Editor's Note: This story originally appeared on SmartAsset.com.
From doctors visits to business meetings, the COVID-19 pandemic has shifted so many of our everyday interactions from in person to online.
One silver lining of this dramatic change has been increased engagement when it comes to people learning about their retirement savings. Transamerica, an investment solutions, retirement and insurance company, has seen a significant uptick in the number of retirement plan participants meeting virtually with plan consultants since the start of the pandemic.
In 2020, Transamerica reported a 25% year-over-year increase in employee education meetings, thanks to fully remote engagement.
“Traditionally, Transamerica’s retirement education program had a mixture of in-person and virtual meetings,” Phil Eckman, chief operating officer of workplace solutions at Transamerica, said in a statement. “With the pandemic, it was necessary to move swiftly to an entirely virtual model. What we found is that virtual education removes most logistical considerations, making it more convenient and flexible for sponsors and employees.”
Eckman said plan sponsors have lauded the convenience of scheduling virtual meetings. “Their employees also expressed appreciation for the convenience to speak with a retirement planning consultant virtually on their schedule,” he added.
Transamerica also found that employees who met with a retirement plan consultant contributed an average of 32% more to their plans compared with those who did not meet with a representative.
Meanwhile, 88% of employees who met with a retirement plan consultant said their meetings were “very beneficial” and 91% were pleased with the ease of scheduling and accessibility they had to virtual meetings with professionals.
“With more companies shifting to a permanent work-from-home or hybrid structure, these statistics show that virtual meetings with retirement plan consultants will be even more important and an effective means to give people the information they need to prepare for retirement,” said Eckman.
Room for Improvement
The Transamerica data comes at a time when retirement plans seemingly aren’t doing enough to digitally engage consumers enrolled in workplace plans.
According to a J.D. Power survey from September, only 24% of retirement savers strongly agreed their providers offer proactive guidance. The same survey found that just 43% of people said it’s easy to locate the information they need to make investment decisions on either a retirement plan website or mobile app.
The availability of proactive guidance is particularly important for plan participants. Those who receive this type of guidance from their retirement plan are 25% more likely to keep their assets with their current plan sponsor, according to the J.D. Power survey.
Bolster Your Plan With Engagement
One of the first steps to improving your prospects for successful retirement savings is simply getting more engaged. For some, that may mean improving their financial literacy using online tools, while others may choose to meet with a consultant from their retirement plan or hire a financial adviser.
The Transamerica data suggests savers who meet, even virtually, with a professional from their retirement plan save more for retirement than those who don’t. Start by contacting your company’s human resources department and asking how to arrange a meeting with a representative from your plan. You may be able to do so directly through your plan administrator online.
A financial adviser can also be a valuable resource when it comes to long-term planning. And just like Transamerica, financial advisers across the country responded to the pandemic by diversifying the ways in which they interact with clients.
In fact, a SmartAsset study found that 48% of advisers said video calls were their preferred method of communication during the pandemic. This mode of communication between advisers and clients is likely here to stay, even as more and more in-person meetings occur.
One-third of advisers said video conferencing will remain their No. 1 choice for interacting with clients in the future, compared with only 2% before the pandemic.
The pandemic has altered so many elements of everyday life, shifting in-person interactions to computer screens. But retirement savers have benefited from the new trend, according to Transamerica, and are more likely to meet with representatives from their retirement plan now that meetings are held virtually.
Virtual meetings provide for more flexible scheduling, and as a result, more interest from plan participants. Financial advisers have also adapted nicely to the logistical challenges of the pandemic, holding more video calls with clients than before.