Employers anticipate greater demand for advice of 401(k) plans

By Marli D. Riggs
June 15, 2011
Almost 80 percent of employers anticipate that there will be an increased demand for access to savings and investment advice about their 401(k) plans, according to a new survey.

Bank of America Merrill Lynchís Workplace Benefits Report, released on June 14, reveals that since the economic recession, nearly half of employers have seen an increase in the frequency that prospective employees inquire about the financial benefit plans offered.

Plan sponsors feel increased responsibility for the financial well being of employees and are adapting their policies to meet the needs of the multigenerational workforces.

The report finds that an overwhelming majority of plan sponsors (94%) believe itís important to retain older employees for a longer period of time in light of the talent and skills they possess. In an effort to retain these workers, half of the employers surveyed offer flexible or customized work schedules; 33% are implementing education around retirement income and health care topics; 32% offer continuing education and development opportunities; 22% give employees the opportunity to work remotely; and 21% are offering extended benefits to older employees.

Ninety eight percent of employers feel that attracting younger employees is important. In an effort to attract them, 53% of the employees surveyed offer young workers the opportunity to continue their education and development and 45% offer flexible or customized work schedules.

Almost three-quarters of employers said that health benefits are the top benefit in attracting and retaining talent, while retirement benefits come in second.

Sixty one percent of employers now offer access to advice and services that can help employees prepare for retirement. Almost half of employers offer research or literature to educate employees about investment decisions; 39% offer access to a one-on-one relationship with a financial adviser; 38% offer online tools to help manage banking and investment needs.

With more employers moving away from traditional pension plans and with the uncertainty of Social Security, the report reveals, 84% of older employees will work longer to extend their contributions to a 401(k) plan.

Although plan sponsors offer a good amount of access to advice and services, lack of personalization may limit employee engagement, the report shows. When asked why plan participants fail to use the resources they provide employers said that 54% donít view them as relevant and perceive them to be too complicated, while 46% claims they are too busy.

When asked how frequently they communicate the broader value of benefit plans offered almost 70% replied only once or twice a year.

The survey includes responses from 650 CEOs, CFOs, HR executives/managers and benefit administrators.

This article originally appeared in Employee Benefit News, a SourceMedia publication.
© 2011 Employee Benefit News and SourceMedia, Inc.