4 ways to design 401k plans that connect with your employees

4Q2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup Retirement and Investor Optimism Index results graph

The latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index reports a 2-point increase from the previous quarter. Click the image to see the full infographic of the results.

The 401k plan came into existence in the late 1970s and has now, after more than 30 years, become the primary savings tool for retirement. It’s a great tool, but saving for retirement is hardly simple. And boy, did those of us who design, administer, manage, and sponsor plans for employees get a big reminder of that in the most recent Wells Fargo/Gallup Investor and Retirement Optimism Index study.

When we asked American investors who have not yet retired if they would like to receive more retirement planning advice from their employers, 81 percent said “no!” When we asked, “Who do you most rely on for advice in your 401k plan?” only 22 percent answered the financial firm that runs their plan, and only 11 percent said their company’s benefits department. Thirty-nine percent rely on themselves, friends, and family.

These responses are in line with how employees have viewed their 401k plan for years, and another harsh reminder to our industry that employees rely on others’ advice much more than from the sponsors and administrators who offer and know the most about their plans. (Note: When I refer to advice provided by plan sponsors, I mean the advice tools they make available through their plans.)

As we think about the new year, here are four ways 401k plan administrators and sponsors can show participants we’ve got their backs:

  1. Embrace baby steps.

Any undertaking outside of what’s familiar can be daunting. Think about a health and fitness plan; is it easier to abruptly switch from a junk-food diet to healthy meals, or, to swap out one bad food choice for a healthier option? Then, once that’s mastered, move on to another? We should be offering the same strategy with our 401k education and guidance. When participants in 401k plans Wells Fargo administers view their 401k balances online, for example, they see how close they are to their retirement savings goal, and get recommended next steps like increasing their contribution rate by 1 percent to save even more – with just a simple click.

  1. Keep it simple.

When it comes to saving for retirement, we know that the best way to get started is to participate in an employer-sponsored 401k-type plan. But taking that first step can be difficult, so we need to make it as easy as possible. For example, when we offered simple postcards as a method of enrolling in a 401k plan last year, we saw a 17 percent average increase in enrollment.

Where possible, look for ways to simplify the process and keep it simple, which will go a long way toward increasing the number of those saving in, and benefiting from, these plans.

  1. Make saving and asset allocation automatic.

In our latest study, 75 percent of working Americans told us they favor automatic enrollment in 401k plans, and 66 percent want employers to allow them to automatically increase contributions on a regular basis. Consider automated solutions, such as auto-enroll and auto-contribution-increase to help drive better retirement savings habits.

When automatically enrolled in a plan, participants’ contributions are often put into a target date fund. Target date funds help people by designating a target retirement date and adjusting asset allocations accordingly. As a result, participants’ investments are allocated in a manner that considers their time-horizon to retirement — a critical success factor in retirement saving.

  1. Give participants someone to talk to.

At Wells Fargo, we believe in the power of conversation, which is why we offer 401k plan participants free retirement consultations. These conversations focus on a series of questions that help participants determine where they stand today, and, the retirement savings goal they want to achieve to make it to and through retirement. Not surprisingly, 46 percent take specific actions after these retirement consultations.

Clearly, we have a long way to go. Retirement planning can be confusing, and even understanding the first steps to take can be hard. But by working with plan sponsors to help make it as easy as possible for participants to get the help they need, we know we can make a difference.

4Q2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup Retirement and Investor Optimism Index infographic

About Joe

Ready is the director of Institutional Retirement and Trust for Wells Fargo, and he is based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He oversees employer-sponsored retirement plans as well as institutional trust and custody services provided by Wells Fargo, with a mission to help America’s diverse workforce prepare for a better retirement.

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Small Business Index score heralds business growth in 2015

4Q 2014 Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index results chart

The positive 58 score reported in fourth quarter 2014 is the highest since January 2008. Click the image to see the full infographic of the results.

2015 appears to have the makings of a good year for small business owners.

In our latest Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index survey, small business owners reported the highest level of optimism since 2008 as economic conditions continue to improve.

In a quarterly small business survey, conducted Nov. 10-14, the overall Small Business Index score increased significantly to positive 58 (+58) in November, up from a positive 49 (+49) in July 2014 and up 34 points from a year ago. While below pre-recession levels, the score, which measures small business optimism, is the highest it has been since January 2008 when it was positive 83 (+83).

