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Participants’ Website Usage May Fall Short

The universe of ways retirement plan participants can obtain information keeps expanding. But multiplicity of format does not necessarily translate to better-informed participants, points out a recent blog entry.

Participants have long received information in paper form; in fact, federal law and regulation requires that they receive information in certain forms. And there are reports that many participants don’t read written materials, for various reasons. With the advent of electronic communication, the means by which participants can obtain information have grown exponentially. But in “Failure to Log in: The Dirty Little Secret of Many Retirement Plans,” a post on Cammack Retirement’s “Top of Mind” blog, Michael Webb argues that may not be bearing fruit.

Webb notes that he has seen results from a study by a recordkeeper regarding its own retirement plan communication with its employees. The results were surprising to him: Not only had many of the employees not logged in to their accounts recently, a “significant number” had NEVER done so — ever.

This has broader implications, Webb argues: “If employees of a retirement plan recordkeeper are not logging in to their own retirement plan website, then the chances are low that the average retirement plan participant has accessed their retirement plan homepage,” he writes. And that, he posits, spells long-term trouble, since that means participants may lack information necessary to invest and save in a way that would best help them to be financially ready to retire.

Cammack suggests that assessment of website access may help a plan to know if retirement plan information it provides on its site is reaching participants. But that data may be more useful, he suggests, if a plan is also able to gain demographic information regarding participants and website visitors.