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Principal: Balances Recover

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Workers’ retirement plan asset totals may be starting to stabilize.

The percentage of workers who say their retirement plan balance is the same as it was Jan. 1, 2008, or higher has doubled to 18% from 9%, since the previous quarter, according to Principal Financial Group Inc., Des Moines, Iowa.

The percentage of workers who say it would take less than 2 years for their plan balance to recover rose to 16% from 11%.

Principal is basing those figures on results from an online survey of 1,147 employees and 558 retirees conducted from late July to mid-August, and a similar survey conducted 3 months earlier.

About 11% of the workers participating in the latest Principal survey said they have increased the amount they are contributing to their 401(k)s plans since the previous quarter.

Results of the latest survey hint that the economy may have started to rebound, according to Dan Houston, president of retirement and investor services at Principal.

“Workers and retirees have not given up on their investments and retirement strategies and are holding steady,” Houston says.

But 83% of the survey participants said they do not have a plan for the transition to retirement, and of those workers who do have a plan, just 43% have a written plan.

About 34% of the retirees said they have a financial advisor, up from 25% during the third quarter of 2008. The percentage who said they are managing their own retirement money has fallen to 63%, from 76%, over the past year, Principal reports.

Other notable findings:

- 12% of workers who have a college fund established for their children have dipped into it to cover day-to-day living expenses.

- The top voluntary benefits were dental (purchased by 62%), vision (40%) and short-term disability (27%).


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