3 years ago


PlaNlINk : jUly 2012 - T. Rowe Price

COVER STORY 4 PlanLink :

COVER STORY 4 PlanLink : july 2012

COVER STORY The heart and science of the participant experience Propriety research into the way participants think about saving and investing in the context of their lives is leading to a re-engineered plan experience. Spend time with the communications professionals in T. Rowe Price’s retirement plan services division and you might notice that they sometimes conspicuously avoid using the word “participant.” There’s a reason for that. “Sometimes, thinking of those in defined contribution plans solely as ‘participants’ can limit your thinking,” says Mary Ellen Whiteman, manager of Employee Strategy and Program Development at T. Rowe Price. “After all, they don’t think of themselves as ‘participants.’ They don’t even think of themselves as ‘employees.’ They are people with everyday concerns. We need to talk to them that way.” This strategic shift in thinking is emblematic of a broader evolution that’s underway in plan design and communications—an evolution that takes into account the full scope of participants’ lives, where personal life, household finance, and plan participation overlap in multiple ways. In fact, decisions about saving and investing for retirement can be challenging enough on their own. But these decisions are complicated by a host of competing financial priorities—from paying down debt to coping with ballooning expenses like health care or college tuition. Compounding the challenge is the macro environment. It’s been a difficult decade for investors and for the economy as a whole. The volatility and uncertainty—amplified by the 24-hour news cycle and media hype—only served to exacerbate the financial anxieties of plan participants. Add it all up and you have a combination of factors that can lead to inertia or reactionary decisions. These behaviors can get in the way of achieving long-term financial goals like saving for retirement. With this reality in mind, T. Rowe Price is enhancing its communications program. The program will be more personalized, holistic, and practical in the way it educates and interacts with employees. It’s an approach that allows the participant to be the driver of the communication process, creating alignment between personal life and plan life. Our cover story examines the research that drives this effort. It also provides a preview of personalized solutions that take into account the big picture—while helping participants take meaningful action in the present. Milestones in life trigger changes in saving and investing behavior To get a deeper understanding of when, why, and how participants engage with their plans, T. Rowe Price conducted proprietary studies. The first of these, dubbed “Milestones,” surveyed nearly 3,000 participants, as well as plan sponsors and intermediaries. PlanLink : july 2012 5

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