Heading into 2015, business owners indicated they are more hopeful about the year ahead. They reported positive momentum in several areas, including:

  • Finances: 71 percent said they are expecting their overall financial situation to be very or somewhat good over the next 12 months.
  • Jobs: Hiring is expected to increase over the next 12 months, with 26 percent of small business owners reporting they plan to increase the number of jobs at their companies a little or a lot, compared to just 16 percent at the same time last year.
  • Revenue: 51 percent of small business owners said they expect their company’s revenues to increase a little or a lot over the next 12 months.
Perfit Yoga Wear store in Albuquerque

Perfit Yoga Wear store in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Perfit Yoga Wear, an Albuquerque, New Mexico-based women’s fitness clothing store, is among many businesses planning 2015 expansions.

Co-owners Kane Oueis and Katey Taylor opened the store six months ago and currently employ eight people but said they expect to double or triple that number as they expand into Arizona. And all that growth also means opportunities for promotions for their current staff.

Like many of the approximately 600 small business owners we surveyed, Kane and Katey feel good about where their business is headed in 2015.

Small business owners still face many challenges, but their concerns are less pronounced than in recent years. In fact, 52 percent of business owners surveyed said they are not worried about going out of business, and 58 percent said they aren’t worried at all about not being able to make minimum payments on their credit cards. That’s up more than 15 percentage points from 2011.

The survey data indicates that many of the businesses that survived the recession are financially stronger and stabilizing as the economy continues to improve. That’s a great sign, and one that inspires confidence for the year ahead.

While small business owners are a resilient bunch, they’ve faced a slower recovery from the recession than consumers at large. Plus, nearly a quarter of the business owners surveyed said they need to see further improvements in the economy and greater consumer confidence to feel like their business will thrive in 2015. With real GDP growth forecast to average 3 percent over the next two years, 2015 could be a breakout year for small businesses and the start of a significant rebound.

Perfit Yoga Wear founders Kane Queis and Katey Taylor.

Perfit Yoga Wear founders Kane Queis and Katey Taylor.

At Wells Fargo, we continue to do all we can to support small business owners every day. America’s economy depends on small businesses to succeed financially and to grow and add jobs. We know many challenges remain for small business owners, and we hope the optimism they reported in our survey is followed by opportunities for sales growth, that in turn leads to investments back into their businesses — and their communities — in the coming year.

About Doug

Case is Wells Fargo’s Small Business Segment manager responsible for the strategic direction of Wells Fargo’s focus on small business, which includes the Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM website on wellsfargo.com and its research, tools, and other resources for existing and prospective business owners. Today, Wells Fargo serves approximately 3 million small business customers with annual revenues up to $2 million. Since August 2003, the Wells Fargo/Gallup Small Business Index has surveyed small business owners on current and future perceptions about the financial condition of their businesses.

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Wells Fargo holiday commercial memories

I love the holidays for the focus on sharing and togetherness, and I had such a moment during the all-night shoot filming the scenes with the snowmen, stagecoach and horses as we created “The Stagecoach & The Snowmen” Wells Fargo holiday commercial in 2013.

As the filming progressed and the night wore on, it got colder and colder. To ward off the chill, we huddled next to space heaters and drank hot chocolate. Nearby, the horses nibbled on the carrots, their breath and bells the only sight and sound.

A happy-looking snowman feeds one of the stagecoach horses

A snowman lends a hand to a horse pulling the Wells Fargo stagecoach in a scene from the holiday TV commercial.

We shared laughs, oohs and aahs and stories throughout the night. It was a fun and memorable evening — knowing we had come together to create something special that people hopefully would love. The experience became a new addition to my holiday memory bank.

The storyline of our holiday commercial, back for an encore this year after half a million social media shares of the video and rave reviews in 2013, involves the stagecoach team lending a hand to a broken-down mail truck so children in a nearby town would get their presents in time.

Stagecoach and horses travel through a snowy landscape with tall mountains in the distance.

Some of the scenes in the commercial come from a January 2013 brand video and photo shoot in Wyoming.

Along the way, the horses encounter a family of snowmen who, in another act of giving, lend their carrot noses to give the horses strength for finishing their journey. Our first holiday commercial in nearly a decade, the spot renewed a long Wells Fargo tradition of holiday advertising.

