For Cindy Rehmeier, getting participants to improve their retirement plan contributions required two key components: a lot of data and a lot of simplicity.
Delivering both earned Ms. Rehmeier an Excellence Award for using the data to better understand the needs of a diverse group of participants and to develop two interactive web-based calculators to help them improve their retirement readiness.
"Our approach is to first consider that employees are strapped for time," said Ms. Rehmeier, manager of defined contribution plans for the Missouri State Employees' Retirement System, Jefferson City. "They need something they can do in five minutes or less."
Before taking action, MOSERS needed to know what participants know — or don't know — about their finances, a challenge assessing the needs of some 70,000 participants in the $2.3 billion Missouri Deferred Compensation Plan.
For example, thanks to its 2018 survey of participants, MOSERS now knows that 23% of state employees under 35 and 43% of mid-to-late career employees are aware that they have a defined benefit pension.
Or that only 9% of the younger group and 20% of the older group have calculated how much they will need to augment their income when they retire.
If they don't know much about their pension, how can they adequately manage their preretirement savings, she said.
Her solution was a pair of web-based interactive calculators. One, RetiremenTrack, shows employees how much their defined benefit pension, Social Security and retirement savings will provide income in retirement based on an income replacement percentage that they have selected. It lets employees know if they are falling short of their goals and allows them to choose ways to make adjustments.
The other, Grow Your Retirement Savings, calculates an eventual savings balance at retirement based on anticipated years working and savings. It also shows employees what percentage income replacement and actual income in dollars will be available from the savings balance calculation.
Each calculator is designed to allow quick actions by participants so they can avoid "the monotony of clicking the dreaded 'next page' button," she said. "Let them make a decision on the same page."
In addition to enabling participants to revise their retirement savings strategies, the calculators also let them act quickly. "If the participant accesses the calculators while logged into their account, then he or she can click to go to change his or her contribution," Ms. Rehmeier explained.
The data gathered by MOSERS provides important insights into participants' savings rates and their knowledge of retirement needs. Among the factors MOSERS compiles are age, education, savings, total debt, and amount in an emergency fund as well as participants' preferred method of communications.
The calculators were backed by an education campaign combining video instructions as well as humorous depictions for participants to save more. Two MOSERS employees create the videos.
MOSERS also promotes its calculators via an assortment of media that it uses throughout the year — direct mail, texts, social media, email and mobile apps.
Ms. Rehmeier said the multifaceted approach is necessary because the plan has so many participants among state, municipal and university employees. "There is nearly 30% annual turnover driven by higher turnover agencies like corrections, mental health and public safety," she said.
"It's important that we reach the new employees."