Sponsors can gain insights into how employees make digital retirement plan decisions and consider strategies, such as re-enrollment, to get them on track
Voya Financial, Inc. (NYSE: VOYA), announced today the launch of its Retirement Check-Up Report. This new resource allows an employer to measure the health of its retirement plan based on the digital enrollment and savings decisions participants make online and through their mobile devices.
The Retirement Check-Up Report leverages recent findings from Voya’s Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation, a research initiative that merges behavioral science with the speed and scale of the digital world to create large-scale solutions that are designed to help improve individual retirement outcomes.
“Our goal is to help more sponsors — and ultimately their employees — stay on the right path to financial well-being,” said Charlie Nelson, CEO of Retirement for Voya Financial.
Are participants engaged?
The Retirement Check-Up Report is the follow-up to a Voya whitepaper entitled “Using Decision Styles to Improve Financial Outcomes – Why Every Plan Needs a Retirement Check-Up.” The paper was written by behavioral economist Dr. Shlomo Benartzi, UCLA Anderson School of Management professor and a senior academic advisor to Voya’s Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation. “For the first time, employers can measure whether or not participants are engaging in a reflective thought process when making important decisions about their retirement plan,” noted Dr. Benartzi.
By looking at the digital behaviors that lead to certain savings rates and investment choices, employers are able to obtain a unique view of their plan that they’ve never had before. “If a plan’s average replacement income rate appears to be off track based on its Report score, this can help the employer evaluate its options to get back on course, including a plan re-enrollment strategy,” added Nelson.
The whitepaper examined how people make decisions using two different styles — “instinctive” (quick and without much thought) and “reflective” (slow and deliberate). Applying this to the digital environment, Voya was able to study and categorize the decision styles of retirement plans1. An index scoring system — the Reflection Index — was developed by looking at three dimensions of activity:
- whether participants paid attention online;
- whether they gathered additional information; and
- whether they made any trade-offs.2
Through this research, Voya found a significant correlation between a plan’s Reflection Index score and the average projected retirement income of its participants. A plan that had more instinctive decision-making participants was far more likely to have lower aggregated projected replacement income (below a 70% goal). Voya’s analysis found 90% of plans were “off track” in terms of projected income and were categorized as being “instinctive” due to their participants’ digital decision-making styles.
Other research has shown many individuals don’t take action to change their savings rates or re-balance their accounts once they enroll in a plan3. The new Check-Up Report can serve as a tool to help plans learn when to “course correct” and consider plan re-enrollment.
Get a Score, Set a Course Correction
For thousands of Voya plan sponsors4 and the millions of participants they represent, Voya can create a unique Check-Up Report score report that lets an employer measure whether its plan, in the aggregate, is instinctive or reflective based on the digital activity of its participants.
With more consumers making financial decisions on screens, phones and mobile devices — including choices about retirement savings — the need to pause and take time to course correct has never been greater.
“The good news is that even if a plan is not on the right path, there are a number of well-tested and readily available options a sponsor can consider to create a healthier plan,” added Nelson. “From auto-enrollment and auto-escalation features to re-enrollment strategies and better employer matching and default options, these tactics are generally easy to implement. Plan advisors can also use this as a tool to deepen relationships and continue to add value to a sponsor.”
Voya clients that are interested in a Retirement Check-Up Report can work with their plan advisor or relationship management contact to discuss how to turn these options into a successful action plan. More information is available at Go.voya.com/reflectionindexvideo. To stay current on the latest research findings from the Voya Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation, please visit Voya.com/behavioralfinance.
1. Voya data from 428 plans with more than 25 participants. Participants with an annual salary below $20,000 or projected income replacement above 200% were excluded. Plans with an average Reflection Index below/above 2.0 (out of 3.0) are categorized as “Instinctive Decisions” / ”Reflective Decisions.” In addition, plans with an average income replacement below/above 70% are categorized as “Not on Track” / “On Track.”
2. Details on the three dimensions are as follows: 1) Attention – did they log into the website or mobile app within past year? 2) Information gathering – did they click on projected retirement income to learn more? 3) Making trade-offs – did they explore different savings rates, retirement age or rates of return?
3. One working paper study found that more than 70% of participants had not re-balanced their accounts during a ten-year period and nearly 50% had not changed the allocation of their contributions: “How Do Household Portfolio Shares Vary with Age?” (John Ameriks and Stephen P. Zeldes, September 2004, Columbia University). A Voya study of approximately 60,800 auto-enrollees between 2014 and 2016 found only about 5,500 (9%) made a fund change since being auto-enrolled.
4. Certain data is needed to produce a Reflection Index report. Plans must have at least a 12-month history with Voya based on one of the Index dimensions, and also must have more than 25 employees in plan with salary data. They must also have myOrangeMoney participant website functionality turned on to measure digital engagement.