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How do I know if my employees want a retirement plan?

Key insights:

    • Study after study has shown that most Canadians want and need help with retirement saving and planning, and are very interested in employer-provided solutions 
    • If you want to supplement this data, consider conducting a quick, anonymous survey of your employees 
    • Appreciation for employer-provided help with retirement saving is likely to compound over time, so you need to think beyond the immediate employee reaction and consider the longer-range benefits of introducing a workplace retirement plan 

Sometimes HR leaders or organization executives want to offer retirement benefits, but aren’t sure how their teams will respond. They want to do the right thing for their people and ensure their investment in retirement benefits will be appreciated.  

How should employers think about this situation?  

Most Canadians want help with retirement planning

There is a deep repository of data on Canadian attitudes towards retirement saving and planning. The bottom line is that most working Canadians want – and need – help with retirement planning.  

Study after study has born this out. Here are a few recent examples of what the data say:  

    • An Abacus Data survey conducted for the Healthcare of Ontario Pension Plan found that 75% of Canadians were concerned about not having enough money in retirement (higher than concerns about personal debt). Another Abacus survey, which was conducted after the onset of the pandemic, found that 79% would rather their employer make retirement plan contributions than receive that money as salary, and that 74% would accept a slightly lower salary in exchange for a better (or any) retirement plan 
    • survey by CIBC found that 90% of Canadians don’t have a plan to achieve the lifestyle they want in retirement 
    • survey by the Canadian Payroll Association found that 43% of Canadians are so stressed about finances that their work performance is suffering, and that a similar percentage of Canadians are living paycheque to paycheque 
    • survey by the Ontario Securities Commission found that 56% of Canadians age 50+ did not have a plan for retirement savings 
    • survey conducted by Pollara found that 94% of employees in Canada’s not-for-profit sector were interested in joining a cost-effective workplace retirement plan 
    • study by statistician Richard Shillington found that Canadian households age 55-64 without workplace retirement plans had median retirement savings of just $3,000 
    • survey by Ipsos found that 59% of Canadians (and 73% of gen-Zers) are worried about the effect of the pandemic on their savings and retirement plans 

This data is consistent with research we have conducted with partners across different sectors of the economy, income brackets, and ages. This research has revealed a broadly felt lack of retirement readiness, and a strong interest in employer-provided solutions to help workers with retirement saving and planning.  

Consider an anonymous staff survey

If you want to test whether this data holds true within your workforce, you could conduct a quick confidential survey of your team members.  

Consider keeping the survey anonymous and confidential. Most people do not feel comfortable talking about their financial situation with their employer or their co-workers. Expressing interest in a retirement program may be seen by employees as revealing information that they do not wish to share. As such, asking people to state their interest publicly will likely understate the actual interest in a retirement plan. People may be reluctant to ask for help, admit that they are struggling with savings, or reveal a lack of knowledge or comfort with financial concepts. Money is a deeply stressful topic to many, and unless employee engagement around the topic is handled with sensitivity, employers could end up inadvertently increasing the level of financial stress within the workplace.  

This is why, if you want to consult your team, we suggest not doing so in a public setting (such as an all-hands meeting) or gathering anecdotal feedback in one-on-ones and water cooler conversations.  

Here are a few questions that you could consider using as part of an anonymous, confidential survey.  

    • How confident are you that you will be financially prepared for retirement?  
    • If we were to provide a workplace retirement plan with matching contributions and lower fees than individuals saving on their own typically pay, how likely would you be to participate? 
    • Do you feel you have the tools you need to successfully plan and save for retirement?  
    • How interested would you be in receiving education and tools to help you save and plan for the future? 
    • Should we as your employer play an active role in supporting your retirement security (e.g. by providing a high-quality group retirement plan)? 
    • What percentage of your paycheque would you be willing to contribute to a workplace retirement plan? 

There are many good (and free) survey tools available, including SurveyMonkey, Google Forms, TypeForm, and others. Some HRIS providers also allow employers to conduct employee surveys from within their systems.   

Think of employees’ future selves

It’s important to consider not only what employees will think about getting retirement benefits today, but also what their future selves will think. A year or two after the benefits have been introduced, how will employees feel about your decision to introduce a plan? How will team members who have little to no savings today feel after they have built up a modest nest egg and developed regular savings habits? As people age, as they get more experience with retirement saving and planning, the more appreciative they tend to be of having gotten started, and towards those who helped them make those critical decisions for their financial futures.  

If you want to test this, ask one of your colleagues in their 50s or 60s what advice they would give their younger selves, or what they would want for their younger colleagues.  

Retirement benefits are a long-term investment with ongoing dividends in terms of loyalty and employee well-being. They are not like a one-time holiday bonus or party whose success should be measured only by the immediate employee reaction. Team members are likely to appreciate them more over time, which is why some employers see them as having a higher ROI than one-time compensation bumps or employee appreciation initiatives.   

The bottom line

If your employees are like most Canadians, chances are they would appreciate your help with retirement savings and planning. An anonymous survey can help confirm this, as can wisdom from the older members of your team. The single most important thing you can do to help is to introduce an easy-to-use workplace retirement plan with payroll-based matching contributions.  

Start engaging your team today 

If you’d like to learn more about how to get started with an easy, affordable retirement plan for your team, and how best to engage your employees in the process, Common Wealth’s Employer Solutions team would be happy to help. Schedule a free consultation to get started today.  

Picture of Alex Mazer

Alex Mazer

Alex Mazer is a co-founder and co-CEO of Common Wealth Retirement, a mission-driven financial technology company that provides straightforward, portable retirement plans. To advance our mission to make it possible for everyone to have a financially secure retirement, Common Wealth focuses on serving those not covered by workplace retirement plans, including SMBs, not-for-profits, self-employed professionals, and modest earners.

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