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Workers Warm To Auto Sign-Up, Principal Finds

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Principal Financial’s latest Well-Being Index survey finds 59% of working Americans agree employers should automatically enroll employees into their 401(k) retirement plans.

That is well up from 2002, when the Index survey found only 35% agreed automatic enrollment was a good idea.

The index, which surveys American workers at firms with 10 to 1,000 employees, is conducted quarterly for Principal, Des Moines, Iowa, by Harris Interactive.

The latest survey, conducted in May, also found 82% want financial planning help in the workplace, and 49% were willing to pay for it, if offered at a reasonable price.

Employees were far more open to the idea of a guaranteed investment vehicle than were those currently retired, with 33% saying they would allot 25% to 49% of their retirement nest egg to an investment that offers a guaranteed amount each month, compared to only 13% of retirees. Another 32% of employees said they would allocate 50% to 74% of their retirement nest egg to a guaranteed investment, compared to only 15% of retirees.

The survey found some workers’ and retirees’ beliefs may clash with reality.

For instance, 62% of workers expect to spend 20 years or less in retirement, compared to only 42% of retirees.

But federal data project that among average Americans retiring today at age 62, more than 50% will live at least another 20 years, the Principal observes.

Both groups also had unrealistic estimates of how long their retirement savings would last, the survey found.

Of workers, 66% thought they could withdraw 6% each year without running out of money, and 59% of retirees thought the same–even though experts estimate suggest a 4% withdrawal rate.

And 45% of employees and 34% of retirees estimate an 8% or higher withdrawal rate.

While 83% of workers say they would take in their parents if they needed to, among those with children, only 32% of workers said they would actually consider moving in with their own children to make ends meet once retired.

The survey also found 66% of employees were satisfied with their defined benefit plans, up from 51% in 2002. The differences in satisfaction levels between 2006 and 2002 were also significant for profit-sharing plans (57% vs. 38%), defined-contribution plans (55% vs. 44%), disability insurance (53% vs. 39%), life insurance (51% vs. 43%) and health insurance (46% vs. 39%).


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