2023 NAGDCA Leadership Award Recipients

Congratulations to the 2023 NAGDCA Leadership Recognition Award recipients! The awards recognize the brightest ideas and most innovative solutions from across the public sector defined contribution industry. Projects and campaigns from NAGDCA government members were eligible for nomination in five categories: Holistic Financial Wellness, National Retirement Security Month, Participant Education & Communication, Plan Design & Administration, Technology & Cybersecurity. Nominations were reviewed by the 2023 Awards Committee, and judged on originality and measurable results.

We encourage you to click below to learn more about the innovative, award-winning projects and campaigns!

Holistic Financial Wellness

Johnson County START Plan – Bring Your Healthy Future to Life

Financial wellness is not about wealth. Instead, the goal is about financial literacy and financial behavior that empowers employees to be in more control and confident in their personal finances to help reduce stress and anxiety. To promote Voya’s interactive, educational online Financial Wellness Experience as part of Johnson County’s 2022 “Your Wellness Matters” Program, the County partnered with Voya and Asset Health, Inc. to create a comprehensive communication strategy that made the Experience available to all employees, regularly promoted the County’s employee Wellness Incentive, and provided additional opportunities for deeper financial wellness engagement throughout the year. The 2022 “Bring Your Healthy Future to Life” campaign was comprised of a series of communications, educational materials, and webinars to promote financial wellness concepts, the Financial Wellness Experience, and help employees attain their Wellness Incentive.

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MERS Menu of Education

The Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) strives to help our participants establish and achieve their financial goals. We define being financially well as managing day‐to‐day spending, controlling debt, having money set aside for an emergency, and having a financial plan for the future. Taking control of your finances for both the present and future increases your likelihood of a successful and enjoyable retirement and relieves the stress and burden that financial uncertainty can cause. To increase engagement, staff revamped our offerings to be completely customizable. This is now presented as MERS Menu of Educational Options, which can be delivered in a wide variety of format options.

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National Retirement Security Month

Foodies and Finance

In conjunction with the United States Senate’s annual resolution for National Retirement Security Month (NRSM), the DCP hosts a month-long campaign to drive awareness for the importance of saving for retirement. NRSM is a critical component of the DCP’s overall communications plan each year as the campaign is one of the main drivers of participant engagement that appeals to all three of the City’s distinct audiences (active participants, retired participants, and non-participating eligible employees) to achieve greater participation, increased savings, sound distribution behaviors in retirement, and broader awareness of DCP services and features.

This year’s NRSM campaign, Foodies and Finance, was one of the most successful campaigns in the history of the DCP. Despite multiple competing awareness and action campaigns occurring within the City throughout the month of October, the DCP continues to offer beneficial and educational resources for its participants. Staff attributes this success to engaging and interactive exercises, educational content for all participants, and effective promotion of the campaign. The most encouraging indications of the campaign’s success were the participant behaviors taken to enroll into the DCP and increase contributions. Looking ahead to NRSM 2023, we’re committed to taking what we learned in 2022 and building an even more successful campaign that makes true retirement security a reality for more City of Los Angeles employees.

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County of Los Angeles 457(b) Horizons and 401(k) Savings Plans—Road Trip to Retirement

There’s no one-size-fits-all approach to building retirement readiness. Participants at different stages of the journey face different challenges—and the actions they should take to improve retirement security evolve over time. With this campaign, the County of Los Angeles used National Retirement Security Month 2022 to educate participants on how the process of saving and investing for retirement evolves as personal circumstances change. By using a “road trip to remember” theme, the County drove attendance to a series of webinars that raised participants’ awareness of how the retirement planning journey will continue to unfold—and how it requires ongoing engagement, education, and action. Campaign results show thousands of participants were engaged and took action toward improving their retirement security.

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Picture Your Future

The Gwinnett County Retirement staff and their partners at Voya worked together to develop a “Picture your future by putting your retirement first” theme to promote NRSM. The theme was brought to life by interactive selfie stations set up around the County, with the thought that visualization would help people develop better saving habits and lead to better outcomes in retirement. The campaign was supported by interactive activities, events, and seminars.

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Measure Twice. Retire Once.

