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Financial counseling critical for retirement planning
November 18, 2004
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New York, N.Y. -- A new study conducted by Ernst & Young LLP and ExecuNet revealed that personalized financial counseling is critical to help employees effectively manage retirement planning.  The survey of human resource and employee benefits professionals found that financial education alone is not enough to influence a change in employee behavior.

Employers that added more personalized assistance and counseling programs to their financial education programs, such as telephone and in-person counseling, reported a significant increase in the involvement of participants in their retirement planning.  Results from employers with such counseling programs showed:

  • Up to a 16 percent increase in participation rates in excess of 5 percent
  • Up to a 17 percent increase in contribution rates as a percentage of pay in excess of 5 percent
  • Up to an 11 percent increase in the change in allocations in excess of 5 percent
  • Up to a 15 percent decrease in loan activity in excess of 5 percent
  • Up to a 16 percent increase in rollover activity in excess of 5 percent

"A small percentage increase in any aspect of investment behavior, such as a change in contribution as a percentage of pay, can yield positive results for plan participants and can leave them more financially secure in their retirement," says Bill Arnone of Ernst & Young's Human Capital practice. "By providing one-to-one counseling, employees understand the importance of saving for retirement and can also determine the course of action that best meets their needs."

With more than 83 percent of survey respondents providing some level of financial education for employees, it is clear that the question is no longer whether employee education programs should be offered, but rather how they should be offered in order to achieve the best return for both employers and employees.

Historically, plan sponsors have cited the risk of potential fiduciary liability as the primary reason for establishing employee education programs. New considerations include:

  • Nearly 90 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their companies provide financial education to improve employee satisfaction.
  • Approximately 84 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their companies provide financial education to employees because their 401(k) plans will be the primary source of retirement income and employees need more help managing them.
  • More than 80 percent of respondents agreed or strongly agreed that their companies provide financial education to help establish them as employers of choice, thereby enhancing employee attraction and retention.

Ernst & Young LLP, with the assistance of ExecuNet, a recognized authority in executive career strategies, recruiting and employment market trends, conducted a survey of large employers nationwide to determine whether they are measuring the success of their employee financial education programs. The findings were based on responses from human resources and employee benefits professionals from a cross section of some of the largest employers in the country in a variety of industry sectors.

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