U.S. Retirement End-Investor 2020

Helping Participants Navigate Uncertainty

Segment, Analyze, Strategize

  • Review updated IRA rollover sizing along with 401(k) and IRA market sizing incorporating actual market performance through 1Q 2020 with in-depth market analysis and projections
  • Explore the evolution of financial wellness programs and advice, communication methods, and the integration of health and wellness benefits
  • Gauge 401(k) plan participant and IRA owner decision-making processes
  • Examine the opportunities and challenges of engaging various age and income cohorts in saving for retirement


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Drew O'Hearn, CFP

Drew O'Hearn, CFP

Director, Account Management


Evaluate retirement participants’ attitudes toward financial advice, uncover stressors and areas of concern related to retirement, and explore opportunities for differentiation among financial wellness providers. As Cerulli's primary coverage for investor-level retirement research, this report focuses on the decision-making behavior of 401(k) plan participants, segmenting this market by investor age, investable assets, gender, and advisor-orientation.

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A Note From the Author

What is the Role of Retirement Providers in Volatile Times?

Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Senior Analyst

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Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Shawn O'Brien, CFA

Senior Analyst

Shawn leads the U.S. Retirement research practice, which focuses on the defined contribution (DC) and individual retirement account (IRA) markets. He also leads and supports strategic consulting projects for asset managers on their DC-related market entry and product distribution strategies.

Prior to joining Cerulli Associates, Shawn worked as a Research Associate at Harvard Business School, where he co-authored case studies on investment management for professional and personal investors and managing and innovating in financial services. Prior to that, he worked in the Currency Management group at State Street Global Markets, employing currency overlay strategies for large asset managers and asset owners.

Full biography here.

Short-term solvency or long-term financial goals? Financial wellness programs have evolved to address topics ranging from retirement readiness to emergency savings, budgeting, debt management, healthcare, and more. Defined contribution (DC) retirement plan providers are generally well positioned to administer these programs, having established communication channels and name recognition with employees. In Cerulli’s survey of 401(k) plan sponsors, respondents are most likely to identify financial wellness as a top priority. In this era of uncertainty following the COVID-19 outbreak—with volatile market performance, widespread disruption to employment and education, and massive legislation impacting retirement plans and other benefits—there is arguably more need than ever for comprehensive guidance and financial wellness programs. Participants face myriad questions, such as: Should I take a withdrawal from my 401(k)? Are my retirement investments adequately diversified? Should I rebalance my account? Which of my student loans now qualify for forbearance? Can I collect unemployment if my hours are reduced? What happens to my required minimum distribution (RMD)? Do I have enough emergency savings to weather a recession?

This report explores how recordkeepers, asset managers, plan sponsors, and intermediaries are adapting to meet the needs of participants, especially those contending with financial hardships. This theme, coupled with in-depth analysis of the savings and decision-making behavior of 401(k) plan participants (including focus this year on the retiree perspective), provides asset managers and plan sponsors comprehensive analysis on the role retirement providers play during volatile times. Use this report to plan your approach to participant engagement and connect with our team to learn more.

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