GE Canada online retirement tool helps staff learn about decumulation scenarios

GE Canada has relaunched its online retirement tool to help employees understand how the organization supports them in saving for retirement and how they can optimize their financial picture.

The online tool, which the company initially rolled out a year ago, allows employees to combine all of their savings plans in one place so they can calculate their potential retirement date and learn about different ways to draw down their assets.

“We have a very strong mental-health strategy, and obviously financial health is an important part of keeping the stress levels down and maintaining mental health,” says Diana McNiven, manager of compensation and benefits at GE Canada.

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Among GE’s 6,500 Canadian employees, about half are in a defined benefit pension plan and the other half are in a defined contribution plan, says McNiven (all of the organization’s 11 defined benefit pensions are closed to new employees). The organization also offers employees access to a group registered retirement savings plan, a tax-free savings account and a stock purchase plan. Alongside the employer-provided plans, the online tool also allows employees to add savings outside of the workplace as well as government benefits, such as the Canada Pension Plan and old-age security.

“We have employees in defined benefit plans, and previously they would have to go to one source to get their defined benefit numbers and then go to another source to try to merge that in with all their other savings,” says McNiven. “We wanted them to be able to get that all in one place.”

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The online tool prompts employees to set a number of assumptions, including their planned retirement age, their expected income growth throughout their working life and how they want to invest their money until they retire. “What the tool will provide them is the anticipated retirement income they could have, based on all their savings and pension plans and everything at different ages,” says McNiven.

“It doesn’t just give it to them as one number. It’s a stochastic modelling tool, so they can see the risk, that it’s not a given you’re going to get whatever the number is . . . that it depends on the conditions and interest rates and market fluctuations and all that stuff.”

The tool then helps employees understand how to draw down their pension assets and sets out the various scenarios for doing so. “And then it will show you how fast your savings are going to draw down and what your gaps are to your preferred retirement income level, based on the age you’ve chosen to retire at,” says McNiven.

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The online tool is personalized to each individual employee and includes GE-specific videos and recorded webinars to help them understand their savings needs and how the company supports them. It also allows employees to model future promotions customized to the company’s organizational structure.

McNiven says the organization will relaunch communications around the online tool on an annual basis. Each month, it sends out pension and benefits newsletters to employees that focus on different topics. In January and February, for instance, it traditionally communicates financial topics.

“The tool supports our broader strategy to engage plan members in getting interested in and doing more effective planning for retirement and assisting employees with their financial planning to reduce the stress that can be associated with it as part of our mental-health strategy,” says McNiven.

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