Digital Divide: Generations Differ in Retirement Planning

By Stephen Miller, CEBS Feb 11, 2013

There's a digital divide when it comes to the use of technology to prepare for retirement. Younger retirement plan participants are more likely to use online calculators, interactive charts and mobile apps in preparing for retirement than older counterparts, a study sponsored by OneAmerica Financial Partners reveals. Among the key findings:

  • More than 60 percent of U.S. retirement plan participants younger than age 40 said they found online retirement calculators most helpful. This compares to 51 percent of participants ages 41 to 50 and 41 percent of those over 50.

  • In contrast, 67 percent of those over 50 found articles most helpful, compared to 45 percent of those ages 20 to 30.

  • Twice as many 20- to 30-year-olds (24 percent) found mobile apps helpful, compared to 12 percent of 40- to 50-year-olds. Only 7 percent of those over 50 found mobile apps helpful.

The survey found that the digital divide extends to the sources where participants read about financial issues: Participants in the 20- to 30-year-old range are more than twice as likely as 40- to 50-year-olds to read about financial issues via blogs (20 percent vs. 9 percent). And 28 percent of the younger group of workers read about financial issues via social media such as Facebook. This compares to only 16 percent of 40- to 50-year-olds.

“To reach all audiences successfully, plan sponsors should use a wide variety of tools and provide information to participants in various formats,” said Bill Yoerger, president of retirement business for the OneAmerica companies.

“This is also something to keep an eye on in years to come,” Yoerger added. “As these generations move through the different age bands, they will likely maintain their preferences for receiving information, while new workers entering the workforce may have completely different needs and habits," requiring plan communications to evolve along with newer generations of future retirees.

Retirement Savings? There’s an App for That

While thousands of smartphone applications have been developed to help people spend money, a new one is intended to help Americans save: The Ballpark E$timate, available online and as an iPhone app.

Developed by the nonprofit Employee Benefit Research Institute's Choose to Save financial education program, Ballpark E$timate shows how complicated issues such as projected Social Security benefits and earnings assumptions can impact retirement savings, as demonstrated through an interactive tool designed to be easy to understand.

Stephen Miller, CEBS, is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

Tailor Your Retirement Planning Messages, HR Magazine, September 2012

Auto Features Impact CommunicationSHRM Online Benefits, August 2012

Tailor Benefit Communications to Different Learning Styles, SHRM Online Benefits, July 2012

Encourage Employees to Defer Adequate Pay to Their 401(k), SHRM Online Benefits, May 2012

Quick Links:

SHRM Online Benefits page

SHRM Online Retirement Plans Resource Page

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