Sometimes we farm out Harry Gottlieb, Jellyvision founder, chief creative, and generally great guy, to speak at conferences about health care, retirement savings, and benefits communication topics. He’s a fun speaker, and if you get the chance, you should attend one of his sessions.
Anyway, in one of Harry’s recent talks, he told a roomful of benefits administrators that fear was one of the most effective ways to motivate and engage employees on the topic of retirement savings. It was a joke, of course (as was his first suggestion to make benefits communication “sexy”), but a new study from the ING Retirement Research Institute suggests that he may have been on to something when it comes to finding what resonates with employees.
Fear, it turns out, motivates really well. The key is locking on to what people dread the most.
And what might that be, you ask. Well, it’s not the prospect of retirement-age penury or working into their 70s that’ll keep people up at night. No, what really gets under someone’s retirement savings skin is the idea that their nest egg might not measure up to those of their peers. Just like it was in junior high school, peer pressure is a powerful force.
According to the survey, 52% of Americans say that the desire to keep up with the Joneses would motivate them to save more for retirement. And that’s not all. People don’t want to do just as good as the Joneses. They want to crush the Joneses. When they measure their savings against what others in their peer groups have set aside, they want to see themselves as being ahead of the game.
In its white paper “Life on the Bench: How Do I Measure Up?” the ING Retirement Research Institute asks, “If people don’t like to think of themselves as average, what happens when you show them that they are average, or even below average, with respect to their retirement investment?” Well, what happens is, they take action. In fact, ING reports that knowing how they compared with members of their peers compelled 64% of the people in their study to modify a behavior, with 1/5 of participants electing to increase their 401(k) savings plan participation levels.
Sounds pretty good to me.
How do you think the employees where you work would respond to knowing how their retirement savings efforts compared with other people in the company? What about their neighbors and peers? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.