Image shows a stagecoach driver unloading a Christmas tree. The caption reads: Season's Greetings from Wells Fargo Bank

The commercial continues a long tradition of Wells Fargo holiday-themed advertising. This print ad is from 1992.

The commercial reminds me of a famous real-life story of Wells Fargo coming through for its customers. Back in the 1860s, John Valentine, Wells Fargo’s president, was aboard a Wells Fargo stagecoach that got stuck in deep snow near the base of the Sierra Nevada Mountains.

The stagecoach delivers the gifts

The gift delivery scenes were shot at a Disney movie lot near Los Angeles.

Valentine unloaded and shouldered several mail sacks himself, and trudged miles through snow drifts to make sure they got to Wells Fargo’s customers in the closest town — values he codified in The “Expectations for Employee Conduct and Service” he printed in 1888, and that live on today in The Vision & Values of Wells Fargo.

Just like last year, the commercial begins airing on Thanksgiving Day and runs throughout December. That will include an NFL game on Thanksgiving, NBA games on Christmas Day, and other holiday sports, specials, and cooking shows. But there’s also a new Spanish-language version for 2014.

The spot combines action footage of Wells Fargo’s iconic stagecoach from the Rocky Mountains in Wyoming with special-effects snowmen and gift-delivery scenes shot at a movie studio in California.

Image shows a stagecoach driver in western clothing against the sky. The caption reads: Season's Greetings from Wells Fargo Bank

This Wells Fargo holiday TV commercial ran in the 1980s.

The stagecoach driver is Robin Wiltshire of Turtle Ranch in Dubois, Wyoming — a veteran horseman with a long line of movie credits and Wells Fargo work — and also features beautiful American quarter horses.

Everyone has something they particularly like about the commercial, and I certainly heard and read a lot of wonderful comments in 2013. From celebrities to our own team members, you told us you loved the themes of giving and working together and the reminder of the big difference small acts of kindness can make.

Of course, many of you also loved the wintry scenes of the Wells Fargo stagecoach and horses, the snowmen, the little boy and his dog, and the joy in the children’s faces.

My favorite moments are the horse taking the first carrot, and the driver tipping his hat to the snowmen.

Enjoy our holiday commercial encore. Something tells me we won’t go another 10 years before the next one!

See the Wells Fargo Stories website for more coverage. Note: Due to talent rights, the commercial is no longer available for online viewing since it could only be aired and viewed during both holiday seasons.

About Jamie

Moldafsky leads Wells Fargo’s Enterprise Marketing team, which includes advertising, social media, sponsorships, the stagecoach appearance program, and the company’s 11 history museums.

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Fraud protection: Five things you can do

As the holiday shopping season ramps up, we remain ever vigilant to protect our customers’ accounts from fraud, and join the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners this week in its celebration of International Fraud Awareness Week (Nov. 16-22).

Fraud remains a widespread problem. In 2013, more than 13 million Americans were victims of identity fraud — that’s a new case of identity fraud every two seconds.

While there’s no way to completely protect yourself from fraudulent attempts to access your confidential information, these five fraud protection tips can help you safeguard your personal and financial information:

Use Online Banking to keep a close eye on all of your accounts.
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  • It’s important to review your statements, but you should also regularly monitor your accounts at wellsfargo.com and report any suspicious transactions to us immediately. The sooner we hear from you, the faster we can act to help prevent any fraud or loss.
Set up online and mobile alerts to stay on top of your account activity.
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  • Wells Fargo Online® customers can set up alerts to be sent to your email or wireless device. Alerts notify you of a variety of account activity, including when your balance is below an amount you specify or when a withdrawal, deposit or check posts to your account. Alerts can also serve as a warning of unusual or unauthorized activity. If you’re alerted of a suspicious transaction, contact Wells Fargo immediately.
Learn to recognize fraudulent email, phone calls and text messages.
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  • “Phishing” is a type of email scam in which fraudsters attempt to get personal or account information by luring unsuspecting customers to a spoof website. There are also variations on phishing that use text messaging, phone calls, and even low-tech methods like regular mail.
  • To help avoid falling victim to these scams, use caution if you receive a communication expressing an urgent need for you to update your information, activate your online banking account or verify your identity. Never open attachments, click links, or respond to emails, texts or other communications from suspicious or unknown senders. If you receive a suspicious email that appears to be from Wells Fargo, report it and delete it. Learn more about common methods fraudsters use.
Safeguard your computer and mobile device.
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  • Ensure your computer’s operating system, software (including anti-virus), browser version and plug-ins are current. Before downloading an update to your computer program, visit the company’s website to confirm the update is legitimate. Avoid downloading programs from unknown sources.
  • To ensure the highest level of protection, keep your mobile operating system up to date and do not “jailbreak” your mobile device, which alters the operating system and can impact security protections. If you have concerns about an update to your device, visit the company’s website to confirm the update is legitimate.
  • Be cautious when using public hotspots for Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connections, even at a trusted retailer, as fraudsters can spoof the name of reputable hotspots.
Don’t overshare on social media.
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  • Social media is increasingly popular, but it’s wise to keep certain personal information private. Avoid sharing personal details that financial institutions may use to identify you, like your birth date, home address, mother’s maiden name, schools attended/mascots and pets’ names. Fraudsters may use this information to help gain access to accounts through online and mobile banking, since these identifiers are common answers to security questions. Remember: pause before you post.

