New Schwab Data: Pandemic Reveals Demand for Virtual and Self-Serve 401(k) Education
New data from Schwab Retirement Plan Services reveals worker preferences in retirement education that can help employers more effectively support their employees' financial health in post-pandemic times.
Workers flocked to online retirement education in 2020 and were less likely to cancel attendance and more likely to choose on-demand sessions than in 2019. One third of all participants in Schwab's 2020 education sessions chose to view virtual material at a time of their choosing rather than attending live online sessions, representing a 207% increase in attendance at on-demand sessions compared to 2019.
The popularity of virtual sessions was clear even before the pandemic. "In 2019, we had three times higher attendance in virtual sessions than in-person on-site sessions, with the added flexibility for attendees to join the sessions either live online or later through an on-demand recording," said Nathan Voris, Senior Managing Director, Business Strategy at Schwab Workplace Financial Services. "And of course, those trends accelerated sharply in 2020 when the pandemic drove nearly all participant education into a virtual environment."
Employers see value in virtual education as well, with the versatile online approach greatly simplifying delivery to the workforce. "In-person sessions often require clients to set up multiple conference rooms and juggle peak workloads across different teams. The virtual environment eliminates those challenges, and all the time and effort that comes with them," Voris added. In another sign that employers benefited from the increased convenience of virtual sessions, meeting day cancellations and reschedules among Schwab plan sponsor clients declined 57% in 2020 compared with 2019.
"Even when more people begin returning to their workplaces, we believe many will continue to prefer accessing financial education at their desks, at home or on their mobile devices, whether for a scheduled live event or an on-demand session."
Compared with 2019, the number of on-site meeting days in 2020 dropped almost 88% as a result of the pandemic, and attendance at virtual education sessions increased 53%. "On-site education meetings seem unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels," added Voris. "In 2020, we saw a significant acceleration in the trend towards virtual delivery but the number of employees making this choice has been growing since at least 2018."
Workers want holistic help
Workers have also increasingly shown they want information beyond plan-specific features. Last year Schwab saw a 54% increase in attendance for virtual sessions on holistic personal finance topics versus a 37% increase in attendance for virtual sessions on plan-specific topics compared to 2019.
In 2020 Schwab offered a variety of online content with practical approaches designed to improve workers' financial know-how. These included live panel discussions on timely personal finance and investing questions; informal, 10-minute "coffee talks" on trending topics such as managing finances during uncertainty; and live, interactive webcasts with in-depth discussions on how to save, invest, an manage expenses. As part of the webcast series, Schwab added new workshops that addressed market volatility, and transitioned in-person, plan-specific learning to virtual sessions.
"It's clear that the outlook for retirement education includes more focus on overall financial fitness and more options to let workers choose when and how they receive that education," Voris said.
About Charles Schwab
At Charles Schwab we believe in the power of investing to help individuals create a better tomorrow. We have a history of challenging the status quo in our industry, innovating in ways that benefit investors and the advisors and employers who serve them, and championing our clients' goals with passion and integrity.
Through its operating subsidiaries, The Charles Schwab Corporation (NYSE: SCHW) provides a full range of securities brokerage, banking, money management and financial advisory services to individual investors and independent investment advisors. Its broker-dealer subsidiary, Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (member SIPC, www.sipc.org), and affiliates offer a complete range of investment services and products including an extensive selection of mutual funds; financial planning and investment advice; retirement plan and equity compensation plan services; compliance and trade monitoring solutions; referrals to independent fee-based investment advisors; and custodial, operational and trading support for independent, fee-based investment advisors through Schwab Advisor Services. Its banking subsidiary, Charles Schwab Bank (member FDIC and an Equal Housing Lender), provides banking and lending services and products. More information is available at www.schwab.com and www.aboutschwab.com.
Workplace Financial Services is a business enterprise which offers products and services through Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc.; Schwab Stock Plan Services; and Compliance Solutions. Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc., provides recordkeeping and related services with respect to retirement plans. Schwab Stock Plan Services is a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. providing equity compensation plan services and brokerage solutions for corporate clients. Compliance Solutions is comprised of Schwab Designated Brokerage Services (DBS), a division of Charles Schwab & Co., Inc., and Schwab Compliance Technologies, Inc. (SchwabCT). DBS provides brokerage solutions for corporate clients who monitor their employees' securities activity. SchwabCT provides technology solutions for corporate clients to help facilitate their compliance technology program implementation. Schwab Retirement Plan Services, Inc., Schwab Compliance Technologies, Inc., and Charles Schwab & Co., Inc. (Member SIPC, www.sipc.org) are separate but affiliated entities, and each is a subsidiary of The Charles Schwab Corporation.
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