2023 Retirement Participant Education Survey results & insights

March 06, 2024

How prepared are employees for retirement, and are they aware of all the resources available to assist them with their planning?

These are some of the questions we sought to answer in our 2023 Retirement Participant Education Survey. Our biennial study is designed to help plan sponsors and financial professionals understand opportunities in educating employees on their unique personal financial education needs.

We conducted the survey in the first quarter of 2023 with those enrolled in a retirement plan administered by Cuna Mutual Group, and we received over 10,000 responses.1 Here’s a summary of what we found.

Retirement preparation

Even though retiring is a major milestone in a person’s life, our survey discovered that only a quarter of the respondents feel confident that they know how much money they’ll need in retirement.1 Possibly compounding that fact, less than half of respondents felt confident that they knew where to find resources for improving their financial wellness.1 Even more problematic, younger participants and women were less confident about this than older participants and men.1

These results are troubling and demonstrate a clear need for better access to educational tools for retirement planning. Given the differences between men and women, it is important to incorporate practical applications and varied learning modalities to meet the diverse needs of employees.

Education topics & methods of interest

Given these attitudes and circumstances surrounding retirement planning, what financial topics are employees interested in?

Our survey showed significant interest in four topics:1

  1. Planning for retirement
  2. Budgeting and managing debt
  3. Savings tips
  4. Basic investment principles

Topics ranked No. 1 and No. 2 were shared among the primary age groups (18-35 and 36-55), but the 18-35 group responded with “savings tips” as their third-most preferred topic, while the 36-55 group noted “basic investment principles” as their third-ranked topic instead.1

Survey results generally showed an interest in basic financial and investment topics with younger respondents, but the older age groups preferred topics related to transitioning into retirement. While each topic is important, priority should be given to the topics with higher interest between them.

The methods of education on these topics may change depending on demographics, too. Our survey showed that online articles/tools, one-on-one consultations and emails were favored methods for receiving retirement planning education across all key demographics.1 But, digging even deeper into specifics, younger participants are more likely to prefer videos, one-on-one consultations and group meetings, with older participants more likely to prefer newsletters.1

Main takeaway: Delivering content in a variety of ways that offer choices and correspond to the user’s preference can improve retention and learning. There is no single best method to provide education. For instance, while one employee may learn better online, another may respond better to live learning opportunities.

Financial wellness program effectiveness & barriers

We provide an enhanced financial wellness program that provides educational tools that participants can turn to as they continue to move toward retirement and lay out their financial plans. The program is tailored to each user’s own circumstances and uses adaptive learning technology to update the experience based on assessments users complete within the program.

Participants indicated that many of the program’s features are valuable. The survey showed that 86% of users found this program at least “moderately helpful,” while 39% found it “very helpful” or “extremely helpful.”1 In particular, the “Financial Check-Up” and “Your Money Personality” features received the highest helpfulness rating from respondents.1

Still, not everyone finds themselves readily available to participate. Those aware of the program but not participating listed time constraints and forgetting about it as their main barriers.1 The lessons here are that awareness is key and employees should feel confident in having enough time set aside to participate in such educational programs.

Active promotion and communication about available resources are essential to helping employees feel empowered to learn more about their financial planning and retirement — which in turn can make them feel better about the future.

Taking action

So how do you turn these insights into action? First, take these survey results under serious consideration. We understand that even with such a great need for more financial education, learning styles vary, and each individual or demographic may be dealing with their own unique scenarios. Education can’t be one-size-fits-all.

There’s also a significant lack of confidence in what employees need for a secure retirement. This is a great opportunity to develop new educational resources and actively encourage employees to engage with them for their own benefit.


1 Cuna Mutual Group. Help your employees reach their retirement goals: Findings from the 2023 participant education survey. 2023