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Retirement readiness is another benefits-related issue that is capturing much of the attention of large employers and also should be on the radar for midsize employers, experts say.
As part of workforce planning, “employers want to get a picture of how close their employees are ready to retire,” said Alan Glickstein, senior retirement consultant at Towers Watson & Co. in Dallas. “A lot of people are way behind where they thought they would be. We've been seeing, in the wake of the recession, some of the issues with using a defined contribution plan as the sole retirement vehicle. That's what's driving things like adding auto-enrollment and auto-escalation, target date funds and annuity options. I think we're going to see some rebound and interest in the reason why we had defined benefit plans in the first place.”
“As employers turn away from defined benefit plans and turn to defined contribution plans, responsibility for retirement savings shifts from employers to employees. The problem is, most employees do not understand how much they will need to both last through and maintain their lifestyle in retirement,” said Joanne Jacobson, a principal at Buck Consultants L.L.C. in Washington. “The possibility of longevity is something that must be taken into account. Many employees do not obtain financial planning, and they rely on the tools their employers provide to ensure that they will be ready for retirement.”
Large employers historically have led innovations in employee benefits, as their size provides credible samples for experimentation, while midsize employers generally take advantage of lessons learned by their larger brethren as they move into uncharted territory.