It's a common lament by defined contribution plan sponsors that too many participants leave too much money on the table when they don't contribute enough to achieve a full company match.
Sarah Krause, director of retirement strategy and executive compensation at The Boeing Co., Chicago, decided to tackle this problem by launching a three-week campaign aimed at employees who had not contributed enough for a full match.
"We thought we did a good job with standard communications," said Ms. Krause, noting that Boeing has tracked participants' match behavior for years. "This year we wanted a targeted approach."
The company used America Saves Week in February to make its pitch to participants, and this comprehensive, short-term campaign earned Ms. Krause an Excellence Award. Among the active plan participants, Boeing focused on more than 21,000 for its Meet The Match program.
"Kudos to Boeing in helping their participants better maximize their company matching contributions," one judge wrote.
Boeing offers one 401(k) plan called the Voluntary Investment Plan, which has assets of $65 billion and covers 210,000 participants both active and retired. However, this plan serves a variety of employee groups each with a different matching formula, so Ms. Krause had to create three separate approaches.
Emails to the different groups contained some common themes — telling participants how many millions of dollars Boeing employees "missed out" on in matching contributions in 2017.
For participants who said they couldn't meet the match immediately, the emails encouraged them to start with a lower contribution and enroll in an "auto-save" option that would raise their contributions over time.
"An increase of 1% or 2% usually doesn't have a major impact on your take-home pay, but can make a big difference for your future retirement savings," each email said.
To help employees take quick action, the emails, which said: "Don't wait: Increase your contributions today," provided a telephone number and website links for raising their contributions.
More than 2,000 people in the targeted group raised their contributions to at least meet the full match, leading Ms. Krause to say Boeing "underestimated the effectiveness" of this one-time campaign. "We're thinking about this as a once-a-year event."