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401(k), Roth Accounts Have More New Enrollees Than Ever: Merrill

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More employees are enrolling in their workplace retirement plan than ever before, according to Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Plan Wellness Scorecard.

The report finds that both 401(k) and Roth accounts saw an influx in new enrollees.

The number of employees who enrolled for the first time in their employer’s 401(k) plan increased 44% year over year.

“On average, the number of pretax contributors has grown by 54,000 each month in 2015 compared to the year before,” the report states.

Meanwhile, Roth accounts saw a 21% increase in the total number of contributors from the first half of 2014 compared to the first half of 2015 and a 20% increase in the average contribution amount during the same time period.

The report’s financial benefit plan data is based on Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s proprietary 401(k) business, which comprises $136.3 billion in plan assets across more than 2.6 million participants.

The Bank of America Merrill Lynch’s Plan Wellness Scorecard also discloses trends in how employees are engaging with financial benefit plans and how employers are adopting plan features that make savings easier.

The report finds that tools that simplify enrollment continue to lead to better plan outcomes.

“Automatic enrollment, the simplest form of enrollment, removes all up-front decisions for employees,” the report states. “When designed with participant engagement in mind and alongside other effective automatic features like automatic investment and automatic increase, automatic enrollment stands out as the most effective enrollment method for employers to drive participation and plan wellness.”

According to BofA Merrill Lynch, the number of 401(k) plans combining auto enrollment and auto increase grew 40% during the first half of the year.

The report finds that more employees also showed interest in auto-increase features, with 24% more scheduling automatic increases.

Merrill is seeing more and more employees going mobile. Unique visitors to Merrill’s Benefits Online mobile-optimized site increased 77% year over year, according to the report, with mobile now accounting for 19% of overall site usage.

Despite the growing demand for mobile, employees are still seeking opportunities to connect in person.

Attendance at one-on-one meetings increased 192% in the first six months of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014, according to the report.

Group meetings were also up, by 93% in the first six months of 2015 compared with the same period in 2014.

“Employees welcome opportunities to learn more about their plan in person,” the report finds.

And more employers are recognizing this.

“In our experience, employees are best served when they receive information about their retirement plan and other financial matters through the channels that work for them individually,” the report says. “Employees clearly appreciate having on-site access to financial professionals who can talk about their personal situation, follow up with additional materials and, in general, provide the guidance so many employees want and need.”

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