National Retirement Security Month is a great time for State of Missouri employees to check their savings progress and verify they’re still on the right track to meet their retirement savings goal. It’s important for savers to know that what they do now will affect their retirement income in the future. By making smart financial decisions daily, and saving and investing throughout their career, state employees will be better equipped to meet their financial goals. With all of this in mind, the State of Missouri Deferred Compensation Plan created the Measure Twice. Retire Once. campaign to encourage plan participants to make smart financial decisions throughout their career and to check their savings progress over time. The educational campaign provided various tools, resources, and information to aid and inform plan participants when evaluating their savings situation.

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myNCRetirement Journey

DST has supported NAGDCA’s efforts to encourage members to save for retirement since 2006, when NAGDCA launched National Retirement Security Week. Our support continued when NAGDCA expanded its efforts by designating the entire month of October as National Retirement Security Month (NRSM) in 2020. Fast-forward to 2022, we took the opportunity to drive public servants throughout the state to take their next best steps — according to our plan data and our knowledge of common retirement planning hurdles.

With that in mind, we encouraged our public servants to:

  • Enroll
  • Increase contributions
  • Complete an undesignated beneficiary election(s)

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Participant Education & Communication

In-Language Campaign 

The City of Seattle’s vision is that all employees should have access to education about the City’s Deferred Compensation Plan and the benefits that the plan provides them in saving for retirement. With that in mind, one in five residents in Seattle speak a language other than English at home. The city defined what languages connect best with their diverse employee base and centered campaigns to connect with employees in their preferred language.

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Summer BBQ-Open Enrollment Campaign

Knowing State of Texas employees will only have about 50% of their pre-retirement income from their ERS retirement (defined benefit plan), Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS) partnered with Empower to bring awareness to the summer enrollment period (June 20 – August 15, 2022) by launching a custom, educational, informative and unique campaign to encourage enrollments among eligible higher education employees into the 457 plan, early- and mid-career legacy state employees who were not automatically enrolled in the 401(k) plan, and contribution increases and/or automatic contribution increase elections among participants who were still contributing the 1% or $20 minimum in the Texa$aver program (deferred compensation plan). The Summer BBQ campaign taught eligible employees and current participants that saving for retirement doesn’t have to be intimidating; by adding some extra flavor to their financial future and satisfying their appetite for more knowledge about the benefits of the plan, they can discover a full buffet of retirement possibilities.

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Women & Retirement

The Women & Retirement campaign targeted women taking part in the State of Michigan 401(k) and 457 Plans (the Plans) and was sent to all participants to broaden the reach. The campaign’s efforts included publications and design, social media, a webpage on the ORS website, emails, an education module, surveys, and Voya webinars and one-on-one appointments. Each month followed a similar track, with at least one email to kick off the topical theme, flyers or brochures containing relevant information, and social media posts to reinforce the message.

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Percent-of-pay and the Oregon Savings Growth Plan

In December 2022, Oregon Savings Growth Plan (OSGP) implemented a percent-of-pay option for participants. Previously, participants could contribute to OSGP by choosing a dollar amount of their annual salary but were unable to choose a percentage of their annual salary. Adding the percent-of-pay option to OSGP was seen as a big step toward helping participants save more over time. Reducing savings gaps across income, gender, and other demographic factors to ensure that all Oregon public employees have a better opportunity to save for “tomorrow” was a large factor in making percent-of-pay a priority. By choosing to use percent-of-pay, participants could now automatically give themselves an increase in retirement savings when they receive a promotion, or a salary increase. In early 2022, the Voya Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation released a whitepaper called “Reducing Savings Gaps Through Pennies Versus Percent Framing” on how a simplified approach to describing percent-of-pay can encourage participants to save more for retirement. This study found that simple reframing of a traditional subject led to more inclusive outcomes that reduced the savings gap and made savings more equitable across all people.

