Your employees have hopes and dreams about what their retirements will look like. Right now, they are following a retirement planning path they hope will lead to a better way of life when they are no longer working. Unfortunately, there are many stumbling blocks and wrong turns they can experience on their journey. Recent studies have uncovered some important information that you can share with your employees in 401(k) education sessions to help make their paths to retirement more successful.

What retirees wish they would have known

Research from the Transamerica Center for Retirement Studies and HSBC gathered information from existing retirees about what would have liked to have known about retirement while they were working:

· Save more consistently. Saving for retirement is hard because the goal is so far away. The vast majority of retirees felt that they should have done a better job saving for their retirements. Only 16% of retirees felt like they had saved enough. Most retirees underestimated how much money they would need in retirement.

See also: Employees’ retirement confidence grows, but savings still ‘alarmingly low’

· Be more knowledgeable. A large majority of retirees wish they would have spent more time educating themselves about saving and investing. There are a myriad of tools and resources employees can use to help construct their ideal retirements. It appears that most felt they didn't take full advantage of the resources available.

· Start early. Nearly half of retirees felt they became serious about retirement planning too late in their careers. Starting to save early is a major contributing factor to achieving retirement readiness.

· Receive more advice. About half of retirees wish they had received more advice about how to save. Many employees think they don't need advice on saving and investing. Some believe that the 401(k) education sessions they are required to attend are a waste of time. Studies indicate that many retirees regret not taking the opportunity to obtain more advice.

Greatest retiree misperceptions

The studies also shared some misperceptions retirees had about retirement. I have included my thoughts on what I have heard from retirees as well.

· I can work as long as I want. This is the most common response I hear from participants when I talk with them about falling short in their savings plans. They say, "Bob, I know that I am behind in saving, I will just work longer." Studies show that nearly two-thirds of retirees retired sooner than expected. Employees may encounter unexpected health problems, changes in the economy or a diminished demand for their particular skill set, which forces them to stop working. Research shows that employees should not assume they can work as long as they want.

· I won't have to work in retirement. U.S. News & World Report found that nearly a third of Americans ages 65 or older were working in 2010. Based upon conversations that I have had with retirees, it is fair to say that a large percentage of these individuals would prefer not to work and weren't planning on it. They are forced to work at least part-time because they were not able to save enough or work full-time long enough.

· I will be debt free. Twice as many retirees are still struggling with debt in retirement than expected to. Most were probably thinking they could pay off their mortgages or credit card debt before they retired. Not being able to achieve freedom from debt is also likely due to not being able to work full-time long enough.

Consider sharing this information with your employees during your next employee education session.

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Robert C. Lawton

Robert C. Lawton

Robert C. Lawton, AIF, CRPS is president of Lawton Retirement Plan Consultants, LLC, an RIA firm helping retirement plan sponsors with their investment, fiduciary, employee education and compliance responsibilities.