Q&A: Employees and Retirement

Dear Liz: We have 90 employees, many of them millennials, and only about 30% take advantage of our retirement plan. What resources and advice can I use to get our employees to take control of their retirement future?

Answer: The youngest generation of adults and near-adults vividly remembers the stock market crash and financial turmoil of 2008-09. So they're understandably wary of investing, plus more of them are dealing with student loan debt than previous generations. Getting them to focus on investing in their futures can be difficult.

That said, employers have discovered that one of the most effective ways of getting this and other generations into retirement plans is to enroll them automatically. Status quo bias—the human tendency to accept the current situation rather than struggle to change—pays off in this case, since once in the plan few people decide to opt out. You can take further advantage of this inertia by offering an auto-escalation feature that increases employees’ contributions 1% or so each year.

Company matches, simpler investment choices such as target-date funds and access to advice (human or computerized) also can increase participation. If your plan provider isn't offering you suggestions for increasing enrollment, it may be time to look for a new one that can.

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