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Retirement Fairs

Credit Union :Illinois Credit Union League
Assets :
Address :1807 W Diehl Rd | Naperville, IL 60563
Start Date :September 2012

Additional Information :

Background Information
Retirement Fairs are designed to get participants thinking about their desired lifestyle during their golden years and more importantly building their understanding of how much savings they will need to fund their lifestyle decisions.

Retirement fairs are organized by starting with a brief orientation, and then participants visit lifestyle booths which represent the seven major spending categories they will experience during retirement. Retirement fairs host booths on housing, transportation, food & clothing, health, entertainment & travel, communications/technology and gifts & donations.

During the hour-long event, participants visit each lifestyle booth, where a volunteer asks a series of questions to help them envision their expected spending in each category. Using information the volunteer shares about the national average (%) of money spent in the category, as well as ranges of spending for the specific category, participants complete a spending worksheet. The worksheet helps quantify the participant’s expected spending which will be used to calculate their retirement income needs.

During the wrap-up portion of the retirement fair, participants learn to calculate their anticipated overall spending during retirement which is determined based on their answers to questions at each of the lifestyle booths. The exercise of visiting each booth forms a picture of the retirement years, and as a tangible reminder of the fair, each participant leaves with their personalized, predictive retirement calculator worksheets.

Target Market
Retirement fairs are designed to be relevant to all adults, regardless of age. While any one from college aged to nearing retirement (ages 20-60) can benefit from attending a fair, the younger the participant the better. Younger aged participants are best able to make incremental changes to their current retirement savings plan while having the largest impact on their cumulative return. The younger attendees do, however, have some challenges picturing themselves during retirement, so it is important for them to receive the message of ‘start early – retire comfortably.’ The real sweet spot age for retirement fair participation is around 40 years. This is when attendees see retirement as an approaching reality while at the same time having established their financial foundation to allow them to focus on the recommended savings plan for success.

The goal of retirement fairs is to promote financial literacy and community outreach and they have two distinct audiences: credit union staff and consumers (both members and non-members). Whether the host has a goal to educate their staff, provide financial literacy to their members, or outreach to sponsor companies; retirement fairs provide a comprehensive, concise and turnkey forum on the importance of financial planning for retirement.

The necessary number of attendees at a retirement fair is completely determined by the fair’s host and their goals, but a target of 25-30 participants per event is a good benchmark. However, smaller groups of participants, say around a dozen, should not be overlooked as they can lead to more intimate conversations and one-on-one interactions.

Marketing Strategy
The Illinois Credit Union League has conducted seven retirement fairs to date, reaching over 200 participants. Two of the fairs have been in partnership with credit unions. But their commitment to this experiential learning program hasn’t stopped there, as they have also trained nearly thirty credit union staff members who will be able to coordinate future fairs and assist with fair booth operations.

A key marketing message for the League’s retirement fairs is the growth opportunity they present for credit unions. Credit unions hosting retirement fairs are able to attract current members and non-members alike. Non-members are drawn to the educational session and leave with a complete picture of credit union’s offerings. Current members are showcased the retirement related accounts (IRAs & senior accounts) and investment services offered by the credit union while at the same time being reminded that they can keep their accounts at the credit union when they retire. Finally, the opportunity to use the fairs as personal and professional development for their own credit union staff members should not be overlooked.

In order to continue to get the word out on this exceptional learning opportunity, the Illinois Credit Union League plans to conduct a retirement fair, as well as a train-the-trainer session, during the Chapter Leaders Conference this summer. These events will provide chapter officials with an opportunity to experience the fair and see how the credit unions can work locally to conduct fairs.  

Success Measurement
According to Melanie Murphy, Manager of Member Services for the Illinois Credit Union League, the success of a retirement fair isn’t determined solely on the reaction to that day’s event, it is also how participants engage with the materials and knowledge gained in the weeks and months following the fair. “Everyone is encouraged to revisit the retirement fair worksheets on a regular basis and to make adjustments to their plan calculations as they get closer to retirement,” shares Murphy. She also recommends sending out follow-up communications to fair participants a few months after the event. Murphy shares that this communication chiefly serves to reinforce the knowledge obtained during the fair, but also helps determine whether tangible actions (increased contributions to 401(k), opening IRA, etc.) were taken by attendees.

Program Results
According to Murphy, feedback from the retirement fairs has been very positive. Participants said the fair was a fresh approach to looking at and planning for retirement. They liked the interaction involved at the booths and appreciated the personalized results worksheets.

At the retirement fairs hosted by the Illinois Credit Union League there have been many “aha” moments when participants gain new insights into various aspects of retirement, both planned and unforeseen. Planning for retirement can be fun, thinking about the travel and time spent enjoying family and friends. But life can take unexpected turns, and your retirement plans can be impacted by unforeseen health issues or the need for family members to move home. These are specifically the types of life events which are explored and examined during the retirement fair. Leaving no stone unturned helps paint a complete and accurate picture of the participant’s life during their golden years.

The fairs have a track record of building a bridge of knowledge about the value of planning and preparing for life events. “The statistics about how poorly prepared most Americans are when it comes to planning for retirement resonated with everyone who has attended one of our retirement fairs and served as a “wake-up” for participants,” says Murphy. “In fact, several people have made appointments with financial planners to discuss saving for retirement as a result of attending the fair.”