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Hewitt: Inertia Guides Retirement Plan Allocations

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Participants in 401(k) plans took even fewer active steps to manage their assets in 2009 than they did in 2008.

Consultants at Hewitt Associates Inc., Lincolnshire, Ill., have published statistics supporting that conclusion in a summary of results from an analysis of the actual saving and investing behavior of about 3 million employees at 120 large employers.

Only 16.2% of the employees made any fund transfers in 2009, down from 19.6% who made transfers in 2008, the Hewitt consultants report.

The overall participation rate held steady at about 74%, and the average contribution rate held steady at about 7.3%.

Average 401(k) plan balances rose, but mainly because the stock market did well.

The average 401(k) plan balance at the plans included in the analysis was $70,970 at the end of 2009, up from $57,150 at the end of 2008, but down from $79,570 at the end of 2007.

About 7.1% of participants took withdrawals, and the withdrawal rate was the highest since 2002, and the percentage with plan loans outstanding increased to about 26% at the end of 2009, up from about 23% at the end of 2008.