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Employees Take Investment Advice With a Grain of Salt

More than half of workers indicate that they would be likely to take advantage of professional investment advice offered by their employers, but two-thirds say they would probably implement only some of their recommendations.

April 12, 2007
Related Topics: Retirement/Pensions, Latest News
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Just because employers are offering 401(k) investment advice to employees doesn’t mean workers are listening, according to the latest research from the Employee Benefit Research Institute.

While more than half of workers indicate that they would be likely to take advantage of professional investment advice offered by their employers, two-thirds say they would probably implement only some of their recommendations. One in 10 employees say they wouldn’t implement any of an advisor’s suggestions, according to the Employee Benefit Research Institute’s 2007 Retirement Confidence Survey.

Employees’ resistance to investment advice could be troubling to some employers, given the survey’s other findings. Almost half of workers saving for retirement say they have total savings and investments of less than $25,000, not including the value of their homes and defined-benefit plans. Seven in 10 of these workers say their assets are less than $10,000.

Given those statistics, employers shouldn’t give up on offering advice to employees, says Matthew Greenwald, president and CEO of Matthew Greenwald & Associates, which conducted the survey with EBRI.

“It’s good business for employers to help employees become better prepared,” he said in a conference call Wednesday announcing the survey results.

Greenwald encourages employers to do even more and offer advice programs that can help employees plan for after retirement.

“More needs to be done to help people manage their money in retirement better,” he said during the call.

Even so, employers need to think about how to help those employees who resist following an investment advisor’s recommendations, says Matt Smith, managing director of Russell Retirement Services,

“For a lot of reasons, some individuals are just fundamentally ill-equipped to make investment decisions,” he says. “Employers have to be an active partner in guiding employees in making investment decisions.”

Employers can help by automatically enrolling employees into asset allocation funds, Smith says.

“The core of your investment menu should be built around something that has advice in it,” he says.

Target-date funds reallocate from aggressive to more conservative as the investor approaches retirement age—leaving practically no decision-making for the employee.

Ultimately, employers need to take into account the needs of different kinds of employees, and so offering both advice and some type of asset allocation fund makes sense to reach the broadest audience, Smith says.

“All employees aren’t the same,” he says.

—Jessica Marquez

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