Experts Forecast More Retirement Plan Options for Gig Workers

The majority of a Transamerica-sponsored panel sees better retirement plan offers and even matching for gig workers by 2026.

A panel of employment industry executives and researchers see at least some potential for gig workers to be offered workplace retirement plans, according to polling released Wednesday by Transamerica Corp. in a report, “Prescience 2026: Dynamics of the American Workforce.”

Among roughly 57 panelists working in and studying the employment market, 83% agreed or strongly agreed that at least 10% of employers involved in the gig economy will offer payroll-deduction retirement savings mechanisms such as IRAs, solo 401(k)s and health savings accounts by the end of 2026.

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The study, conducted by insurer, investment and retirement services firm Transamerica and retirement and financial wellness marketing firm Each Enterprise LLC, took the results as a positive sign for movement toward workplace retirement plans for gig workers.

“As workers become increasingly comfortable with rejecting (or at least bending) established employment norms, employers seem to be responding,” the report’s authors wrote in the report. The findings, they wrote, appear “to validate the belief that gig economy employers want to attract and retain workers and are willing to provide attractive benefits packages to do so.”

Currently, the majority of the roughly 58 million people estimated to be working in the gig economy do not have access to a workplace retirement plan, and 77% plan to fund their retirement out of personal savings, according to recent surveying from Legal & General Group.

Policymakers and private retirement industry companies have taken note. The SECURE 2.0 Act of 2022 will, in 2027, replace the current “saver’s credit,” which gives a tax credit to low-income workers saving into a retirement plan, to a “saver’s match,” which will match retirement plan savings within a workplace or individual retirement account. Late last year, Robinhood Financial launched an IRA with a 1% match from the company if a saver uses the plan for five years; the company specifically targeted gig economy workers in its launch.

Transamerica’s panel experts were somewhat mixed on whether gig employers would offer retirement plan matching or voluntary health benefits.

45% of the panel strongly agreed or agreed that at least 30% of gig economy employers would provide a company match to retirement accounts, with 34% disagreeing or strongly disagreeing with the premise.

When it came to gig employers offering voluntary health care plans, 55% agreed or strongly agreed, and 21% strongly disagreed or disagreed. The remainder neither agreed nor disagreed.

The group was more bullish on policymakers passing legislation that would allow for independent contractors to participant in 401(k) workplace retirement plans. 54% of the group strongly agreed or agreed such legislation will pass, and 29% strongly disagreed or disagreed that it will pass.

Panelist Robin Green, president and head of research at WinMore Plans, expressed skepticism that workers will remain in gig jobs for the long term due in part to the lack of employer support.

“I don’t believe the gig economy will ultimately be a satisfying long-term strategy for workers,” Green wrote in the report. “There is a limited sense of shared community and purpose. And as the workers mature, start families, acquire property, and make longer-term financial plans, they likely will opt to reengage in more traditional workforces.”

Looking at the overall labor pool, the Transamerica panel mostly agreed that workplace attraction and retention will remain challenging into 2026. 50% of the panelists strongly agreed or agreed that the U.S. job quit rate would surpass a 17-year high of 2.4% in July 2022 to hit 3% by 2026. 18% strongly disagreed or disagreed, and 33% neither agreed nor disagreed.

“There seems to be a shift in the balance of power between employer and employee. And the employee seems to be aware of that shift,” Ilene H. Ferenczy of Ferenczy Benefits Law Center wrote in the report. “We could be seeing an increased number of people who are not fulfilled, not satisfied, in their jobs and are willing to express that feeling and, importantly, take action.”

The findings were the result of polling and brainstorming in January 2023 and is part of a series focused on the employee and employer experience. The panel includes executives from retirement industry organizations including Franklin Templeton, Strategic Retirement Partners, Hub International, Sway Research and Financial Finesse, according to the report.