, positive steps forward. Encourage employees to find one hour to get all of their financial statements organized in one place. Or to make a date with themselves to spend one day reviewing their current savings plans. Or to commit to contributing just 1% more of their annual earnings toward retirement.

This week is the time to face these challenges, to decide to take that step forward in spite of our behavioral biases. Let’s harness each other’s energy to help secure not only our own futures and the futures of our family members, but also our communities more broadly. Let’s choose to give back to ourselves in a way that will safeguard our well-being for years to come. The impact of 1% — measured in a tomorrow of financial security and a today of reassurance — can be immense.

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Christine Marcks

Christine Marcks

Christine Marcks is president of Prudential Retirement.