COVID-19: working through a time of change

In this period of unprecedented change, we've got the resources you need to understand new legislation, find help for your business, run virtual meetings, and navigate the new normal.

A message from Patrick M. Murphy, CEO, John Hancock Retirement


The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act was passed by Congress and signed into law by the president on March 27, 2020. This act is the latest round of federal government support relating to the COVID-19 public health crisis and associated economic turmoil, and contains some significant retirement plan provisions. The CARES Act offers financial relief by temporarily relaxing the rules on three key provisions of qualified retirement plans.

Coronavirus-related distributions of up to $100,000 may be allowed in 2020 without penalty—for participants in eligible retirement plans—if they meet certain conditions. 


The relaxation of loan rules includes a temporary increase in the maximum loan amounts and a one-year extension to repayments due between March 27, 2020, and December 31, 2020.  


The 2020 required minimum distribution (RMD) waiver would allow plans to suspend making RMDs in 2020 and would apply to participants who turned age 70 1/2 in 2019 and had not yet received their 2019 distribution. 


Helpful resources for our business partners

Use these links to find help for small business owners, guidance from health authorities, and resources for retirement plan professionals.

COVID-19-related help from the U.S. Small Business Administration and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce

Go to the U.S. Small Business Administration website Go to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website

Critical information from health authorities

Go to the Centers for Disease Control website Go to the World Health Organization website Use this directory of local health departments

Resources for third-party administrators from the National Institute of Pension Administrators (NIPA)

Read about COVID-19 with NIPA

Information from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) on the government's response to the COVID-19 pandemic

Go to the FEMA website Get the facts on COVID-19 See how you can help

Virtual meetings fill the social distancing gap

Like many of you, most of us are working from home, but that doesn’t mean meetings stop—we just move them online.

How to go virtual with enrollment and education

There are several virtual options for educating participants and enrolling them in their plans: live and recorded webinars, one-on-one calls, multimedia, and interactive online tools.

Reach out to your relationship manager to set up and run virtual education meetings and share our best practices. We're here to help!  

Use our prepackaged market dynamics education campaign 

Retirement savers need education and guidance now more than ever. Whether you have a John Hancock plan or not, you can use our prepackaged market dynamics campaign to run education meetings, with flyers in English and Spanish.  

Making retirement plans work—despite the uncertainty

We're continuously monitoring, measuring, adjusting, and responding to meet the changing needs of our financial professionals, plan sponsors, and participants.

Our continued commitment to service

We’re fortunate to have a robust suite of virtual tools that allows us to continue to work effectively with each other and our business partners. Our planning, preparation, and testing mean that we’re ready to meet our clients' expectations as we collectively work through the realities of a global pandemic. 

Read about our response to COVID-19 Read about our response to the CARES Act

Our continued commitment to community

John Hancock, Boston Athletic Association, Governor Baker, and Mayor Walsh: Join us in turning the Commonwealth blue to thank the front lines  

Read the press release and access gratitude messages you can share

Participant activity amid the volatility

Since the pandemic began, more than 9 in 10 of our participants have left their retirement plans alone

After an increase in March, call volume into our service center and web traffic have both come down. Within the calls, inquiries about coronavirus-related distributions (CRDs) and other CARES Act provisions continued to grow, with CRDs representing 16% of call volume in May and CARES Act loan and required minimum distributions (RMD) calls making up another 2% of calls. 

Although the number of our participants taking CRDs grew 415% from April to May, that number was still quite low, with less than 1% of our participants having taken a CRD. The average CRD taken was $21,304—in the two months combined—well short of the $100,000 limit. 

In May, the percentage of participants lowering their contributions came down to 2.3%. This made May 2020 look more like May 2019—when 2% lowered their contributions—than March 2020, when 3.4% of participants did so.

Few made investment changes, but those who did sought security

We see other encouraging signs as well, with most participants leaving their investments as is. After we did a focused multimedia campaign to help participants understand short- and long-term savings strategies and how to weather market volatility, we saw that only 0.80% of our participants made changes to their investments in March. In May, that came down to 0.25% of participants. 

Among those who reallocated their investments, however, we did see some interesting changes. Since the market volatility began, most participants had made glide path types of changes—with younger people generally staying in the stock market and older people generally becoming more conservative. In May, however, we saw a huge increase in people moving to more conservative stable value and other fixed-income investment options. 

In a surprise twist, the move to stable value and fixed income was driven by participants younger than 30. It seems that as the market rose closer to its previous high, many (young) investors saw the opportunity to put more of their portfolio in more conservative investments. Generally, many millennials in our plans are overly allocated to fixed income; these are the children who saw their parents’ portfolios take a hit in the 2008/2009 recession who may be trying to protect their portfolios from the same fate. 

Help with the new normal

Working from home? Managing a team remotely? It comes with extra challenges when everyone in your household is also home. We’ve got some best practices for the new remote workplace and some ideas to keep your kids busy.

Set yourself up for success 

Managing your team remotely?

  • Leading teams remotely webinar from Harvard Business School 
  • Tips for managing remote workers from LEADx
  • How smart leaders can help their teams navigate the global COVID-19 crisis webinar from Bates Communications   


Try socializing from a distance

Schedule a virtual coffee klatch, water cooler conversation, lunch and learn, or happy hour with your favorite video conferencing app.

Here's how we're keeping our kids occupied while we're all home together

Cook together

  • Stage your own episode of Chopped with whatever you have in the pantry
  • Order pre-prepped recipes and make dinner as a family
  • Have each family member pick a night to cook or to choose the meal

And make clean up more fun with a dance party set to the kids' favorite music.  

Fun ways to reach out to the grandparents

  • Have the grandparents read bedtime stories on Facetime or a video call
  • Invite remote family members to play Words with Friends, Quiz Up, Fleet Battle, or any of your other favorite game apps
  • Host a trivia or Pictionary night with the cousins on your favorite video conferencing platform 


More digital resources for kids and families

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