Retirement Education Reboot: Personalized, Anytime Options Meet New Needs

Before I started educating on retirement readiness and savings, I taught communication courses for adult learners. Even now, I distinctly remember the undercurrent of behavioral change that was bubbling below the surface. Then it was called “online learning” or “distance education,” and I was skeptical that this brand of “remote” learning could deliver quality education.

For academics in my circle, technology-facilitated learning felt like a cheap, watered-down version of real education. We thought only professors in lecture halls designed to keep students captive could ensure that learning actually occurred.

As it turns out, unfounded fears fueled my lack of enthusiasm. I thought quality of experience or content would suffer or that by supporting new channels for learning, I would cause my own undoing. I would render my value obsolete. All irrational.

Now I understand the audience was starting to shift beyond my line of sight. I just didn’t want to admit it.

The lunchroom approach

Fast forward to today. After conducting hundreds of retirement education meetings across the U.S. and with every type of organization, culture, industry and participant, I can tell you there’s been a complete shift in how people want to learn.

Evidence is staring us in the face. In lunchrooms, factory floors, and well-equipped training facilities, in multiple meetings over multiple days and in multiple locations, engagement alludes. Even the once-failsafe enticements — giveaways, sub sandwiches and morning bagels — no longer drive engagement, participation or action.

And so it goes. The classroom has become a sea of glazed-over eyeballs lit only by the glow of an overhead presentation. This may not mean it’s the end for classroom education, but it does reinforce that we need to teach in ways that people want to learn.



The demographic shift and rethinking education for all

In 2015, Millennials surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the U.S. job market.1 A great demographic shift is underway, and the preferred educational experience is highly personalized, fluid, immediate and digital. And, let’s face it:  It’s not just the Millennials. We all want the ultimate, on-demand personal experience — one that’s simple, fast, intuitive and actionable.

The message has become clear: If we want to drive better outcomes, we must go where people are. And, as you might expect, the average American is in the Cloud, using multiple digital devices to consume a whopping 60 hours per week of information.2

Enter My Virtual Coach and education webinars

In this modern education era, I’m glad Principal® retirement plan participants have two new options.

First, My Virtual Coach. It:

  • Is available any time and on any device through
  • Meets employees when and where they’re making enrollment, savings, rollover, loan, beneficiary and investing decisions.
  • Simplifies complex topics.
  • Leads to easy decision making.

Second, a webinar series that offers general financial and retirement planning education.

  • Participants can sign up to attend at scheduled times.
  • They can watch replays whenever they’re ready to learn about things like Social Security or a market decline affecting their account balances.

These anytime, anywhere options deliver retirement education to an evolved workforce that’s eagerly awaiting a vitally needed “reboot” from timeworn group education meetings. And they really work. So far, when participants enroll with My Virtual Coach, they contribute — on average — 90 percent more than our average enrollment deferral rate.3

I’m sold. Are you?

I’m no longer skeptical about “remote” learning. This type of individualized, anytime experience is exactly what participants need to engage, focus and make decisions.

So take a look at My Virtual Coach and check the webinar schedule. Let me know what you think — and let your participants know, too. Sometimes the best education is a nudge in the right direction.




3 Principal, as of March 2016


Affiliation Disclosure


Insurance products and plan administrative services are provided by Principal Life Insurance Company, a member of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392.

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