See our financial education website for more tips on protecting yourself against identity theft and fraud.

About Lisa

Lisa H. Robinson leads risk, security, and governance for Wells Fargo’s virtual channels, including mobile banking, wellsfargo.com, contact centers, and associated digital properties. Her team also manages the Fraud Information Center and provides fraud prevention tips and tools for Wells Fargo customers.

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5 ways Wells Fargo is helping military heroes become homeowners

DeVito (fourth from left) and members of the Mortgage Bankers Association and Military Warriors Support Foundation welcome Lance Corporal Nino Ray Capanang and family to their mortgage-free home in Las Vegas.

DeVito (fourth from left), Wells Fargo teammates, and members of the Mortgage Bankers Association and Military Warriors Support Foundation welcome Lance Corporal Nino Ray Capanang and family to their mortgage-free home in Las Vegas.

Returning home from military service is always a reason for celebration, but the challenges and choices facing these heroes are many.

A case in point: According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the unemployment rate for veterans aged 18-24 in 2013 was 24.5 percent, vs. 15.8 percent for nonveterans in the same age group.

There are 22 million veterans in the U.S. today, although this number is expected to dip over the next decade. Nevertheless, ongoing conflicts around the globe mean helping military heroes become homeowners remains an important part of helping veterans re-adjust to civilian life. And our nation’s 1.3 million active-duty servicemen and servicewomen also need support in reaching their financial goals.

As the nation’s leading home lender, Wells Fargo is committed to helping veterans and active-duty military members become homeowners. Here are five ways we’re helping them realize the dream of homeownership:

  • For more than 50 years, Wells Fargo’s Worldwide Military Banking program has provided a wide range of deposit and loan products and specialized benefits and discounts for military servicemembers.
  • The Military Mortgage Express® program at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage offers special military financing programs for servicemembers when buying or refinancing their home.
  • Wells Fargo’s Hands on Banking® site, our free financial-education program, is customized and tailored to the needs of veterans and active-duty service members and their families. The program is available in English and Spanish.
  • Our Military home donation program works with nonprofit partners like the Military Warriors Support Foundation and Operation Homefront to provide 100 percent mortgage-free homes to wounded veterans, along with financial education and counseling to ensure their long-term success. In the past three years, the program has donated more than 160 homes to veterans and their families.
  • Wells Fargo actively seeks to hire and retain military veterans, veterans with disabilities, and active military personnel. We have approximately 7,500 self-identified veteran team members as of July 2014. We have hired more than 520 veteran team members in the first half of 2014 and recently announced our commitment to increasing our veteran team member population to 20,000 by 2020.

These efforts to help our military heroes achieve their dreams of homeownership appear to be making an impact. Demand for housing among veterans is up across the industry, and veterans now account for nearly 7 percent of all mortgage applications. According to data from the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act, the number of Veterans Affairs mortgages for home purchase increased 66 percent from 2008 to 2013.

While progress is being made, there is certainly more work to do to help our military heroes move more quickly down the path to financial security and homeownership. We remain dedicated to helping those who protect the frontlines of freedom.

Please join me in thanking our veterans and active servicemen and servicewomen for their service and consider how you can find ways to serve and lead in your own community.

