Why are employees leaving free pension money on the table? – The Globe and Mail

Posted: January 30, 2015 in articles, financial planning, in maple ridge, inmapleridge, insurance, mapleridge
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Why are employees leaving free pension money on the table? – The Globe and Mail.

Fred Vettese is the chief actuary at Morneau Shepell, a human resources and actuarial consulting services firm.

Canadians are forgoing as much as $3-billion annually by not taking full advantage of employer matching contributions within their company defined contribution (DC) pension plans, according to a recent Sun Life Financial report. One has to wonder why employees would pass up free money when there are no strings attached.

Employees in most DC plans have the option of contributing extra, and if they do, the employer makes a matching contribution on their behalf. Sometimes it is a partial match, such as 50 cents for every dollar contributed by the employee, and sometimes it is a full match. Employers offer contribution matching to encourage employees to save more for retirement.

To gain some insight into why a significant percentage of DC participants balk at contributing more, I analyzed data from a number of DC pension plans for which Morneau Shepell does record-keeping. My investigation, which encompassed tens of thousands of employee records, turned up the following:

  • About one third of participants in a given plan do not make an optional contribution, even if it is 100 per cent matched by the employer.
  • Up to two thirds will not make an optional contribution if the basic required contribution they are already making is high, such as 4 per cent of pay or more.
  • One would expect older employees to contribute more since they will get their hands on the employer’s money sooner. But it turns out the impact of age is quite minimal, especially if we correct for salary differences. In some groups, a fifth of the employees in their 50s do not make optional contributions.
  • Salary level has a big impact on optional contribution rates but only up to the average national wage level – the low $50,000s. In one case, nearly half of employees in their mid-40s who were earning under $50,000 opted not to contribute versus only 18 per cent of employees in the same age group who were earning over $50,000.
  • In plans where the range of optional contribution rates is limited, the employee’s decision is practically binary. The vast majority either contribute enough to earn the maximum employer matching or they contribute nothing. This suggests that deciding how much to contribute is not based on ability to pay or on perceived retirement income needs, but rather on whether or not one understands the idea behind the optional matching.

What is noteworthy is that many of the employees who elect not to make optional contributions to their DC plans still contribute to their own Registered Retirement Savings Plans (RRSPs). According to Statistics Canada data, over half of the participants in pension plans, including DC plans, also contribute to RRSPs. A rough estimate is that several hundred thousand DC plan participants are forgoing employer matching contributions in their DC plans and instead make personal RRSP contributions that are not matched.

Read the rest of the article here…

Why are employees leaving free pension money on the table? – The Globe and Mail.

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