Early results suggest that efforts to encourage employers to enroll workers in 401(k) plans by default is increasing savings without angering the workers.
Researchers at Fidelity Investments, Boston, and Retirement Made Simpler, Washington – a coalition of the AARP, Washington; the Retirement Security Project, Washington; and the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority – made that case today in summaries of the findings from two separate surveys.
The researchers were investigating the effects of recent changes in retirement laws that encourage employers to enroll employees in 401(k) plans automatically without requiring employees to take active steps to join the plans.
Pollsters commissioned by the Retirement Made Simpler team used the Internet in September and early October to interview 10,130 U.S. adults, including 696 who were automatically enrolled in 401(k) plans and 48 who had opted out of automatic 401(k) plans.
About 98% of U.S. adults now enrolled in automatic 401(k) plans said they are glad their companies offer this savings vehicle, the coalition researchers report.
About 95% of the adults in automatic 401(k) plans said automatic enrollment has made saving for retirement easy, and 85% said it has helped them start saving for retirement earlier than they had planned, the researchers say.
“Many employers have been concerned that employees would not like automatic 401(k)s,” FINRA Chief Executive Mary Schapiro says in a statement about the coalition survey results. “These results overwhelmingly dispel that myth.”
Meanwhile, at Fidelity, researchers looked at the 301 “Fidelity recordkept” plans with auto enrollment programs and found that the auto enrollment feature sharply increased participation rates, especially among employees ages 20 to 29.
Participation rates averaged 83% at the auto enrollment plans even workers in the 50-59 age category. That compared with an average of 66% at conventional plans.
For the 20-29 age category, the 401(k) plan participation rate was 77% at the auto enrollment plans and just 30% at the conventional plans.