How participants weathered the challenges of 2020

John Hancock’s “State of the participant 2021”¹ report looks at saving and investing behavior—and progress toward retirement readiness—over the course of an unprecedented year. Despite obstacles associated with the pandemic, participants held the line with their retirement saving.

  • Retirement readiness dropped slightly in 2020

  • Most participants under age 50 remain retirement ready

  • Participants navigated market volatility effectively

  • Do-it-yourself investors are underweighted in equities

  • Auto features and personalized guidance boosted contribution rates

  • Some have big gaps to fill due to coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs)

Retirement readiness

Despite the severe health and economic challenges, on average, defined contribution (DC) plan participants came through 2020 with their account balances intact.

Monthly and total increases in participant account balances and the S&P 500 Index from March through September

Data is as of 9/30/2020. The S&P 500 Index tracks the performance of 500 large publicly traded companies in the United States. It is not possible to invest directly in an index. Past performance does not guarantee future results. Note that this chart includes data points only for the dates specified; therefore, values for 3/23 are not reflected.

Retirement planning

Introduced as part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, CRDs liberalized access to DC plan savings for participants directly affected by the virus. As the nation progresses toward recovery, some retirement savers find themselves with substantial gaps to make up for.

The potential long-term impact of unreplenished CRDs in three age groups


Projected average balance at age 65 without CRDs

Projected average balance with CRDs

Net effect on potential retirement savings

Under 30












Retirement investing

Although participants overall may have ridden with the market’s volatility, do-it-yourself investors² sought safety. As a result, many became underweighted in equities—potentially threatening their ability to generate the growth they’ll need going forward.

How self-directed investors invested their DC plan balances


We gauged the age appropriateness of a participant’s investment approach with the following target equity ranges:

Age range Under 30 30–39 40–49 50–59 60 and older 
Portfolio invested in equities 80%–100% 76%–96% 65%–85% 49%–69% 40%–50%


The progression of John Hancock’s target equity ranges reflects the concept of balancing growth potential with risk management as participants approach their anticipated retirement date.

See “Self-directed portfolios become more conservative,” (page 10)

Putting the research to work

  • Our financial professional resources help you automate your strategies to boost retirement readiness

  • Plan manager

    Use plan manager to automate your service strategy—saving you time and improving your productivity. 

  • Onboarding resource center

    Our digital resources help you get off on the right foot onboarding new plans and newly eligible participants to
    John Hancock.

1 All data is from our open-architecture platform, which included 1.1 million participants, 1,076 plans, and $76.6 billion in assets under management as of 9/30/2020, unless otherwise stated. 2 Self-directed investors exclude those holding one or two target-date funds, in a managed or brokerage account, or invested in a custom model portfolio.

For complete information about a particular investment option, please read the fund prospectus. You should carefully consider the objectives, risks, charges, and expenses before investing. The prospectus contains this and other important information about the investment option and investment company. Please read the prospectus carefully before you invest or send money. Prospectus may only be available in English.

The content of the document is for general information only and is believed to accurate and reliable as of the posting date but may be subject to change. John Hancock and its representatives do not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. Please consult your own independent advisor as to any investments, tax, or legal statements made herein.


MGTS-P44100-GE 02/21 44100