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Today’s Employees Expect Retirement Plan Benefit in ‘New Savings Paradigm’

02 Feb 2023 8:58 AM | Bill Brewer (Administrator)

A new Vestwell research report details emerging retirement trends for employers and workers.

Reported by NOAH ZUSS

Employers failing to offer workers a retirement benefit have dismissed a basic feature demanded by employees, Vestwell research finds.

As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, workers’ expectations for their workplace benefits are higher and dissatisfaction has contributed to the post-pandemic Great Resignation and a historically low U.S. unemployment rate of 3.5% in December. Many expect employers to offer a retirement plan benefit, according to the Vestwell 2023 Retirement Trends Report.

“Regulatory tailwinds and advanced technologies have enabled a monumental shift in the industry, expanding retirement access to small businesses and savers that are historically difficult to reach,” Aaron Schumm, founder and CEO of Vestwell, said in a press release.

The research found 73% of employees said they agreed or strongly agreed that they expect employers to offer a 401(k) or 403(b) retirement plan because of the tight labor market and 98% of respondents said they think it’s important for their employer to offer a retirement benefit for employees at the workplace.

Voya Financial Research shows a retirement plan is as important for employee retention as a competitive salary and work arrangement, according to November data 2022, that finds 60% of workers are more likely to stay with their current employer if they offer an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Among registered voters 25 and older, 96% said that having a workplace retirement savings plan is important to helping them save for retirement, and 92% supported establishing a program to help workers save for retirement if their employer does not currently provide a retirement plan at work, according to American Association of Retired persons 2021 data, presented in a blog post.

The SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022, a package of legislative retirement reforms passed by Congress in December 2022, included provisions to expand retirement plan benefit coverage. The legislation “significantly sweetens the deal for small businesses” interested in offering a retirement plan for the first time, according to the report.

The favorability for employer-sponsored retirement plans at work was shown by workers’ reported saving preference, ranked as follows:

  • 401(k) (57%)
  • cash balance plan (23%)
  • individual retirement account (11%)
  • emergency savings account first (4%)
  • health savings accounts at the top (3%)
  • 529 college savings plans (2%).

“A super-majority of [the] responding population indicated that they see retirement benefits as an expectation, rather than an exceptional perk,” the report found. “Employers seeking to differentiate their benefits package may consider offering additional savings benefits beyond just a retirement plan.”

Vestwell found 89.6% of employees expect companies that offer a retirement plan to also be involved in retirement education. To meet this demand, employers want to work with retirement plan advisers: 30% of plan sponsor respondents placed employee education as the top preferred service among expanded services for employers.

The “survey [data] shows an opportunity for small businesses, technology providers, and advisers to come together and embrace the new savings paradigm of 2023: where retirement plans are an expectation, employers are expanding their benefits, and employees have confidence in their position in the market,” the report concluded.

Data for the Vestwell report was gathered in a series of surveys, conducted in 2022, that included more than 1,300 employees, 500 advisers and 250 small business owners.

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