Effective 401(k) Education: Strategies for Adult Learning

The financial services industry, particularly the 401(k) sector, has much to learn from executive education programs about adult learning.  Unlike children or college students, adults learn best through interaction, peer-to-peer learning, and in the right environment.  Plan sponsors and participants face significant challenges, such as navigating complex ERISA rules and managing personal pension plans without adequate training.  This lack of understanding often leads to criticism of the defined contribution (DC) system, despite its achievements.

To improve, plan sponsors and participants need comprehensive training on managed accounts, in-plan retirement income, and the convergence of wealth, retirement, and benefits.  Essential topics include financial planning, debt management, student loan repayment, emergency savings, health savings accounts, and non-qualified plans.  Effective education for adults involves creating an engaging environment, encouraging interaction, and leveraging peer-to-peer learning.  By adopting these strategies, the 401(k) industry can better educate plan sponsors and participants, leading to more effective utilization of retirement plans and enhanced financial outcomes.

To explore this topic further, read Fred Barstein’s latest Wealth Management article, “How Adults Learn and Why the Financial Services Industry Mostly Gets It Wrong.”


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