Participants Learn Via Social Media

Employees are learning more about retirement through social media, a survey found.

Conducted by Brightwork Partners on behalf of MassMutual Retirement Services, the nationwide survey of American workers eligible to participate in an employer-sponsored defined contribution (DC) retirement plan showed a growing appetite for learning about retirement and other financial topics through social media, though the way information is consumed varies by age, gender and income level.

Findings indicated 74% of women routinely use Facebook vs. 59% of men. The opposite holds true for LinkedIn; about twice as many users are men—32% vs. 15% of women. The gender difference is more pronounced when compared with 2011 results. Twitter was also more popular with male users (17% compared with 10% of women).

Participants who actively contribute to their plan are more likely to use social media than those who do not, indicating higher engagement overall. Likewise, participants who also save outside of their workplace plan are even more likely to use social media, including Twitter, LinkedIn and Facebook in that order. LinkedIn is used by 36% of participants with household income (HHI) exceeding $100,000 but only by 15% of participants with HHI of $50,000 or less.

Seventy-one percent of plan participants “routinely” use one or more social media sites, according to the survey. However, the percentage of participants who have used social media for information or advice about their workplace plan has grown from 5% to 6% since 2011. While the number overall is small, it equates to approximately 5 million participants who have used social media for this purpose, indicating that it is used to supplement rather than replace the participant’s primary retirement plan website.

“Participants in their 30s are far more likely (14%) to use social media for retirement information or advice than older or younger participants, and this number has increased from just 6% in 2011, a significant jump. This may represent an important window of opportunity to reach these participants at a critical time in their retirement savings lifecycle,” said Elaine Sarsynski, executive vice president, MassMutual’s Retirement Services Division and chairman of MassMutual International LLC, in Springfield, Massachusetts. The survey also found that, among participants age 50 or older, 57% use Facebook.

In addition, the survey showed retirement tops the list of savings objectives. Overall, “saving enough for retirement” has surpassed “keeping up with monthly expenses” as the biggest financial worry of participants, up to 24% from 18% in 2011. It was also cited as a major savings objective by 63% of participants, 21 points higher than the second most-cited worry of “paying down debt.”

On a positive note, findings indicated participants in general are saving more, with the average retirement savings rate among those surveyed at 10.5%, up from 9% two years ago.

“Social media usage is up across the board since 2011, with the biggest increase in LinkedIn usage by participants at 24%, which is a 50% increase,” said Merl Baker, principal at Brightwork Partners. “Facebook has broad appeal across all age groups, but clearly there is an opportunity for providers to target messaging by gender, age and income. LinkedIn is the dominant media for business purposes and appeals to all age groups.”

The survey was conducted online between February 18 and March 11, and included 2,081 defined contribution plan participants who are eligible to participate in a 401(k), 403(b), 457 or similar workplace retirement plan. Data was trended to the initial survey conducted two years ago (June/July 2011).