By Cyril Tuohy
Women and lower-paid employees are leaving money on the table when it comes to employer matching contributions. That means a huge opportunity for outreach and communication among retirement plan advisors and retirement plan sponsors.
As many as 78 percent of Americans who contribute to an employer-sponsored retirement plan receive matching contributions from their employer, and 77 percent of those who have matching contributions save enough to receive the full employer match, according to a new survey by Teachers Insurance and Annuity Association of America-College Retirement Equities Fund, (TIAA-CREF). That’s the good news.
Now, here’s the not-so-good news.
Only 72 percent of women contribute enough to receive the full employer match, compared with 82 percent of men, and only 64 percent of those earning less than $35,000 a year receive the full company match.
Teresa Hassara, executive vice president of TIAA-CREF's institutional business, said in a news release that the results showed some groups of employees were not taking full advantage of work-sponsored retirement plans.
"When employees don't get the full match that their employers offer, they are essentially walking away from free money," she said.
The survey, conducted by KRC Research, polled a random online sample of more than 1,000 adults nationwide. The findings were reported in the TIAA-CREF 2014 Perfect Match Survey.
TIAA-CREF’s survey findings are ironic. Many women say they don’t feel as prepared for retirement as they would like. Lower-income workers often respond that they don’t make enough to take advantage of a match and that a higher salary would make them consider the match.
Whatever the case, when offered a golden opportunity to collect “free money,” these two groups aren’t doing as much as they can to take advantage of it.
Survey respondents, given an example, were asked how much they would earn from a 3 percent match. Women, lower-paid employees and Generation Y workers all underestimated the amount the match would be worth by the time they reached age 65.
Respondents, however, said they like receiving reminders and communications from employers about the match.
The survey found that 40 percent of respondents said they were glad their employer reminded them of the match, 32 percent said they weren’t getting reminders and wished they would, and 24 percent said they didn’t get reminders and didn’t want to be bothered.
Only 3 percent said they received reminders but found the reminders to be annoying.
Hassara said the survey showed that simply offering the match doesn’t guarantee participation in it.
Plan sponsors, she said, need to communicate the value of the match to the employees, particularly those who are not reaching the full match.
Cyril Tuohy is a writer based in Pennsylvania. He has covered the financial services industry for more than 15 years. Cyril may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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