Baby boomers are clocking out of the workforce in hordes in the United States. Statistics estimate that nearly 10,000 baby boomers are turning 65 each day. Though some of them are extending their work lives with entrepreneurial or volunteer work, a giant gray tsunami is indeed sweeping the country.
Amidst this, the US is gearing towards the default option of digital delivery of information on retirement plans. The pertinent questions to ask here are:
- How should the digital experience be tailored to cater to the unique needs of baby boomers—the immediate beneficiaries of most retirement plans?
- How prepared is the retirement market in ensuring that boomers go through the next phase of their lives with confidence and peace of mind?
As the boomers enter their retirement years, they need a plan that not only offers financial support but also assures (and reassures) them that they are in good hands.
Baby boomers are people born between 1946 and 1964, falling between the ages of 55 and 73 years. They account for nearly 25 percent of the US population and present a massive market opportunity for retirement plans. They are the wealthiest generation in the country and will continue to be so till at least 2030, according to a study by Deloitte.
If these are not encouraging enough, consider the increasing adoption of the internet by the boomers.
The baby boomer generation, contrary to popular perception, doesn’t consider technology a threat or an impediment to their wellbeing. This generation views technology as a useful channel to gather information and improve their lifestyle – be it news, how-to videos, educational content, or product demos. According to the American Bankers Association, 71 percent of boomers in the US use online banking services once a week.
Benefits of e-delivery
The tangible benefits of digital delivery are many. Electronic delivery is an efficient, secure, and reliable way to communicate important information to participants compared to a paper trail, which is both inefficient and expensive. In a competitive marketplace, this translates to significant cost savings, which ultimately get passed on to the plan participants.
Secondly, and more significantly, electronic delivery ensures that the information remains up-to-date. Electronic communication alters participant behavior and dramatically improves participant outcomes in the form of prompt action. Empirical indications suggest that participants show a higher degree of active engagement with their retirement savings plans after electronic delivery. The substantial benefit, in the long run, is the overall improvement in the participant’s account balance, better rate of income replacement, and financial wellbeing.
It is essential to communicate the above benefits to baby boomers so that they see merit in the default option and opt for it unanimously.
How should the overall experience be?
Educating boomers about the benefits of electronic delivery is only one part of the process. The problematic part involves delivering benefits in a user-friendly manner.
The specific needs and abilities of senior citizens must be kept in mind while developing retirement plans. They must offer a holistic, fully-integrated, and interactive experience that simplifies the enrolment and navigation process and the transactions within, and clarifies concerns.
Boomers seek technology that breaks down the information into an easily digestible form. The technology should also keep them informed and updated every step of the way. At no stage should the boomers have to worry about unexpected changes that will throw them off gear.
After all, this is the golden period of their lives, and why should seniors be saddled with needless burdens and anxieties?
An accessible web experience ensures equal opportunities for people of varying abilities and diverse backgrounds. It is not just a legal requirement but a moral responsibility too.
Therefore, the website must factor in aspects such as people’s economic background, internet bandwidth, and place of residence. For instance, people in rural areas may experience slower internet speed. The online experience must also be tailored, taking into account the cognitive, neurological, physical, and visual abilities, which tend to change due to aging.
While designing or redesigning a site, designers must first assess the unique needs of users and identify problem areas early on. They must also periodically assess web accessibility to ensure the interface is smooth and well-oiled.
It is seen that better the web accessibility, better is the brand recall and awareness among seniors.
Design elements such as precise wording, font size, and color may seem trivial, but they play a huge role in determining ease of use, and firms offering retirement plans will do well not to take these aspects for granted.
- Many seniors experience changes in vision over a period of time. Providing a large font size option often clears the first-mile entry hurdle for many of them. The text must be comfortably sized at 16px, with an option to reduce the font size.
- Designers must opt for Sans Serif typefaces as they enhance clarity and readability.
- Shades of blue appear dull or faded to many seniors. So, websites, emails, and apps that target seniors may avoid blue and opt for clear color contrasts.
- Buttons and tabs to be clicked upon or read must be large.
- Icons must be clearly labeled with text.
- Designers may look at building more intuitive interface elements and functional tabs.
- Simple measures like changing browser settings can go a long way in ensuring ease of use.
- All websites and apps must be tested with a screen reader before launch.
Easily consumable modules
Not all seniors may have issues with memory and concentration. But, by and large, certain cognitive functions decline with age. Seniors may take a little more time than earlier to absorb information, process it, and perform the necessary tasks.
Market players need to be mindful of this and not feed participants with complex tasks that call for quick decision-making and immediate action.
The information must be delivered to seniors in easily digestible modules, which are not couched in jargon. As the digital mechanism lends itself to customization, only relevant information – in small doses – needs to be sent to participants via regular emails and newsletters. Participants must not be bombarded with an overdose of verbose information that may or may not apply to them.
Electronic delivery gives participants access to a set of online tools that will help them in their decision-making. Market players must keep these tools sophisticated yet straightforward. As these tools become more and more innovative, participants would find it easy to keep themselves abreast of developments in the investment world. For the boomers, this is a terrific opportunity to become well-informed investors who ultimately enjoy high returns on investment.
Addressing security concerns
Though the adoption of technology is on the rise among seniors, many of them are cautious about security in the digital world, especially on the smartphone. Boomers are still warming up to the idea of mobile banking. If the delivery mechanism is beefed up with enhanced cybersecurity measures to combat fraud, the smartphone can ramp up digital delivery in the days to come.
Role of advisors
Even as boomers jump onto the digital bandwagon, the role of financial advisors cannot be ignored. Online tools cannot replace or displace the wealth of market knowledge, financial acumen, and empathy that advisors can bring to the table. In fact, with the surfeit of financial data available online, baby boomers would perhaps have more questions than ever, and these can be addressed only by traditional financial advisors.
Hence, market players must offer the best of both worlds to the boomers—convenience of technology and professional advice from advisors—a winning combination that is hard to resist!
- The Department of Labor’s proposal entails that all disclosures on retirement plans would be sent digitally to participants’ email addresses instead of being delivered through the traditional paper route. This pertains to all employers sponsoring 401(k)s and other defined contribution plans. The disclosures includes fee disclosure statements, summary plan and description. The proposed rule covers nearly 700,000 retirement plans under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974.