Participants who consistently held accounts in 401(k) plans from 1999 through 2006 increased their account balance at an annual rate of 8.7%, according to a recently released joint study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute (EBRI) and the Investment Company Institute (ICI). The EBRI/ICI 401(k) database found the average account balance rose to $121,202 at year-end 2006 from $67,760 at year-end 1999 among participants who maintained accounts for the entire period. Among the same group, the study found the median account balance increased to $66,650 at year-end 2006 from $24,898 at year-end 1999. The EBRI/ICI Participant–Directed Retirement Plan Collection Project includes three million “consistent participants.” Its database contains account information at year-end 2006 for 20 million 401(k) participants–about 40% of the universe of 401(k) plan participants–in 53,931 plans holding more than $1.2 trillion in assets. The study also looked at recently hired participants and found that they are more likely to choose balanced funds like lifestyle and lifecycle funds.
Meanwhile, Rep. George Miller (D-California), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, introduced in late July the “401(k) Fair Disclosure for Retirement Security Act of 2007” that would require, among other things, plan administrators to provide an annual benefits statement listing the fees assessed on a participant’s account during the plan year, broken down by individual investments. Service providers would have to disclose to the plan sponsor all services and fees that the plan will pay. Lynn Dudley, VP of retirement policy at the American Benefits Council in Washington, says the legislations new disclosure requirements could create additional administrative burdens for employers and more confusion for plan participants. “More disclosure is not necessarily better disclosure,” Dudley said in reaction to the bill being introduced. “Any enhanced disclosure requirements need to keep in mind four guiding principles: What is the context for increased disclosure? Is the information useful to participants? Will the new statements be easy to deliver? And will the new requirements increase costs?”