Retirement Plan Education - A Moment of Reflection

A few weeks ago, I hopped out of my car and strolled up the walkway at a client’s place of business. For a moment, I was less than excited about what would happen. Six hours of employee one-on-one education was about to begin. The day would not be just educating individuals on investing and saving or explaining Roth versus pretax. There’d be multiple login/password resets. There’d be complaints about the markets, inflation, the costs of kids, or a whole slew of financial pressures on an individual. It would be a long day.

The retirement plan industry has long recognized the chore that is in-person personal education. A likely better explanation may be the unprofitable nature of in-person personal education. We have seen massive adoption of plan provisions like automatic enrollment and automatic escalation to get people to save and invest more. We’ve watched as significant investments by vendors in technology resources like websites, tools, and apps have engaged individuals and helped to make it as easy as possible. We have also seen the convergence of investing for retirement alongside addressing other financial wellness concerns like student loan debt, budgeting, and healthcare costs. All good things. All are heading in the right direction.

But there is something to be said about sitting across from a person, looking them in the eye, and having a genuine conversation. The impact may be small in the grand scheme of things, but it can be meaningful to that individual. I hope our industry doesn’t completely abandon this. Our firm provides this service at a cost to cover the overhead associated with this, but the margins are slim to none. It is important because it’s meaningful, impactful, and the right thing to do.

There was a sense of satisfaction as I strolled back down the walkway towards my car that same day, rubbing a sore jaw, tired from talking for nearly six hours straight. Chuckling at having to help a handful of individuals reset their login so I can see their account or help them change their deferral rate. But I know that in 10, 20, or 30 years, one of those individuals will look back with a bit of gratitude. They won’t remember my name, my face, or the specifics of our discussion. But they know their financial life is a little better because they met with some “401(k) guy” in a conference room for 30 minutes, which convinced them to sign up for the retirement plan. Totally worth it.

Multnomah Group is a registered investment adviser, registered with the Securities and Exchange Commission. Any information contained herein or on Multnomah Group’s website is provided for educational purposes only and does not intend to make an offer or solicitation for the sale or purchase of any specific securities, investments, or investment strategies. Investments involve risk and, unless otherwise stated, are not guaranteed. Multnomah Group does not provide legal or tax advice. Any views expressed herein are those of the author(s) and not necessarily those of Multnomah Group or Multnomah Group’s clients.

Comment On This Article