About Michael

DeVito is the head of mortgage servicing for Wells Fargo Home Lending.

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Wells Fargo salutes military veterans with pledge to hire more

Rich Baich of Wells Fargo speaks at the 2014 Close It Summit

Chief Information Security Officer Rich Baich talks about Wells Fargo’s efforts to help veterans transfer their skills to the workplace.

November is always a special time for me and for our country as we celebrate Veterans Day and honor military veterans and current service members for their sacrifices. Growing up in a military family and now married to a veteran, I’m thrilled to be part of a company proactively supporting our military communities.

We’ve already eclipsed the three-year $35 million commitment we made in 2012 for veteran housing, career transition, and financial education ― having donated more than $49 million.

Now we have other big news: We have committed to increase our veteran team member population to 20,000 by 2020!(We currently employ 7,500 team members who self-identify as veterans.) To achieve this, we’re enhancing our already robust veteran hiring efforts.

In my role as head of recruiting at Wells Fargo, I understand the value veterans bring to the workplace, including skills such as leadership, discipline, and service, and am asked often by other companies about what’s working.

7 ways we’re helping veterans find employment and build their careers

  1. We conduct targeted outreach efforts and post-career opportunities on military sites like HireVeterans, Hero2Hired, and RecruitMilitary. Since 2012, we have also participated in more than 500 military job fairs.
  2. We encourage managers to attend our “Enterprise Value of a Veteran” training program to learn best practices for recruiting and retaining veterans, and provide online resources for veteran candidates. For example:
  1. Each year, we also contact all self-identified veteran team members to share information about Wells Fargo’s career development process, tools, and resources.
  2. We support veteran scholarship programs like the Veterans Employment Initiative.
  3. For veteran team members, we provide salary-differential pay and other benefits when they’re mobilized for military service. We also provide complete re-employment rights for those who take extended leave to fulfill military-related service, and if their pre-leave position is no longer available, we work to find comparable positions.
  4. Our Veterans’ Team Member Network group allows veterans to share experiences, network for professional development, promote Wells Fargo in military-related community outreach events, and act as a sounding board so the company can better serve its military customers.
  5. Taking part in efforts like the Close It Summit allows us to tap veterans with specialized skill sets.

If you’re a veteran or know a military service member searching for employment, please share these helpful resources and learn about our careers for military veterans and support for service members and their families.

About Carly
Sanchez is head of recruiting for Wells Fargo.

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Small Business Lending: Local investments, local results

Because of small businesses’ importance to the nation’s economic growth and our communities, we consider them to be one of the most important groups of customers that we serve. As a leader in Small Business Administration (SBA) lending, we want to further increase the number of loans that we make to small business owners, and build on a strong track record.

As the new head of SBA Lending for Wells Fargo, I’m thrilled to share that according to SBA 2014 data, Wells Fargo is the top SBA lender in dollar volume for the sixth consecutive year. In fact, from Oct. 1, 2013, to Sept. 30, 2014, we approved a record $1.6 billion in SBA 7(a) loans for small businesses. That’s 4,036 SBA 7(a) loans overall ― a 10 percent increase in dollars and a 16 increase in the number of loans from 2013.

Over the past six years, Wells Fargo has increased its SBA 7(a) lending 72 percent in the number of loans we’ve made and 96 percent in dollars. Each loan helps small businesses grow and add jobs, and when small businesses do well, so do local communities and the overall economy.

Take L’Escargot, a popular French restaurant in Carmel, California, that was founded in 1958. Current owner and executive chef Kerry Loutas got a great opportunity this year to buy the building he’d been leasing, which would allow him to quit making rent payments.

Kerry says that buying the building with a Wells Fargo SBA 7(a) loan has been a great move for L’Escargot and its staff — ensuring the stability of the business by providing regular monthly payments, building equity for the future, while allowing him to expand the restaurant and create two new jobs.

Another SBA success story is Larry Chavez and his Dreamstyle Remodeling business in Albuquerque, N.M. Since 2007, his home-improvement and remodeling company has grown so rapidly he’s added 200 employees. Larry knew the importance of finding the appropriate financing for his company to expand into new markets, and is using his SBA loan to do just that. In addition, the loan is enabling the company to introduce innovative ideas and products that can further strengthen its future.

