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September 24, 2009
Nearly Half of Employers Auto-Enroll Employees in 401(k)

Forty-seven percent of large employers are automatically enrolling workers into 401(k) plans to encourage them to save for retirement, according to a survey by Watson Wyatt, a consulting firm.

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“Employees need to participate more effectively in their company defined contribution plan as this is increasingly the primary vehicle they use to save for retirement,” said Chris DeMeo, senior investment consultant at Watson Wyatt. “Taking an interest and actively participating in their plans will allow employees to make more informed decisions and develop investment strategies that take into account their goals and risk profiles.”

Among those employers who haven't adopted auto-enrollment, one-third said they are considering it.

Plan sponsors that auto-enroll their employees use a median initial contribution rate of 3 percent, with a range from 1 percent to 7 percent. Slightly more than half (51 percent) of the plan sponsors that auto-enroll also automatically increase the contribution rate by a certain amount each year for their participants.

“While plan sponsors have made progress towards encouraging greater participation, saving and educated decision making, there is still room for improvement,” said Robyn Credico, senior retirement consultant at Watson Wyatt. “Designing the optimum plan is tricky and requires plan sponsors to juggle many factors including overall plan design, investment, communication and governance. However, the potential upside is great and could cause DC plans to emerge stronger from the current economic crisis.”

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