Many Americans remain cautious about their investment decisions in the wake of the financial crisis, and members of the millennial generation in particular may need personalized guidance from employers in making retirement planning decisions, according to a study on retirement plan participation recently released by Broadridge Financial Solutions.

The findings of the report, “Retirement 2020: Capitalizing on trends to maximize participation, boost efficiency and accelerate outcomes,” are based in part on a survey of 1,003 U.S. respondents aged 22-59 that was conducted July 10-16, 2018. The survey findings indicated that whereas 72% of baby boomer respondents have confidence in a workplace retirement plan, only 58% of millennial respondents feel the same way.

The report emphasized that the millennials surveyed expressed investment preferences that run counter to conventional financial advice. For example, researchers noted, the millennial respondents said they are equally confident investing in a private business as they are in the global stock market, and many prefer traditional low-yield savings accounts to employer-sponsored plans. The survey results showed that among all respondents, just 24% reported seeking financial advice from a professional advisor, while 27% said they seek financial advice from family and friends.

The report cited a previous study showing that the main reasons why workers of all ages decrease their retirement plan contributions are needing to pay down debt/bills (27%), needing money for day-to-day expenses (25%), facing a major life event (18%), and having less income (16%). The report noted that debt is a big problem for millennials in particular, as one-half of millennials with a bachelor’s degree, and one-quarter of all millennials, hold student debt; and the median loan balance for millennials with a bachelor’s degree is $25,000.

Researchers observed that the financial crash in 2008 hit investors hard, both psychologically and financially, as the survey showed that a significant number of investors now distrust Wall Street and have an inflated view of market risk: nearly 25% of all respondents said they think it is likely that they will face another market crash like the one that occurred in 2008, and 20% said they believe the stock market is a rigged game they cannot win.

The report also noted that because workers often fail to seek professional advice, many are not aware of, and are thus are unable to evaluate, the available investment options. For example, researchers observed, a recent survey showed that more than 40% of investors have no familiarity with health savings accounts (HSAs) and their triple-tax advantage, and only 30% make regular contributions to a HSA. This survey also found that of those respondents, 65% said they use their HSA funds to cover current health care needs, while only 8% indicated that they use their HSA to save for the future.

Given these challenges, the report recommended that retirement plan sponsors take advantage of technology tools that will allow them to engage plan participants by creating personalized experiences, while streamlining operations and lowering costs. Researchers advised plan sponsors to consider using data-driven content creation platforms to facilitate workflow automation, and cloud-based tools to enable multiple compositors to collaborate from any location.

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