Lonnie C. Poole Jr. College of Management at North Carolina State University

Pre-retirement Planning in the Workforce Symposium to Offer Tips for Creating Effective Programs

by Anna Rzewnicki

Tuesday, Jul 07, 2009

A symposium being hosted this fall by the College of Management at North Carolina State University addresses a subject that many employers are grappling with: how to best help employees make retirement decisions that maximize their retirement well-being given the resources that they have acquired over their lifetime.

The Pre-retirement Planning in the Workplace Symposium is an “opportunity for senior human resources and benefit professionals responsible for employee education, benefits and retirement planning to determine how to best provide pre-retirement financial information to their employees, whether they should provide these programs, and how to evaluation and improve the programs that they have in place,” said Robert Clark, professor of economics and management, innovation and entrepreneurship at the NC State College of Management and the symposium’s organizer.

The symposium, to be held Friday, October 16, 2009, in downtown Raleigh, N.C., brings together national leaders in the area of employer-provided financial education for a day-long discussion of issues and best practices related to the topic.

Current Demographics Make the Topic Particularly Relevant

“Pre-retirement planning is particularly important now as millions of Baby Boomers in America are beginning the transition from work into retirement,” Clark says. Among the companies offering such programs is The Williams Company, based in Tulsa, Okla. Nancy Van Maren, retirement education consultant at Williams is one of the symposium presenters.

“Based on employee interest surveys, Williams provides a wide range of programs on saving and investing to help employees prepare for a more comfortable retirement,” said Stephanie Cipolla, Williams’ vice president of human resources. “Because these topics of interest are important to employees, the company makes retirement education a priority.”

Symposium participants will receive information concerning the need for such programs, a process for determining employee preferences regarding the programs, and a methodology for evaluating the effectiveness of their existing programs. They will be learning from companies that developed and delivered in-house programs and those that hired companies to present programs for their employees.

Nationally prominent researchers in the field will discuss findings that show the effect of these programs on employee financial literacy and how this new knowledge alters their retirement choices. State and national agency leaders will address the ramifications of poor investment advice and financial illiteracy.

Clark and several other presenters on the symposium’s agenda were quoted in a BusinessWeek special focus on The New Financial Literacy (June 22, 2009)

Presenters Include Government, Corporate Leaders

Among the presenters and session discussants will be John Haley, chief executive officer of Watson Wyatt Worldwide; Janet Cowell, North Carolina State Treasurer; and Elaine F. Marshall, North Carolina Secretary of State. View the agenda agenda for all speakers and topics.

“Baby Boomers are facing decisions of when to retire from their career employers, when to begin receiving pension and Social Security benefits, how to sort through their options regarding the various retirement plans that they and employers have been contributing to, and whether they should continue working during retirement,” Clark said.

“These decisions are critical to economic well-being in retirement,” he said. “Evidence indicates that older workers do not have sufficient knowledge of the terms of many retirement programs and lack the financial literacy to make optimal choices. This symposium will discuss retirement planning programs offered by larger employers and provide a methodology for employers who have such programs to evaluate their effectiveness,” he said.

Research-based Presentations

Clark currently is in the midst of a three-year research project funded by the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA) Investor Education Foundation. This research project focuses on how employers approach pre-retirement education and aims to determine the most effective methods of assisting pre-retirees in gaining the knowledge needed to make the best retirement decisions.

Clark and colleague Melinda Morrill, research assistant professor at NC State College of Management, have found that “when people go through such educational programs, they gain financial knowledge. On the basis of that learning, they alter their retirement behavior in a number of different ways,” Clark said. “Our studies show that workers like having access to these programs and rate them highly. These programs also tend to give employees a better feeling for their employers.”

Interest in gaining such knowledge has been growing, according to a story on The Society for Human Resources Management website. Citing MetLife’s Seventh Annual Employee Benefits Trends Study, the story reports that more than half – 51 percent – of the employees responding to the MetLife survey are interested in receiving retirement-related advice in the workplace. This is up from 44 percent in 2007 and 29 percent in 2006.

Only 37 percent of employers surveyed indicated that they have a strong responsibility to help their employees with retirement savings. The survey also found that only 40 percent of the employees at mid-size and large companies offering pre-retirement information were aware of the programs. Awareness was lower – 45 percent – for companies with more than 10,000 employees.

The Pre-retirement Planning in the Workplace Symposium sessions will focus primarily on pre-retirement planning programs that provide employees with information on employer retirement policies, Social Security, Medicare, and wellness programs. Presenters and participants also will examine how these systems influence retirement decisions and income in retirement.

The symposium will be held from 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. at the Raleigh Marriott City Center in downtown Raleigh, N.C. The registration fee is $250 per person.

View registration information and other details.

Confirmed presenters

  • William Arnone, employee financial services, Ernst & Young
  • Frank Buckless, KPMG Professor and head, Department of Accounting, North Carolina State University College of Management
  • Chuck Burak, director, Worldwide Benefits/Human Resources, BD
  • Robert Clark, professor, Department of Economics and Department of Management, Innovation, and Entrepreneurship, North Carolina State University College of Management
  • Janet Cowell, Treasurer, State of North Carolina
  • Jason Fichtner, acting deputy commissioner, U. S. Social Security Administration
  • R. Lynn Pettus, partner and national director, Employee Financial Services, Ernst & Young
  • John Haley, chief executive officer, Watson Wyatt Worldwide
  • Sally Hass, benefits education manager, Weyerhaeuser (retired)
  • Annamaria Lusardi, professor, Department of Economics, Dartmouth College
  • Elaine F. Marshall. Secretary of State, North Carolina
  • Jeanene Martin, senior vice president, human resources, WakeMed, Raleigh, N.C.
  • Olivia Mitchell, International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans Professor of Insurance and Risk Management, The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania
  • Melinda Morrill, assistant professor, Department of Economics, North Carolina State University
  • Beth Pattillo, senior human resources specialist, Progress Energy Service Company
  • Martin Salle, financial benefits manager-Total Rewards, State Farm
  • Nancy Van Maren, retirement education consultant, The Williams Companies
NC State College of Management Campus Box 8614, Raleigh, NC 27617