By increasing our SBA lending, we want to give more businesses the opportunities L’Escargot and Dreamstyle Remodeling realized to thrive, add jobs, and have a lasting impact on economic development.

If you’re preparing to finance your first entrepreneurial venture, or thinking about growing your business, consider SBA lending. It could be the best option for your business. Talk to your banker about all the financing options available. To learn more about SBA lending, including applying for an SBA loan, visit the Wells Fargo Works for Small BusinessSM website at wellsfargoworks.com.

How to navigate the SBA Loan Process infographic

All financing is subject to credit approval and SBA eligibility.

About Donna

A veteran of Wells Fargo and SBA lending, Serres is the head of Wells Fargo’s SBA Lending team. She is dedicated to building customer-focused teams and partnering with the Regional Banking team to serve and develop long-term relationships with small business owners and entrepreneurs.

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Construction industry forecast: rising activity among findings

Back in February, I wrote about optimism in the construction industry, citing evidence from a Wells Fargo survey that suggested construction contractors and equipment distributors were rather bullish about 2014.

Recently, we surveyed them again to see what might have shifted as attention turns to 2015. Here’s what we discovered in the Second-Half 2014 Construction Executive Survey:

  1. Construction activity continues to rise. In fact, we saw a more rapid increase this year in the percentage of respondents reporting stronger construction activity than a year ago. More executives said they are seeing “somewhat higher” or “much higher” construction activity than at any time during our surveys over the past five years.
  2. Equipment rental is up. In a slow-but-steady economic recovery, contractors have demonstrated some hesitancy to invest in equipment for the long term and have become more frequent renters of what we in the industry call “yellow iron” — or those large pieces of equipment you see at large-scale construction sites.
  3. Contractors are noncommittal to purchase equipment they’ve been renting. Even as the U.S. economy shows signs of improving and industry executives acknowledge the ongoing increase in construction activity, contractors appear uncommitted about making long-term investments in the construction equipment they’re already renting.
  4. Equipment designed for new emissions standards is meeting performance expectations. Almost 80 percent of respondents said Tier IV equipment (which meets new construction equipment emissions standards) has been performing as well as or better than equipment from previous generations.
  5. The industry prefers “use-based” taxes. An important conversation in the construction industry right now is about U.S. Highway Trust Fund legislation, which determines how the federal government will collect funds that go to building roads, bridges, and other infrastructure. We asked what executives thought the best long-term solutions would be and most of them identified “use-based” revenue models. For example, use-based tax revenues would be generated from toll roads, an increased gas tax, or a mileage-driven tax. An example of a non-use tax would be a corporate tax or an income tax. Respondents overwhelmingly favor use-based funding to fill the coffers of the U.S. Highway Trust Fund, representing the idea that, although we all benefit from these public goods, those who actually drive on the roads and bridges should be the ones who pay for them.

The bottom line is that the construction industry continues to expand and we expect to see added investment in projects and equipment in 2015. Changes in equipment emissions standards and some uncertainty about the sustainability of economic growth and federal infrastructure spending are tempering enthusiasm for some in the industry. However, we remain very optimistic about the opportunities for growth in the year ahead.

About John

Crum has worked in the construction equipment finance industry for the past 20 years, holding a variety of positions in sales and credit management. He joined Wells Fargo Equipment Finance in May 2006 and currently serves as national sales manager of its Construction Group.

About Wells Fargo Equipment Finance

Wells Fargo Equipment Finance provides a wide range of capital equipment financing and leasing services for core U.S. industries such as construction, commercial vehicles, healthcare, and manufacturing. We’re the second-largest-bank-affiliated equipment leasing and finance business in the U.S. by asset portfolio and annual origination.

What do you think?

How are you feeling about the construction industry this year? What insights do you have about the topics from the survey? Share your comments below.

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Saving with a 401k: 4 tips for success

Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study Leaving Money on the Table image showing retirement savings gap no caption required description Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement survey graphic showing savings gapWe’re in the middle of National Save for Retirement Week as well as the open enrollment season when millions of employees enroll for benefits at their companies.

That includes the 401k. Saving with a 401k plan remains one of the best ways you can build your retirement nest egg.

I work with thousands of companies across the U.S. who invest a great deal of time and resources each year to design retirement plans that their employees will want to take advantage of. It’s no secret why.

