Communicating Through Volatility

In recent weeks, we’ve experienced some of the most impressive swings ever in the U.S. stock market. Naturally, this kind of roller-coaster ride causes participants concern. It’s more important than ever during times of volatility to remind them of the reasons to participate in their 401(k) plan, as well as the factors that went into their plan investment decisions.

Here are two key reminders to share with participants that could help them alleviate their fears. Doing so may be a critical factor in their long-term financial well-being.

Reminder: Stay in

If at all possible, participants should probably continue investing in the plan. It’s likely that some have already stopped participating or even taken hardship withdrawals. It’s also likely that some wake up every morning wondering if they should take their money and run. Reminding those participants that in most cases the plan

is the best means to save for the long-term could be helpful. As you provide information about any changes to the plan’s rules about accessing their money, be sure to include messaging about the benefits of staying in the plan. One great benefit, even in

the depths of a bear market, is the ability to invest at what may be deep discounts. By continuing regular periodic investments, participants potentially have the opportunity to purchase funds at what may turn out to be “bargain” prices.

Reminder: Stay invested

Any time your investment value drops, it is tempting to move everything into cash. It’s true that no one really knows what the markets will do tomorrow. That’s why focusing on strategy rather than current balances may save participants from big mistakes. Young participants should be congratulated for starting on the journey, and reminded that they have time to recover from market declines. Older participants — at least those who paid attention  to lessons from the past — have hopefully moved away from riskier investments, thus insulating themselves somewhat against market swings. All should be reminded that continuing regular investments in the plan, if possible, is a wise course.

Make your message easily understood

The basics of good communication are particularly important when times are challenging. Communicate clearly, using words that are simple and easily understood. Use real-life, personal examples when you can. Include graphics that emphasize and clarify the point you’re making. Highlight the main points with color, font size, symbols, or other creative means. Sum up with key action points or takeaways.

Communicating with plan participants becomes all the more important when things go off-track. Take a measured, thoughtful approach, remembering that participants need to hear the truth as well as empathy from their employer


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