Your Boss Can Help You Save for Your Retirement Years

NEW YORK (MainStreet) — U.S. workers are obviously having a tough time getting a grip on their retirement savings, but many may not know help is available from an unlikely source — their employer.

The latest Retirement Confidence Survey from the Washington, D.C.-based Employee Benefits Research Institute reports that 49% of American workers are either not at all confident or not too confident they'll have enough money for retirement. Part of the problem is that more than 50% of workers haven't established a target savings goal for retirement, and thus haven't established a sustained "battle plan" for saving money over the long haul.

"Only 46% report they and/or their spouse have tried to calculate how much money they will need to have saved by the time they retire so that they can live comfortably in retirement," says Jack VanDerhei, EBRI research director and co-author of the report.

But help is available.

Transamerica Retirement Solutions, of Harrison, N.Y., advises American workers to turn to their employers for help in meeting their retirement savings needs. In fact, Transamerica offers five direct ways companies can drive their staffers to do a better job of saving money. (Those staffers have to do their part, of course, and work closely with their managers to get on the right retirement savings track.)

"Employers have more influence than they probably realize in creating a secure financial future for their employees," says Patricia Advaney, a senior vice president at Transamerica Retirement Solutions. "The primary focus of the plan sponsor's actions should be centered on bettering retirement outcomes for plan participants."

Advaney says what has been tried before just isn't working, and the retirement planning script needs to change. "We need to move beyond traditional, one-dimensional measures such as participation or average contribution rate to measure plan success," she says. "Helping employees retire with enough income to live comfortably is the ultimate goal of any workplace savings program."

At Transamerica's March Retirement Readiness Summit in Washington, D.C., company researchers compiled some effective ways companies can build an army of so-called "super savers" at their firms:

"Drive" employees to save for retirement. Company executives need to look past traditional automatic employee retirement contribution plans. Getting in early is a huge factor, so Transamerica says firms should aim for automatic contribution plans that start at 10% of an employee's income right out of the gate. That would "dramatically improve" employee's retirement savings.

Push staffers to use all the tools available. Workers aren't using readily available financial planning tools such as retirement savings calculators. Employers need to do a better job of increasing the visibility of such tools and see that staffers use them. (BankingMyWay.com's retirement savings calculator is here.

Push "target dates." Companies should tout so-called target date solutions for workers. "Target date solutions invest in a diversified mix of asset classes and automatically shift to a more conservative asset mix according to a predetermined 'glide path' as the stated target date approaches," Transamerica says. "This approach is an attractive choice for employees who may be intimidated by the process of shifting investment allocations over time, and can help keep employees' savings on track over the long term."

Transamerica also advises companies being "proactive" and provide workers with classes, training, marketing directives and other helpful methods of urging more vigilance on retirement savings. In addition, executives all the way up to the president or chief executive should play a key role in promoting retirement savings throughout the workforce.

Mainly, Transamerica is advising companies to do whatever it takes to get the job done.

"Automatic enrollment and automatic escalation are excellent features to get employees started in saving for retirement. But we can't stop there," Advaney says. "Getting employees to increase their contributions to 10% or more could be the key to maximizing retirement outcomes. And for those plans for whom automatic enrollment or automatic escalation is not a fit, plenty of other strategies can be implemented that will result in significant improvement in the retirement incomes of American workers."

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