This article is a forbes article.
Most people want to enjoy a long, healthy, fulfilling life. Thanks to the gift of longevity and science, the average lifespan in 1900 was in the mid-40s; today, it’s around 80, and some project that it will increase to 100-plus by the next century.
For some people, the additional years are “extra” time in retirement; for others, their lifepath has been lengthened and traditional age benchmarks (e.g., get married, have children, buy a house, launch a key career, retire, etc.) are being delayed to fit the elongated lifespan. Many continue to find ways to be productive into their 80s and beyond. For instance, instead of having one signature career or relationship, they might have multiple careers, families, etc., throughout their lives.
Whether you add the extra years to your post-retirement phase or elongate your work-span years for non-income-generating activities (e.g., passion/purpose), will you have the financial freedom to pursue your dreams? Did you save enough and invest it wisely so that it can last 30-plus years—or, to make it more concrete, more than 10,000 days?
Unfortunately, most people are not saving enough for their future selves. The Motley Fool found that the average retirement account savings for American households in 2019 was $65,000. Vanguard reported that the mean average 401(k) balance for Americans was $141,542—with the median balance only $35,345—which means 50% of people saved less than this amount. Clearly, this is not enough.
Many companies offer health and retirement plans for employees in order to better serve the “whole” person—including financial security after retirement. The Covid pandemic heightened many people’s awareness of the rest of their life outside work. Therefore, I think now is the perfect time for employers to step up and encourage employees to take better charge of financial issues.
Five Steps Business Can Take To Promote Employees’ Future Financial Independence
During the company onboarding process, workers are introduced to the company’s values and practices regarding culture, strategy, leadership, customers, etc. While workers complete forms for healthcare and other benefits, employers can also help them meet the needs of their future selves.
1. Increase workers’ financial literacy.
Unfortunately, many people lack financial literacy skills. Even college graduates may not have learned basic skills regarding budgeting, saving, spending, investing, compounding, paying off debt, etc. Providing or referring workers to classes on financial literacy can give them a deeper understanding of how money works and how to handle it responsibly. Moreover, every half-year or year that employees are offered the opportunity to review their retirement savings decisions and reintroduce the idea of enhancing financial literacy. As income increases and lifestyles change, people’s interests will likely be rekindled or changed.
2. Encourage employees to start saving immediately.
In a New York Times article, “You’re Never Too Young for a Roth IRA,” (paywall) Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz notes that “the earlier you start, the more time your money has to grow and compound.” A hypothetical example from Fidelity shows that someone contributing $3,000 per year to a Roth from age 15 to 20 and then contributing the maximal allowed until age 70 could accrue to more than $3 million, assuming an annualized return of 7%. The same person starting at age 25 would accumulate about a million less. So encourage employees to start early and be consistent for future financial freedom.
3. Implement an incentivizing corporate match.
A company that provides a contribution match to what the employee contributes is providing “extra” income to the employee. Many workers realize this and factor it in when accepting jobs. For workers lacking financial literacy, help them: Project just how much extra money they will earn over five, 10, 20 years just from the match. Let them know that even a commitment to increase a contribution each year based on raises is a commitment to one’s future financial freedom.
4. Make it easy to start—and with larger amounts.
The above three strategies will educate, encourage and incentivize young people to start saving early for retirement. In addition, companies can use persuasion tactics, which social scientists have found to help get people to say yes to marketing programs. For instance, researchers interested in increasing people’s agreement to become organ donors discovered that opt-out programs are more successful in generating agreement than opt-in. Employers can adopt this principle with retirement sign-ups. Have people opt-out rather than opt-in.
Another tactic is anchoring. Instead of simply sharing the range of contributions allowed by law, employers can share relevant benchmarks, such as average contributions in the company or noting the final nest egg after 20 to 30 years with larger versus smaller contributions.
5. Make it personal: Connect workers with their future selves.
Let’s be honest: Many people starting their first jobs are in their teens or early 20s. It’s hard to imagine their lives 40 to 70 years from now. It’s even harder when the only role models are parents or grandparents who didn’t maximize savings or think about a potential 100-plus-year life’s worth of financial security.
An excellent literacy course can help. Teaching the basics of finance and helping people see examples of people older than they are enjoying lifestyles built around financial independence can be inspirational. They need to see role models of workers with standard salaries who used the last years of their lives doing what they wanted—traveling, becoming entrepreneurs, donating sizable amounts to charity and so on.
Another way is to make it personal. Encourage them to connect with their future selves and get excited about the opportunities that they’re enabling. Researchers conducted studies using aging software to find out if people who saw a picture of their future selves would increase retirement contributions. It did.
In conclusion, employers can make a difference. Combine these five steps, and you can help facilitate the opportunities for your employees to lead healthy, financially secure and fulfilling lives.
The information provided here is not investment, tax or financial advice. You should consult with a licensed professional for advice concerning your specific situation.