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COLUMBUS, Ohio – Nationwide Retirement Solutions is making a couple of key changes in its retirement education efforts – alterations offering pointers credit unions may want to keep in mind as they plan pre-retirement programs for their members. NRS, a subsidiary of Nationwide Financial, is one of the country’s leading providers of public-sector deferred compensation retirement plans. “We’ve made a pretty radical shift,” says Hillary Jeffers, senior public relations specialist at Nationwide. “We realize it’s not enough to pass out a fact sheet and a prospectus. That doesn’t really give people what they want to know. What they want to know is, `What does this mean to me? How does this affect my life, my retirement goals?’ “We have to present the information in a way that’s really going to motivate the behavior we want, which is to get them to participate in the program.” So NRS has been looking at adult education, and trying to understand how people learn. They’ve discovered there are different learning styles. Some people are very self-directed. Put information in front of them and they’ll read, research and act. Others require more than just seeing the information. They need to talk about it and apply it, perhaps through a worksheet. They want to plug in information that relates to their specific situation and see how investing can affect them. Then they go back home or to their desk and act on what they’ve learned. In addition to reviewing how people actually learn, Nationwide has launched a Web site (www.nrsespanol.com) designed to inform Spanish-speaking employees in its public sector plans about the value of retirement savings. Nationwide cites a report in the Yankelovich Monitor indicating only 26% of the Hispanic population consider themselves investors. The figure for Caucasians is about 55%. Federal data shows Hispanics hold individual savings averaging less than $1,800, compared to almost $20,000 for the general population. Jeffers believes the adult learning principles which apply to the general population hold true for Hispanics. “The most important thing is not what your native language is, but how you, as an individual, choose to learn,” she says. “We are taking the approach that everyone needs to plan for retirement and their own financial security. At this point we’re not treating Hispanics and Caucasians differently. But as time lets us test the overall effectiveness of our Web site and our program, we may need to modify that. We’re open to making adjustments.” Nationwide went outside the company for expertise to make certain the translations were good. The site was also tested on a small group of Spanish-speaking Hispanics to make sure the dialect and nuances were correct before it was rolled out to a wider audience. The cost really wasn’t exorbitant, Jeffers says – less than $10,000 – but the project actually started from scratch, because Nationwide already had a retirement education Web site. Several credit unions could perhaps share development costs, she agrees, with each customizing some details to fit the specific credit union. It simply makes sense, Jeffers says, for credit unions looking at retirement education to consider the needs of any Hispanic members. She notes Nationwide has found people are much more likely to research or invest – whatever the call to action – if they have learned about it in a face-to-face setting. To reach Hispanic members, that may mean a bi-lingual presenter who can respond to questions in English and Spanish, depending on the language that puts the questioner at ease. Jeffers offers some points to consider when thinking about attracting Hispanics: * Make sure the setting is comfortable for your intended audience. That may mean holding the session in a familiar school or church. * Have Hispanic music playing in the background to make people feel at home as they arrive. * Publicize the session in a way that appeals to your audience. Consider a church bulletin or company newsletter. -

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