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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

Retirement Outlook Improves 'Somewhat' as Workers Embrace Auto-Features: Survey

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While retirement savers are more optimistic about how much they’ve saved, inertia and competing financial demands are keeping them from saving more. But savers — specifically millennials — are increasingly embracing auto-enrollment and auto-escalation methods.

That’s according to a just-released survey by J.P. Morgan Asset Management and Mathew Greenwald & Associates, which gauged defined contribution plan participants’ views on how their retirement readiness has changed since 2012.

The outlook, according to the online survey conducted in January of 1,001 DC plan participants, has “somewhat improved.”

Fewer participants (59%, down from 70%) think they will have to remain employed beyond their desired retirement age, and a larger proportion (44%, up from 31%) are confident that their savings will last throughout their lifetimes.

On the other hand, the survey found that more than half of DC plan participants (56%) still fear that their savings may not see them through to the end of their lives.

Participants are also aware that they are not saving enough: 68% say their 2015 contribution rates were below where they should have been, with this group believing they should be saving 10% or more of their pretax salary (75% of participants); 76% missed that target last year.

The survey also found a disconnect between participant intent and action. Key findings include:

  • Most participants (81%) say they are interested in doing financial planning for retirement, but almost half (45%) do not have a plan.

  • Nearly half of participants (48%) admit they simply do not spend enough time thinking about and planning for retirement.

  • Many participants may not be fully engaged in managing their 401(k) accounts. For example, 28% have never rebalanced their 401(k) account, 31% have never made a change to their initial choice of investment options, and 18% have never increased their contribution amount.

The research also found that most participants support plan features and strategies designed to offer a “disciplined approach” to saving, simplified investment choices, and improved asset allocation. For instance, roughly three-quarters of participants are in favor of or at least neutral toward automatic enrollment (75%) and automatic contribution escalation (74%).

About two-thirds (67%) said they are in favor of or at least neutral toward a combination of these two features.

The survey found that respondents under the age of 30 are more likely than those 30 and over to classify themselves as “do it for me” investors (69% vs. 56%), and this group is also the biggest proponent of automatic plan features and strategies.

The under-30 cohort are also more likely to favor the involvement of plan sponsors as they save and invest for retirement. For example, they are considerably more likely to appreciate receiving notifications if they are not saving enough (62% of those under 30 vs. 34% of those 30 and older).

What’s more, 50% of those under 30 (vs. 22% of those 30 and over) agree that their employer has an obligation to help them pick the right investments.

Among all survey respondents automatically enrolled in their plans, only 1% opted out, nearly all are satisfied (96%), and almost a third (31%) say they would not have enrolled otherwise.

Also, among those whose contribution amounts are/were automatically increased by 1% to 2% each year, almost all are satisfied (97%), and 15% say they were unlikely to have escalated their contributions if not for this automatic feature.


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