Employees want more online retirement education

April 5, 2021

There is light at the end of the remote work tunnel, but employees have adapted to virtual learning benefits, especially when it comes to their retirement readiness.

Employees turned to online retirement education and were less likely to cancel attendance in 2020 than in 2019, according to a survey by Schwab. One third of all participants chose to view virtual material on their own time rather than attending live online sessions — a 207% increase compared to last year.

Employers were embracing virtual tools pre-COVID, but the pandemic has made comprehensive online education a priority, says Nathan Voris, senior managing director at Schwab Workplace Financial Services.

“This has been a long time coming,” Voris says.“The reality is a lot of individuals are very comfortable learning virtually and really getting the opportunity to choose how they want to interact with a company that they do business with.”

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Compared with 2019, the number of on-site meeting days in 2020 dropped almost 88% as a result of the pandemic and attendance at virtual education sessions increased 53%, according to Schwab. On-site education meetings are unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels, Voris says.

“In-person sessions often require clients to set up multiple conference rooms and juggle peak workloads across different teams,” he says. “The virtual environment eliminates those challenges and all the time and effort that comes with them.”

Employees have shown they want information beyond plan-specific features — last year Schwab saw a 54% increase in attendance for virtual sessions on holistic personal finance topics versus a 37% increase for on plan-specific topics.

“It's not all about 401(k) optimization,” Voris says. “It's about the full financial lives of the individual.”

Employees have prioritized their financial needs throughout the pandemic and are turning to their employer for assistance. In order to boost their financial wellness benefits, companies have considered implementing offerings such as healthcare savings accounts, emergency savings accounts and hospital indemnity insurance.

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Schwab began offering a variety of online content to improve workers’ financial know-how in 2020. These included live panel discussions on timely personal finance and investing questions, “coffee talks” on trending topics such as managing finances during uncertainty and webcasts on how to save, invest and manage expenses.

“This is meeting the needs of our customers,” Voris says. “This is what they want so that's where we're headed.”