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ReadyTN: Setting Plan Advisors up for success leads to better participant outcomes

The Program determined that participants are more likely to make positive changes if they sit down one-on-one with a Plan Advisor who can provide customized recommendations for them. The Program and Empower promoted one-on-one meetings with Plan Advisors to participants and employers at every opportunity. Empower also created a comprehensive onboarding strategy to ensure that each Plan Advisor knew what their goals were for each interaction. Plan Advisors were trained extensively not only on the 401(k) and 457(b) deferred compensation plans, but also on the defined benefit plan by experts from Tennessee Consolidated Retirement System (TCRS). With regular reporting on progress toward goals, enhanced training, and heavy promotion of the Plan advisors, the number of participants meeting with a Plan Advisor has increased. In addition, participants’ satisfaction ratings with their Plan Advisor rose by quite a bit. Improved participant results and positive changes to plan metrics are also a result of this effort.

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Plan Design & Administration

State Match Incentive Campaign

The State of Missouri sought a match incentive for the MO Deferred Plan to serve as a powerful tool to attract, engage, and retain employees. The match incentive would help motivate employees to build saving habits earlier in their career, encourage their active contribution engagement, and improve their long-term retirement outcomes.

The State of Missouri worked with Governor Mike Parson to pass legislation to budget a $25-$75 monthly match incentive for state employees who contribute at least $25 a month to their MO Deferred Comp account. The budget was reviewed and passed by state legislature in May 2022 and became effective on July 1, 2022. Teaming up with the plan’s record keeper, MissionSquare Retirement, the State of Missouri Deferred Compensation Plan launched a match incentive campaign targeting eligible employees and participants saving less than $75 a month into MO Deferred Comp. The campaign was designed to create awareness of the new state match incentive and increase plan participation and savings.

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Roth Rollout

With a workforce representing different ages and financial needs, and to address increasing challenges in a competitive labor environment, the Deferred Compensation Board recognized the need for a plan design enhancement. The Board recognized that adding Roth after-tax source to the menu for its 457(b) Deferred Compensation Plan could go a long way to satisfying the needs its employees were expressing.
The service provider’s dedicated retirement counselors made it a focus and reason to get back to on-site education and covered the County’s different locations to explain and educate about Roth. Every communication channel was used fully, and the increasing trending of Roth adoption show that both the efforts successful and the demand warranted the journey to promote the new source.

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Deferred Compensation Plan Rollout

The SURS Deferred Compensation Plan (DCP) is a new voluntary 457(b) plan in accordance with Illinois Public Act 100-769. The DCP was made available on March 1, 2021, to 58 eligible employers who must adopt the plan before members may begin participation. All eligible employers were required to adopt the SURS Deferred Compensation Plan. The largest employers were added in December 2021 and the last eligible employer was added on April 1, 2023. When members start their careers with a SURS-covered employer, they are required to participate in one of the core qualified 401(a) retirement plans: the SURS Traditional Pension Plan, SURS Portable Pension Plan or SURS Retirement Savings Plan (formerly the Self-Managed Plan). These plans provide valuable benefits for retirement readiness however, some members may need additional savings to supplement those benefits to maintain a comfortable lifestyle in retirement. SURS members do not contribute to Social Security and many members who are eligible for Social Security through other employment will have their Social Security reduced.

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Technology & Cybersecurity

myMERS App

One of Municipal Employees’ Retirement System (MERS) strategic objectives is to transform our customers’ experience through seamless service delivery. To ensure our participants have access to their MERS retirement plan information anywhere they are – which can range from a fire station to a library to a hospital wing ‐ MERS launched the secure myMERS app. The myMERS app provides fast, free, and secure access to individual account information and resources helpful in charting one’s path toward retirement and overall financial goals.

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Virtual Financial Wellness Courtyard

Through technology, the County of San Joaquin found a new way to engage with their employees while still providing personal attention. The County transitioned to Nationwide in May 2022 and wanted employees to become familiar with their new Nationwide website and resources. In addition, they wanted to adjust to their hybrid workplace. The solution was a 3-D Financial Wellness Virtual Courtyard. It had pulsating lights, music, interactive and educational videos, 3-D greeters, mobility to visit 3 locations, downloadable educational content, ability to schedule and meet with their Nationwide Rep, options to schedule for live webinars or view on-demand webinars, and SanJoaquinDC.com website links to take further actions. Through education and engagement had 192 enrollments ($540K annual contribution increase), 522 contribution increases ($2.2m annual asset increase) and 25 rollovers in ($645m asset increase).

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