Saturday, October 15, 2016

A Hallmark Holiday?

I’ve always had a certain ambivalence about what are cynically referred to as “Hallmark holidays.” You know the ones I’m talking about – the ones that seem (and in many cases, are) crafted for the sole purpose of generating sales for greeting card sellers.

Next week some – and I hope many – will commemorate National Retirement Security Week (which used to be called National Save for Retirement Week). Sponsored by the National Association of Government Defined Contribution Administrators (NAGDCA), it runs from October 16-22. It’s a national effort to raise public awareness about the importance of saving for retirement – and it’s even managed to obtain a Senate resolution in support of its observance.

That said – and despite the hard work, talented designs, and sponsorship of a number of large and reputable financial services organizations, I suspect many of you haven’t even heard of it. More’s the pity.

The week is focused on three key objectives:
  • Making employees more aware of how critical it is to save now for their financial future
  • Promoting the benefits of getting started saving for retirement today
  • Encouraging employees to take full advantage of their employer-sponsored plans by increasing their contributions
We’re all too aware of the challenges that confront our nation’s retirement savings system. I’d go so far as to wager that just about everybody taking the time to read this post thinks about those items every working day, and doubtless spends a good part of their week trying to advance those causes – so, what’s the point of a single week devoted to that emphasis?

The point, of course, is not for us – but for those who don’t have these issues on their mind every day. Because, even if we should be thinking about this every day of the year, special “events” like National Retirement Security Week give those of us who do a chance to, as a collective group of professionals, remind those who don’t of the importance of thoughtful preparations for retirement. Better still, with the plan design improvements available today, you might only need one week – or one hour – of getting an individual – or group of individuals – to think about those messages.

Consider, for example, if that period of focus got an individual (or group of individuals) to enroll in their workplace retirement plan, or led an employer to embrace automatic enrollment, or, for those who already auto-enroll, to increase the default contribution rate. What if that focus prompted those who are already participating to increase their deferral rate, or to boost that rate so that they got the full benefit of the employer match? And what if that period of focus – or the actions above – led workers to stop and figure out how much they might need to save to sustain their retirement?

Sure, a cynic might see National Retirement Security Week as nothing more than a Hallmark “holiday.” But I see it as an opportunity – an opportunity to pay attention to the people – and things – we often take for granted.

Let’s take advantage of the “occasion.”

- Nevin E. Adams, D

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