May 7, 2021

You Brought Your Home Office Home. Did You Forget Your Retirement Plan?

It's A Good Time To Take Advantage Of Newly Virtual Benefits

A version of this article originally appeared on MarketWatch.

The pandemic has underscored that people's personal lives directly impact career advancement, access to benefits, and long-term earnings potential. With the US economy in recovery this year, many workers have the opportunity to do the same – start setting their lives back on course from difficult detours many of us faced this past year. Virtual access to benefits can help.

As difficult as the last year has been, it has made some workplace benefits more accessible. From healthcare to financial wellness, many workers are finding it much easier to schedule a video call than travel to an in-person appointment. The pandemic sharply accelerated a pre-existing trend in retirement education according to new data from Schwab Workplace Financial Services. In 2019, before the pandemic, attendance at virtual retirement education was three times higher than in-person sessions. Not surprisingly, that gap widened in 2020 when the number of in-person education meetings dropped more than 80%.

In the last few years, there has also been growing interest from employers and employees in helping workers look at their whole financial picture. If you are not already familiar with the financial wellness resources at your own workplace, it's a great time to get to know them. You may have an option to access personalized guidance that can provide you with ideas for practical steps to help you reach your financial goals.

No matter how simple that first step seems, many people still have difficulty taking it, even when it's right at their fingertips. We all have many priorities competing for our attention, and it is hard to find the time and mental space to focus on a far-off goal like retirement. If this sounds like you, you may need to hit the "reset" button.

Reset

If retirement planning feels overwhelming, consider a mental reset. Put the past aside and start making small improvements in the present. Then, focus on those successes to encourage yourself to do more. If, on the other hand, you already feel okay about retirement, ask yourself how you can build on your success to achieve the retirement you want.

Reward

Academic research on rewards shows that timing turns out to be an important factor. More than one study has shown1 that immediate rewards are more motivating than delayed ones. What will motivate you? Dedicate a half hour to retirement planning this month and give yourself a small payoff. It could be as simple as your favorite cup of coffee.

Single Task

If you want to ensure your retirement planning time is well spent, avoid multi-tasking. The evidence1 is pretty clear that it is less efficient and easier to make mistakes when you constantly switch between tasks. Maybe you feel that every time you try to do something for retirement, you can't quite get it done. Multitasking could be the culprit.

Some Basic Steps

Financial security is impacted by the professional and personal counterweights of life. Over the last year, day-to-day struggles may have left you with no room for financial planning, but as optimism for the future grows, anyone can consider these basic steps towards financial health.

  • Ramp up your retirement saving rate. Most of us can do this online. Even a small increase in contributions could have a large impact on your ultimate retirement savings. This is especially true for younger workers with time on their side.
  • Make a plan. With a bit more effort, you can create a basic financial plan using online tools and resources or you could consult a professional. Check to see what your 401(k) plan offers. Many plans include access to a financial "coach" who can offer you specific suggestions and encourage accountability.
  • Check your future income. If you are close to retiring, you can consult a financial professional to understand how to manage your nest egg through retirement.

Now that even more help is just a virtual meeting away, make it easy on yourself – click that button, put on those headphones, and take your next step.