Vanguard’s latest research on Americans’ savings habits shows participation is steady at around 75%. “How America Saves 2015” examines 1,900 plans with more than 3.6 million participants that use Vanguard as their record-keeper.
Jean Young, lead author of the report and a senior research analyst with the Vanguard Center for Retirement Research, attributed that to automatic enrollment “The first step in retirement savings is participation,” she said in a statement. “Over the past decade, we’ve seen a meaningful jump in total participation rates. Three-quarters of eligible workers now participate in their employer’s plan, up from two-thirds 10 years ago, underscoring the impact of autopilot plan designs.”
The number of plans that use auto-enrollment has doubled since 2009, but is still low at 36%. About half of the sponsors of Vanguard plans automatically enroll eligible non-participants as well as new hires.
Unfortunately, the survey found more than 60% of plans automatically enroll participants at only 3%. However, of the plans with auto-enrollment, 70% automatically escalate contributions as well. About half of participants are contributing at 10% or more.
The report found participants are heavily invested in target-date funds. Eighty-eight percent of plans offer them, and nearly all Vanguard participants have access to them, with almost two-thirds using TDFs. “In 2014, $4 out of every $10 deposited in Vanguard plans was invested in target-date funds,” according to the report.
Vanguard attributed the drop in extreme allocations to the prevalence of TDFs. Only 8% of participants had their entire retirement plan allocated to equities, and 5% had no equities. That’s down from 21% of participants who held an all-equity plan a decade ago, and 13% had no equities.
“Plan sponsors are playing a more assertive role in shaping participant outcomes, and we commend them for their diligent efforts in designing, overseeing, and continually improving their plans,” Martha King, the newly announced head of Vanguard’s Institutional Investor Group, said in a statement. “At the same time, we share with our sponsor clients an obligation to move the dial on savings rates, and give participants the best chance for investment success.”