Survey of the Retirement Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities for Defined Contribution Specialists

Survey of the Retirement Landscape: Challenges and Opportunities for Defined Contribution Specialists

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Key Findings

  • Impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic affected responses to the 2021 survey. Some plan participants said they got off track with their retirement plans. Nonetheless, both plan sponsors and DC specialists, i.e., financial professionals focused on the retirement plan market, see participants as more retirement ready than in 2018
  • The most common Covid-related impact on retirement plans was an increase in hardship withdrawals. Only one-in-five sponsors saw no impacts and many noted the need for “post-Covid realignment,” to drive better participant and plan outcomes. Covid amplified trends that already were underway: increased attention to plan design, review/rebidding of service contracts and an emphasis on digital experience
  • More plan sponsors recognize the need to enhance financial wellness and retirement readiness among participants, and to improve the potential for better retirement outcomes
  • A majority of sponsors and DC specialists agree that the SECURE Act has encouraged plans to adopt a focus on retirement income
  • As in prior iterations of the Voya survey, DC specialists again said they provide an array of services that plan sponsors do not acknowledge, pointing to a persistent communications problem
  • Another recurrent survey finding was sponsors’ limited recall that their DC specialist had discussed the use of risk and return factors to identify plan investment options, again pointing to a communication gap
  • Survey respondents displayed mixed sentiments on environmental, social and governance (ESG) investing, with low levels of strong feeling on the issue. DC specialists were more likely than plan sponsors to have a good grasp of ESG investing, but both groups said they would value additional education
  • Awareness of caregiving status has increased for plan sponsors and DC specialists alike, with fewer indicating low levels of caregiver status among their participant populations. In a difference from 2018, the 2021 survey suggests greater awareness of the pressures on special needs caregivers
  • In light of Americans’ heightened attention to social justice concerns in 2021, the survey found greater sensitivity among plan sponsors regarding issues of diversity and equal access to plan benefits. Plan sponsors are more likely than DC specialists to say that they could do more to help minority participants take better advantage of their retirement plans
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1 Source: World Health Organization, WHO Coronavirus (COVID-19) Dashboard, June 30, 2021.

2 Source: “Retirement Readiness Among Older Workers 2021,” pg. 3, IRI Retirement Readiness Research Series.

3 Source: Morningstar, “Sustainable Funds Weather the First Quarter Better Than Conventional Funds,” April 3, 2020.

4 Source: Based on the findings of “Consumer Sentiment during COVID-19,” a Voya Financial survey conducted March 12–15, 2021, on the Ipsos eNation omnibus online platform among 1,005 adults aged 18+ in the United States.

5 Source: ibid.

6 Source: ibid.

7 Examples of special needs include congenital disorders such as Down syndrome or autism, debilitating diseases such as multiple sclerosis or mental health issues, catastrophic events such strokes and heart attacks and afflictions among aging populations such as Alzheimer’s disease or Parkinson’s disease.

8 Caregiving in the U.S., The National Alliance for Caregiving (NAC) and AARP, May 2020.

9 Source: “For the Benefit of All: How Organizations Win When they Recognize and Support Caregivers and Employees with Disabilities,” p.3, Voya Financial, 2019.

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