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Financial Wellness and Participant Perspectives
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Welcome to DCIIA's online resource library for DCIIA and member thought leadership. If you have resources to contribute in this topic area contact us at

DCIIA posts links to member content as a service to our members, plan sponsors, and the broader retirement industry. Some sites may require registration. Posting these links does not imply endorsement and we are not responsible for non-DCIIA content. Please advise us of any broken links or other updates.

DCIIA Publications

A Financial Wellness Primer
Why Financial Wellness?
July 2017

The purpose of this paper is to suggest a working definition of financial wellness, survey the nascent body of research surrounding these programs, and highlight some demographic groups where financial wellness programs may be most likely to add significant value.

Plan Leakage
A study on the psychology behind leakage of retirement plan assets
February 2016

The results from an industry survey of 5,000 retirement plan participants confirm that plan leakage remains an issue that ultimately is undermining the critical public policy goal of preserving assets for retirement savings.

Rethinking DC Communication and Education
December 2013

The thoughts and suggestions contained in this paper are intended to be a first step in rethinking the way we approach retirement savings communication and education.

Member Publications

DC Pulse Survey: Driving Well-being through Retirement Preparedness
April 2019

BlackRock notes: “Participants want more from their retirement plans and plan sponsors are looking to deliver. This year’s survey offers key takeaways for plan design, investments and in-plan retirement income options–and reveals the surprising link between retirement planning and current well-being.”

Boosting the Effectiveness of Retirement Plan Communications
January 2019

This white paper from Empower Institute notes: “Cutting back on jargon and delivering communications where participants want them can help put employees on the right track.”

2019 Hot Topics in Retirement and Financial Wellbeing

This report is based on an annual survey that Alight Solutions administers to employers in an effort to capture the changes they intend to make to their retirement and financial wellbeing plans in the year ahead.

How Much Retirement Savings Is Sufficient?

Northern Trust provides planning guidelines for workers seeking to maintain their living standards before and after retirement. The framework considers salient features of law, regulations and lifecycle spending patterns in the U.S. and estimates target savings and replacement rates for a number of worker situations. Their analysis reveals that consistent, and achievable, contributions are one of the key ingredients to preparing for a secure retirement.

The $10,000 Hurdle

In this paper, Northern Trust notes: “When looking at the retirement marketplace, we recognize a number of financial hurdles that participants face. But there’s one mental hurdle in particular we continue to advocate for: that participants in defined contribution (DC) plans strive to cross the $10,000 balance mark as early as possible.”

The Making of a New Retirement Journey Map
November 2018

Wells Fargo shares the results of a comprehensive survey of working and retired Americans on their attitudes and behaviors around planning, saving and investing for retirement.

To Spend or Not to Spend
September 2018

BlackRock identifies the motivations and biases—behavioral and financial—behind why some retirees are spending down asset balances while others are not.

The Road to Retirement Success: Strategies to decode human nature and improve employee savings
August 2018

This white paper from Great-West Financial | Empower Retirement helps financial professionals and employers understand some of the common biases workers bring to investing and saving. Most important, it will provide a framework to help counteract these bad habits and encourage people to make more sound long-term investment decisions.

John Hancock Retirement Plan Services: The winding road to retirement
June 2018

John Hancock Retirement Plan Services’ Fifth Financial Stress Survey helps provide a glimpse into the financial lives of plan participants, looking for new ways to help them prepare for a financially confident retirement. The survey results help to connect the dots from participant need to financial wellness imperative.

The New Rx for Retirement: Solving the equation to maximize retirement and health savings
June 2018

This white paper from Great-West Financial | Empower Retirement presents a savings optimization model to help determine how to allocate funds between retirement plans and HSAs for maximum spending power in retirement.

The State of Retirees – How Longer Lives Have Changed Retirement
May 2018

United Income reports that current retirees are healthier, wealthier, and living longer than any previous generation. But little is known about how and where they are using that additional vigor, money, and time. To find out, they compiled retirees’ health, financial, time-use, political, and geographic data from the Federal Reserve Board, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the Census Bureau, Internal Revenue Service, University of Michigan, Centers for Disease Control, NOAA, and RAND.

Your Life in Retirement: It Will Look a Lot Like Your Life Before Retirement
May 2018

In this blog post, Sum180 notes that “most people’s (voluntary) retirement looks a lot like the life they had been living just before they stopped working.” In discussing this topic, it cites the annual U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditure Survey and the biennial Health and Retirement Study survey conducted by the Survey Research Center at the University of Michigan.

Scoring the Progress of Retirement Savers
April 2018

This paper from Great-West Financial | Empower Retirement includes survey results from more than 4,000 American workers aged 18 to 65. Based on individual responses, it estimates the percentage of working income that American households are on track to replace in retirement.

2018 Defined Contribution Plan Participant Survey
January 2018

J.P. Morgan Asset Management's 2018 survey finds that although DC plan participants are making progress and gaining confidence overall, more work is needed to understand the state of the participant, motivate participants to save, and streamline investment decision-making.

American Century Investments’ 6th Annual Survey of Retirement Savers

American Century Investments continues to find that investors of all ages rely heavily on their employers for planning and saving for retirement. The findings further punctuate the biggest savings challenge workers face is the ability to do it well enough and early enough at a time when they are juggling other financial obligations.

At a Glance: Student Loan 401(k) Match Program

This “At a Glance” commentary from Mercer notes that in June 2018, Abbott announced a 401(k) plan “match” for employees making student loan payments. This piece “discusses the Abbott case and provides insights for employers when considering a similar offering to address the student debt challenge.”

Living Too Frugally? Economic Sentiment & Spending Among Older Americans
May 2017

United Income notes that overly negative viewpoints toward the future may create self-fulfilling economic problems if it leads to an overly aggressive fixed-income portfolio. To assess these possibilities, they analyze consumer sentiment and spending data from the University of Michigan that was commissioned by the Social Security Administration and U.S. Commerce Department, among other federal agencies.

Inside Employees' Minds: Financial Wellness Volume 2

Mercer shares additional findings from its financial wellness survey of more than 3,000 workers. Mercer developed the Mercer Financial Wellness Index (MFWI) and the Mercer Financial Courage Index (MFCI) based on the Inside Employees Minds data as a means for employers to measure the financial wellness of their workforce over time.

A Forgotten Part of Financial Wellness: Loan Defaults
May 2017

Custodia Financial notes, on its Retirement Loan Eraser blog,"With all the industry focus on financial wellness, it begs the question. Why do plans ignore an ongoing source of retirement plan leakage: defined contribution (DC) plan loan defaults? Loan insurance is an actionable solution that makes loan programs safer and helps participants improve their financial wellness."

Inside Employees' Minds: Financial Wellness

Mercer's financial wellness survey gathered insights from more than 3,000 workers and provided an opportunity to better understand the motivation behind employee decision-making and personal financial wellness.

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