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Retirement Planning Tools, Financial Wellness Top Participants’ Wish List

When ranking their interest in retirement education, employee plan participants are most interested in financial wellness and better understanding retirement planning resources available to them, new survey results reveal.

Of the more than 9,200 participants who took part in CUNA Mutual Retirement Solutions’ 2018 Retirement Education Preferences Survey, nearly a third of each age group (29% of 18- to 34-year-olds, 29% of 35 to 49-year-olds, and 30% of plan respondents 50 and up) said they know their plan but want help understanding the available tools and resources.

According to the authors, this finding suggests that employees are interested in maximizing their returns and learning how their plan can help them prepare for retirement, but they are not certain they have all the information they need.

Participants also expressed a strong interest in basic financial wellness topics, indicating they are facing challenges that impact their ability to increase their overall retirement savings.

The study was conducted to provide plan sponsors insight into what retirement topics plan participants are most interested in, what educational resources they prefer and how well they understand their retirement plans. Participants provided the following overall rankings when asked about their interest in seven different financial and retirement planning areas:

1. Understanding tools and resources (25%)
2. Budgeting and managing debt (24%)
3. Smart retirement savings practices (19%)
4. Basic investment principles (13%)
5. Preparing to transition to retirement (13%)
6. Advanced investment principles (6%)
7. Other (1%)

Age Differences

When broken down by age, younger plan participants’ interest, not surprisingly, appears to focus on more general financial wellness subjects, with an emphasis on wanting to learn about budgeting and managing debt (35%).

Mid-career participants (35-49 years old), meanwhile, share a high concern for budgeting and managing debt (26%), while expressing an interest in smart retirement savings practices (21%). As expected, this group has had more time to build up earnings compared with their younger peers earlier in their working years.

Also not surprisingly, pre-retiree plan participants (ages 50 or older) are most interested in getting ready for transitioning to retirement (31%). Understanding tools and resources was ranked as the top interest 26% of the time for this age group, while smart retirement savings practices were ranked in the middle (16%), followed by budgeting and managing debt and investment principles (both basic and advanced).

In addition, nearly a quarter of respondents (24%) in the 50-plus age group reported being confident in understanding their plan and using the available resources, while just 8% of plan participants in the 18- to 34-year-old age group said the same.

As for gender, while both women and men expressed interest in budgeting and managing debt, the topic appears to be a somewhat greater concern for women, according to the study. And men indicated more interest in advanced investment principles, along with a higher preference for interacting with a self-guided approach to education.

When asked to rank their interest in education delivery options, the responses were more diverse in learning preferences. The overall average results show that all categories received a similar level of interest, with a close tie between in-person training, short topical online videos and self-guided learning modules as the preferred method to receive education. The takeaway, according to the authors, is that personalization and convenience are important — retirement is not “one size fits all” and time is limited.