Remember the games you played as a kid, in which you decided where you wanted to live and what kind of career you’d pursue as a grown-up? Now you can use that same play experience to help you plan for retirement.
Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust is using a similar idea to try to close the engagement gap workers have with their companies’ retirement plans. The business is introducing its new “Retirement City” game to help America’s workforce prepare, through play, for a better retirement.
The online game, which can be played on a computer, smartphone, or any connected device, is being released this month and is available to play at retirementcity.wellsfargo.com. It’s part of Wells Fargo’s overall effort to help people make meaningful financial changes to improve their financial health.
“Retirement City” blends quizzes, videos, mini games, scoreboards, calculators, an online resource library, and other elements to deliver financial wellness concepts focused exclusively on retirement. It recently earned first place for digital innovation in the Signature Award competition of The Plan Sponsor Council of America, a nonprofit trade group supporting employer-sponsored retirement plans.
“We know there are specific things people can do to improve their financial health outcome, and we continue to look for ways to expand our tools and engage our participants through our digital channels,” said Jon Graff, head of participant services for Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust. “I hope ‘Retirement City’ will help people think about their own personal financial situation and encourage them to take the next best step to move closer to their goal of getting to and through retirement.”
How to play
Players in “Retirement City” pick one of 40 avatars and move through five neighborhoods on a simulated journey to retirement. Along the way, they earn badges and rack up points as they learn retirement-saving basics, make choices (Pull-out-the-stops wedding or modest affair? New car or used car?) and see how life’s curves (Your house has been damaged by a storm and now there are repair costs) affect long-term saving. Similar to levels of a video game, the questions get harder as players move through neighborhoods.
Tapping the sciences of behavioral finance and social norming, “Retirement City” also lets gamers see how other players answered the same questions. As they play, a navigation bar ticks off the years for gamers until they reach retirement age and see how their score compares against the top 200 players. Players earn a certificate showing their score and badges earned. Most players complete the game in less than 15 minutes.
Gamifying the retirement industry
According to the Entertainment Software Association, 70 percent of major U.S. employers now use games for training and other purposes. But Olivia Jack, an analyst for Corporate Insight — a firm that specializes in customer experience research in financial services — said “Retirement City” currently has few equals in the retirement industry, where there’s a relative dearth of games.
Underscoring the need for games and other approaches to retirement plan education, she said one of the firm’s reports, Satisfying Today’s Retirement Plan Participant, found only 12 percent of about 1,500 survey respondents said they had accessed educational content on their company’s retirement plan site in the past year.
“Hopefully,” Jack said, “the emergence of games like ‘Retirement City’ and more innovative approaches like this will help to close the engagement gap.”
According to an August 2016 study Wells Fargo released from Harris Poll data, only one-third of the workers surveyed reported consistently saving for retirement. So far, workers age 30 and over reported saving an average of $40,000. Read more Wells Fargo research about America’s retirement readiness.
Before the game’s release, Wells Fargo Institutional Retirement and Trust tested the game at 16 different companies, finding that:
- 72 percent of eligible, non-participating employees said they’d be more likely to enroll in their company’s retirement plan after playing the game.
- 62 percent of participants said they’d be more likely to make a change to their account as a result of their experience.
- 80 percent of game players said they learned something new.
Jack Zaney, Wells Fargo’s director of institutional retirement technology, said Retirement City began as the “Game of Retirement” developed by the Retirement Technology team in Wells Fargo’s Wealth and Investment Management to shorten training time for new interns. When they spotlighted the game at the in-house iWeek expo of the Wells Fargo Innovators Club, the Participant Services team in Institutional Retirement and Trust took notice.
Mark Melendez, a Wells Fargo retirement educator in Minneapolis whose client companies range from technology to health care, travel and manufacturing, was one of those who tested the game in late 2016.
“As a retirement educator, I can suggest that participants play the game before the meeting and then use the results to better tailor my approach. Also, I like that participants can see how others answered the same questions,” Melendez said. “Initially, I thought ‘Retirement City’ may appeal only to younger workers, but I tried it with my family and my 65-year-old father-in-law loved it. It’s good information and a great experience that makes what can be a uniquely challenging and personal topic fun and informative for everyone.”
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