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March 28, 2006
Employers See Grim Retirement Outlook for Most Workers

Nearly 4 in 10 employers say that half or more of their workers won't have saved enough money to retire between the ages of 62 and 65, according to a new survey.

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Nationally, 39 percent of 1,071 U.S. employers surveyed in the "National Employee Benefits Trends Survey" believed 50 percent or more of their workers would not have enough savings to retire between 62-65. The survey, conducted by Aon Consulting (www.aon.com), also reported on these findings by region: The least optimistic region was the Central (43 percent) followed by the Southeast (41 percent). Employers in the West (33 percent) and Northeast (37 percent) had a modestly better outlook.

Meanwhile, while most (74 percent) of employers that offer 401(k), 403(b) or 457 plans report that half or more of their employees contribute to the plans, only 19 percent of these employers believe their workers truly understand how to invest in plan assets.

What can improve the situation? Aon believes that employer commitment to communicating retirement planning information, along with the encouragement of employees to take full advantage of employer matches to their contributions to these plans can go a long way in better preparing workers for retirement.

Communication

Although the majority of employers (76 percent) rated retirement education is 'important', 'very important' or 'absolutely critical' in the survey, only 1 percent said that financial/retirement planning information was communicated to employees on a regular basis.

"While most employees realize they should save more for retirement, the problem is they don't know how much more," said Bill Crawford, senior vice president with Aon Consulting. "Workers are left to interpret well-meaning, but nonspecific, retirement information, based on their own circumstances, which is a process that paralyzes many. Companies need to ensure this information answers the basic questions all employees ask, such as: 'How much do I need? How much will I have? Am I on track? If I am not on track, what can I do to change?' Once equipped with this information, employees are prepared to start a financial plan."

Employer Matching

The survey also reported on trends in employer contributions to employee 401(k), 403(b) and 457 plans, noting that 85 percent of employers make contributions, and over half match 50 percent or more of employee contributions.

"Company matches can be significant, representing tens of thousands of dollars over time, so it's critical that employees understand their company's retirement plan design and know what's needed to take full advantage of the matching contribution," said Chris Bone, executive vice president with Aon..

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