The Job We Do

Next-Gen Retirement

Setting Millennials up for future success

by Jamie Ohl

Ms. Ohl is president of Retirement Plan Services and leads service operations for the life and annuity businesses at Lincoln Financial Group. Visit

A lot has been written about Baby Boomers and retirement — and for good reason. Their generation is facing a retirement crisis and as an industry, we are working to help them retire with dignity and financial security. While we remain focused on this important work, we should also consider that as of 2016, Millennials are now the largest segment of the workforce, according to the Pew Research Center. And unlike the previous generations, fewer Millennials will have access to traditional pensions, though they do have the advantage of more time to get on the path to a secure financial future.

For all generations, we know that competing financial priorities can impact their ability to save — and Millennials are no exception, especially when it comes to paying off student loans. More than half (54%) of all retirement plan participants see the amount of debt they carry as a problem, and student loans are the fourth largest source of their debt.

But what we’ve learned in new research about this generation is that Millennials think that retirement benefits are important today, and they know it is going to be even more important in the future. So for employers, retirement benefits can be an important tool for attracting and retaining the largest segment of today’s workforce, and as an industry, we can help this generation access the education they both want and need to achieve the retirement they envision.

Retirement plans: A Non-Negotiable for Most Millennials

According to a new study, Millennial & Gen Z Reflections on Workplace Benefits & Financial Planning, Lincoln Financial and The Center for Generational Kinetics (2019), after salary, Millennials say that their employee benefits are the most important influence on whether or not they decide to stay at a job. Benefits are ranked well above vacation time, company reputation, the team atmosphere and more. And in order for this generation to accept a job, 64% said that they would require a retirement plan as part of the benefits package offered to them.

Out of all benefits that Millennials consider important (but not essential), offering a retirement contribution match is the best benefit an employer can offer, according to more than half (53%) of those surveyed. And when it comes to covering the costs of offering a match, employers should note that 65% of Millennials would take a job that pays 10% less if the benefits were better — as well as the fact that perks (like free snacks or bringing a dog to work) come in at ninth out of the top 10 reasons a Millennial would choose to stay at their current job.

A comprehensive benefits package clearly serves as a powerful tool for attracting top talent, and Millennials are no exception. In fact, 44% of Millennials have turned down a job because the potential employer didn’t offer the benefits they want and need.

If employers want to attract and retain Millennial employees, they should focus on the substance of the benefits offered to create a meaningful impact.

Retirement 101: Education is Key

Millennials understand the importance of a retirement plan and benefits, but they may not understand how to truly take advantage of the plan they have. The research shows that we still have a way to go as an industry in offering the education plan participants need to make informed decisions, and this creates a significant opportunity for advisors.

As an industry, we have an obligation, as record-keepers, advisors and plan sponsors, to help educate plan participants on how to better maximize their benefits, juggle financial priorities, and choose solutions that are best for them...

Close to half (48%) of Millennials reported having a personal question they would love to get answered about their benefits, but don’t know who to ask, and just over half (53%) of Millennials are not sure where to start when it comes to understanding or making decisions about financial issues. Offering more dynamic education programs could help move the needle on these numbers.

In fact, 73% of Millennials think that financial education is something that employers should provide to every employee — which may be due to 62% of Millennials also stating that they have given up on searching for information about benefits or financial products because it was too overwhelming or confusing.

Saving for retirement is the most important topic that Millennials are interested in learning more about, and specifically, how much they should be saving today to be able to retire when they want. Retirement income estimators and debt calculators can be powerful tools to help educate and impact the future financial health of Millennials.

As an industry, we have an obligation, as record-keepers, advisors and plan sponsors, to help educate plan participants on how to better maximize their benefits, juggle financial priorities, and choose solutions that are best for them.

The Importance of Personalization and Demonstrating Value

In an era of digital communication, it is important to understand how to reach our audiences — and reaching Millennials may be simpler than advisors and employers realize, as their preferred way to receive information about all benefits — including retirement plans — is via email. When asked how they would most like to learn about retirement, Millennials’ say they prefer websites, one-on-one meetings with HR or financial professionals, and printed copies of information to take with them for future reference.

Younger employees also find stories and ideas about retirement for people who start saving later than they should helpful, as well as personalized reports and summaries that show their own progress towards retirement. They are also interested in tips and ideas about saving money and paying down debt, and tools to help set financial goals and track their progress towards their goals. Dynamic financial wellness tools can also be powerful, offering personalized content on goal-setting, competing priorities, debt, and overall financial literacy.

Millennials also have interest in meeting one-on-one with a financial professional to learn more about retirement benefits and other financial services, ranking them within the top three sources of information they would like to learn from most. However, 43% of those surveyed have never met with a financial advisor.

In order for financial advisors to help Millennials want to set up that first appointment, more than half would like to better understand all costs and fees associated with advisors, including the cost (or lack thereof) of a first meeting. And when it comes to their first meeting, the topics Millennials ranked as most important in getting help with are saving for retirement, budgeting and credit problems.

Looking Forward

We all know that starting to save young is critical for future success, so while Millennials still have the advantage of time to get on the right path to retirement, it is more important than ever that we continue to offer programs and tools that meet the needs of this generation. By working together as an industry, we can truly make a difference for the next generation of American savers and retirees.