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Retirement Planning > Retirement Investing

What Retirement Plan Participants Want, Need

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The latest Natixis survey of workers with access to a defined contribution retirement plan includes many findings that will be helpful for advisors working with individual clients but crucial for those working with corporate retirement plans.

The survey of 1,000 employees — including 700 who are plan participants — found that most employees are severely underfunded in their workplace-based retirement plans and will need to save hundreds of thousands of additional dollars to fund a comfortable retirement.

“Nobody in any generation is saving enough,” says Ed Farrington, the firm’s executive vice president and head of retirement and business development.

While that may be impossible for many employees simply because they can’t afford it, there are multiple ways that their retirement plans can boost contributions, many already known though not always utilized:

  • Auto-enrollment: 76% of respondents said they would be more inclined to save in a company-sponsored DC plan on Day One of employment
  • Auto-escalation: Only 31% of responding plan participants participate in plans that automatically increase contributions over time. Gen Xers are most likely to take advantage of auto-escalation.
  • Larger company matches: 60% of millennial respondents and 65% of Gen Xers surveyed said they would save more in their DC plans if their employer provided a larger match to their contributions. Seventy-nine percent of plan participants said their employers offers a matching contribution.
  • Financial education: 64% of respondents who participate in a company-sponsored DC plan said they need more financial education from their employer about their retirement plan.

“Defined contribution plans work if first you have access to it,“ said Farrington. “Then you auto enroll, you auto escalate and you have a company match. If you have all four it works.”  About one-third of private sector employees 22 and older don’t have access to an employee –sponsored retirement savings plan, according to Natixis.

Farrington said the two retirement bills introduced in the House and Senate can help address this problem because both include incentives for small businesses to set up a defined contribution retirement plan that has automatic enrollment, and both lift the cap on the maximum for auto-escalation from 10% to 15%, among other changes.

Close to 60% of survey respondents said they would contribute more if their company provided a bigger match and just over 60% said they would be more likely to contribute to a plan or increase current contributions if they knew their investments were doing a social good. (For millennials the percentage was even higher — 66%).

“This is where environmental, social and governance funds could fill an important role,” according to the survey. “Failing to offer these investments could amount to a significant oversight for plan sponsors who are concerned with both participation and contribution rates.”

Millennials accounted for half of the 700 retirement plan participants that were surveyed by Natixis, and they were more optimistic about meeting their retirement goals than Gen Xers and baby boomers, perhaps because they anticipated needing a smaller nest egg than the two older generations: roughly $823,000 vs. $980,000 and for Gen Xers and $1.02 million for baby boomers, according to the survey.

But less than half of all three groups believed they would be comfortable in retirement if they were careful about their spending, and only about one-fifth of respondents in all three age groups believed they would have saved enough to lead the life they desire in retirement.

Two-thirds of respondents who participate in a company DC plan said Social Security would be their primary source of income in retirement; 42% didn’t think it would still exist by the time they retire.

Despite these rather gray outlooks for retirement savings overall, retirement benefits are not a priority for job seekers, according to the survey. Health care benefits are — 65% of respondents overall said it was the most important priority for benefits when seeking a new job, as did 63% of millennials surveyed. Next came flexible work arrangements, workplace culture and then retirement benefits, which were rated the most important benefit by only 38% of respondents (and 34% for millennials).


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