Just as we know from our own research, they know that people with access to a 401k-type plan save a median of 10 times more than those without access to a similar plan!

Why? I believe it’s the ease of systematic, payroll-deduction investing and savings, plus the potential of a company match that may come along with a 401k.

In addition, the latest findings from our Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study tell us that an overwhelming majority of people with access to 401ks wouldn’t have saved as much for retirement without the plans, and that they make it easy to save for retirement.

When selecting benefits, it’s completely understandable that people think in terms of “must have” and “nice to have” or “mandatory” and “elective.” But participating in a 401k shouldn’t be considered optional or something put off until later.

Seventy-two percent of the middle-class consumers we surveyed about retirement say they should have started saving for retirement earlier, and 55 percent say they plan to save “later” for retirement in order to “make up for not saving now.”

4 keys to 401k plan success

  1. Make sure you’re in the plan. It can be tempting to sacrifice for the short term when there are so many competing expenses, but starting sooner rather than later helps.
  2. Save at least enough to take full advantage of a company match, if one is offered. If you can’t get there right away, create a plan to increase savings rates on a regular basis until you’re there. Even gradual changes help.
  3. Look at your asset allocation. That’s where your money is invested within the plan. If you aren’t inclined to make your own selections, consider a type of managed account in your 401k, or a target date fund.
  4. Examine your budget. People in our survey tell us they are saving about $125 a month on average, and about half said they would cut spending tomorrow in certain areas to save for retirement. Taking inventory of your income and how you’re spending money can help identify opportunities to redirect dollars toward retirement. See how even small steps can add up to big savings with this retirement-savings calculator.

Finally, if you have questions, ask your retirement plan provider.

Enroll in your company’s 401k and start saving today.

Infographic showing results of the 2014 Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement Study No caption required description 2014 Wells Fargo Middle Class Retirement study infographic

About Joe
Ready is the director of Institutional Retirement and Trust for Wells Fargo, based in Charlotte, North Carolina. He oversees employer-sponsored retirement plans as well as institutional trust and custody services provided by Wells Fargo, with a mission to help America’s diverse workforce prepare for a better retirement.

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Our anti-bullying commitment goes beyond Spirit Day

I am concerned about the many forms of bullying that impact today’s youth: Intimidation on the playground, isolation in middle school, cyberbullying in high school. Adults also face bullying — workplace harassment and domestic violence are a reality for far too many people.

Whatever its source, there are common feelings that unite all of us who have ever been bullied or watched our children be bullied: A sense of hopelessness, overwhelming defeat, and even fear of the future.

CEO John Stumpf poses with Wells Fargo team members in San Francisco on Spirit Day.

This problem is a serious one, and LGBT youth are especially vulnerable. According to the latest National School Climate Survey conducted by the Gay Lesbian & Straight Education Network (GLSEN), more than 80 percent of LGBT students reported being verbally harassed last year because of their real or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.

The effects of bullying have resounding consequences. LGBT students who face bullying and violence are more likely to skip school, receive lower grades, and drop out of school. They are also less likely to attend college. According to studies by the Trevor Project, a national organization providing crisis-intervention services, LGBT youth are four times more likely to commit suicide than young people in general.

Wells Fargo’s dedication to addressing this issue will be displayed on Spirit Day, Oct. 16, when team members join millions of supporters in the U.S. wearing purple to show their solidarity with LGBT youth.

I’m proud to work at an institution that stands steadfastly for hope and opportunity. These are core values for Wells Fargo across all communities it serves. And where there is hope and opportunity, there is no tolerance for a bully.

Significantly, our commitment extends far beyond this one day. Wells Fargo is one of the largest corporate supporters of organizations such as GLSEN, the Trevor Project, and GLAAD (formerly the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation).

Last year, for example, we partnered with GLSEN to get Safe Space Kits into every middle and high school in the U.S., so that each school is equipped with a curriculum and the tools for creating visible allies and safe havens for students when they feel threatened. That means more hope and more opportunity when kids need it most.

Commitment must extend beyond one day, one month, and even one year. So remember that this important work must continue as long as bullying is a threat to anyone.

About Pat

A 36-veteran of Wells Fargo, Callahan leads the company’s Chief Administrative Office, which includes management of Corporate Communications, Enterprise Marketing, and Government and Community Relations.

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