Vanguard: Finance Industry Beats U.S. Average for Retirement Savings

Small financial and insurance firms outperform most other industries when it comes to retirement-plan balances and participation in 2010

The finance industry beat the nation as a whole when it came to retirement savings and employees of larger finance and insurance companies had higher average retirement-account balances than both their counterparts at smaller finance and insurance companies and Vanguard plans as a whole, a Vanguard report released Thursday shows.

This year, for the first time, Vanguard also released industry reports that analyze the behavior of plan participants in specific industries, including finance and insurance. The findings are part of Vanguard’s How America Saves 2011, an annual report focused on retirement-planning trends that is based on 2010 data of more than 2 million plan participants. 

Average participation in defined-contribution plans at finance and insurance companies was higher than the Vanguard average participation rate of 74%. Plan participation was 83% for larger finance and insurance firms (with more than 1,000 employees) and 82% for smaller finance and insurance companies (fewer than 1,000 employees).

At $96,658, the average retirement-account balance of staff in smaller finance and insurance companies was higher than those of participants in overall plans ($79,077) and larger finance and insurance company plans ($77,587).

The study also found that in 2010 64% of larger finance and insurance companies had an auto-enrollment plan versus 19% of the smaller companies and 24% of all Vanguard plans. The average deferral rate was 6.8% for smaller finance and insurance firm plans and Vanguard plans in aggregate last year. It was 6.6% for larger finance and insurance firms.

Industry-wide Results

Across eight industries, the plans of small utility firms (with a 92% participation rate) and large mining companies (with an 88% participation rate) had the best enrollment rates in the report.

On average, participants in the plans of both small and large utilities saved at a higher rate than their counterparts in the other industry plans. Their 9.0% and 8.2% average contribution rates, respectively, surpassed the 6.8% average for Vanguard plans in aggregate. The plans of large manufacturing companies lagged with a 6.5% average contribution rate.

Auto enrollment plans were far more prevalent at large manufacturing companies: 67% of large manufacturing companies had such a plan versus 24% for all Vanguard plans.

Large plans tended to offer target-date funds more prevalently than smaller plans: Ninety-three percent of large ambulatory health-care firms offered TDFs, far surpassing the 79% of all Vanguard plans offering the funds. The standout in terms of small-industry plans was utilities, 94% of which offered TDFs.

At $237,081, the average account balance of participants in plans of large mining companies was significantly higher than the average account balance of participants in Vanguard plans collectively ($79,077).

In contrast, the lowest average account balance was the $63,697 for participants in large information services company plans.

The How America Saves 2011 industry benchmark reports are based on Vanguard’s 2010 record-keeping data for nearly 2.2 million participants in 1,552 qualified defined-contribution plans offered by companies in the ambulatory health care; finance and insurance; information services; legal services; manufacturing; mining, oil and gas extraction; technology; and utility industries. 

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