Employers Should Do More to Promote Retirement Savings, Employees Say

By Stephen Miller April 22, 2010

Most Americans believe that the private retirement savings system is not "broken," and those in an employer-provided 401(k)-type retirement plan are more confident, informed and proactive when it came to their savings than those without a workplace plan. Still, employees would like to receive more employer support to help them make better-informed decisions about retirement savings.

These are among the findings from a national survey by financial firm ING, which sought to gauge how retirement plan participants reacted to the stock market's steep decline in 2008-2009 and subsequent partial rebound, as well as employees' views regarding who should be responsible for making decisions about their retirement savings.

More than eight out of 10 respondents (84 percent) with an employer-provided defined contribution plan said they take an active role in managing their retirement savings and investments, compared to only about half (53 percent) without any type of worksite retirement savings vehicle. But more help would be appreciated, they indicated, as shown in the table below.

Help from Employers Sought

One place Americans are looking for more help with their retirement savings is their employers. According to the ING survey, a majority showed overwhelming support for a number of ways employers could be more proactive in facilitating and stimulating employee savings. These include:

Offering a diversity of investment options within their plans.


Making employees aware of what their current accumulated savings account balance would be if converted into a monthly income stream on retirement.


Providing more education and tools to help employees better understand how to save.


Offering a workplace retirement plan, regardless of the employer’s size.


Applying plan strategies that make saving easier and more automatic for employees


Source: ING

“Workplace plans remain a cornerstone of our nation’s retirement system, and many Americans continue to invest and believe in them,” said Catherine Smith, CEO of ING U.S. Retirement Services, in a statement commenting on the survey. “Still, we know there are ways the system could be even better. More Americans need access to these plans, and those who are already enrolled should be encouraged to save even more.”

Helping Employees Take Control

Regardless of the evolving policy debate over retirement savings and the degree to which employees, employers and the government should drive investment decisions, nearly three-quarters of those polled (74 percent) agreed—and almost half (49 percent) strongly so—that saving for retirement is an individual’s responsibility.

“A workplace retirement plan is one of the first and best places to start taking control of one’s retirement savings,” said Smith. “In addition to a 401(k) plan, investors may need to supplement their retirement funds with other personal savings strategies. Most important is that people gain greater financial knowledge through seminars, literacy campaigns [and] easy-to-use tools and by working with professionals to create a comprehensive financial plan.”

The ING survey was conducted March 18-22, 2010, and polled 1,000 men and women across the U.S.

Stephen Miller is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Related Articles:

How to Mend Recession-Torn 401(k) Plans, HR Magazine, April 2010

High 401(k) Plan Fees Can Deplete Retirement Savings, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, March 2010

IRS: Common Errors in Small and Top-Heavy 401(k) Plans, SHRM Online Benefits Discipline, March 2010

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